When I was knee high to a weed hopper, one of my very best show rabbits came down with pasteurella. I did not know any better and gave the rabbit penicillin shots. Back then, each rabbit was given 2 or 3 shots a day, per the vet's instructions. Shortly thereafter, I was giving shots to 2 more rabbits. A few weeks latter it was 6 that needed shots. This became very old and certainly was counter
productive. Once I did my homework, instead of relying on a well meaning vet,
I put every rabbit with any signs of pasteurella down.
No matter how well we manage our rabbity, sooner or later, rabbits may get sick. When this happens, preventative disease control will include removing sick rabbits to minimize the chance they will infect other rabbits. With today's resources there is little excuse for us not to know better.
The ARBA "OFFICIAL GUIDE BOOK RAISING BETTER RABBITS & CAVIES"
has a chapter "Housing Equipment & Sanitation" and one on "Medical Management'. This is the 256 page book that comes with ARBA membership and is an excellent place to find proven information on rabbits. If you are going to buy one book on rabbits, the rabbit bible would be "RABBIT PRODUCTION" by Mcnitt, Patton, Lukefahr, Cheeke, published by Interstate Publishers, Inc. The 477 page, 7th edition, has a 46 page chapter on "Rabbit Diseases and Other Health Problems". This book is based on research from Oregon State University. "RABBIT PRODUCTION" is the most comprehensive, up to date, book on rabbits.The 8th edition was published in 2000 and is the first issue to include color pictures.(Now in the ninth edition)
There are many places we can go on the Internet for good information on all
things rabbit related. When searching, make a note of the sources information
comes from. There are many very good breeder oriented sources. If you find a
pet oriented source be careful because there is a lot of misinformation to be
found on some of these. Generally, if not in agreement, a breeder site trumps a
pet site for correct and proper advice.
A Google search of "sanitation in the rabbitry" or "Preventative disease control"
will yield many sources of information. A Google search of "rabbit euthanasia"
will give good techniques, and explain what not to do.
There are Yahoo rabbit groups that have discussed the topics of Preventative disease control and keeping a clean rabbitry. RabbitVet comes to mind. Meatrabbits may be the best for extensive, sometimes even graphic, but potentially professional level information. Unlike a Google search, a key value to rabbit groups is that questions can be asked and answered. Check the archives of any rabbit group by searching key words or phrases.
In general, I do not treat anything in my rabbity with the exceptions for parasites like mites, coccidioides, etc. I do not rely on my memory for details. I go to the books and then to the net for any possible new updates. Generally, rabbits that appear sick get 24 hours to declare themselves "not sick" or they are culled or euthanized. A one day runny nose could be from shavings or hay that found it's way up the nose. In a short time the runny nose should be resolved if this is the case.
A rabbit that was sick, even if it was successfully treated, has a genetic predisposition to get sick that it can pass on to future generations. It may be formulaic, but "Sickly rabbits beget sickly rabbits" while "healthy rabbits beget healthy rabbits". Having pet rabbits is one thing with it's own set of norms. Having a rabbit hobby with rabbits that are unhealthy, for one reason or another, including friendliness or extended age, becomes a health risks to other rabbits in the rabbitry.
A measure of one's Humanity, is how many social security animals one has.
A measure of one's Practicality, or even one's Sanity, is how few social security animals one has.
Social security rabbits are rabbits that can not be emotionally parted with that serve no useful purpose in the breeding program. Sometimes we rightfully think of these rabbits as old friends, friends that deserve a place, not only in our heart, but also in our rabbitry. Sometimes we keep these animals too long. Their health eventually fails. Not only does their existence in itself become poor, their lack of good health puts other rabbits in our care at risk even in the cleanest rabbitry
and with the best of intentions. Knowing when it's time to take a rabbit out of the breeding program, out of the rabbitry, or when to put a rabbit to sleep is part of good rabbit husbandry.
We do have a responsibility to keep all the animals in our care well. Knowing how to find good information is important. Knowing when to treat, and knowing when and how to implement euthanasia efficiently, or knowing someone we can call on to do this, when needed, is an important part of good animal husbandry. Preventative disease control can save a lot of cleaning and disinfecting.
There will be a time when you have to end the suffering before it spreads.
This article was first published in the Dwarf Digest in 2011.