Tiffy came into our home after being in 3 other homes the first year of her life. She was a very social bunny and a favorite with all who met her. She had an attitude and a strong personality which would benefit her greatly during the challenging last months of her life enabling her to get through her back leg paralysis with courage and spirit. This information on how to care for a bunny that has lost back leg usage is dedicated to my husband Terry who amazed me with his nurturing and sacrificial care of our beloved bunny Tiffy. He was rewarded with devotion and many, many kisses from Tiffy as well as appreciation and admiration from me.
(1) Herbs are extremely helpful in any medical situation and I found them to extend Tiffy’s life and quality of life by 2 years after her symptoms of unbalance first appeared. Acupuncture and chiropractic care can also greatly improve a bunny’s condition and quality of life. It is important to be in contact with a professional veterinarian who is knowledgeable in these areas if you plan to participate in them. In the Kansas City area at this time, the House Rabbit Society recommends Dr. Pam Truman at Metcalf South Animal Hospital for acupuncture and herb care.
(2) Do not change medications or herbs unless the bunny’s situation worsens. If your current regimen is working well and the bunny is stable, don’t change.
(3) Do not underestimate the emotional part of care – a bunny receiving daily attention and nurturing will be in better physical condition than one that does not.
(4) Realize that you and other family members will need to modify your lifestyle to provide extra physical and emotional care. During her paralysis time, Tiffy was checked on at least 5 times per day. My husband or I or a friend or neighbor would come during the day to check on her, exercise her, put out a fresh diaper and give her fresh veggies/hay/feed.
(5) Realize that a bunny’s deteriorating condition will affect his or her animal companions as well as the human family members. You may see behavior in them that you did not expect, even aggression, and it may be necessary to separate them for a period of time. If so, keep them in areas where they can still see each other.
Creating an environment for a bunny without back leg usage:
(1) Creating a bedding area
(2) Creating an eating stand
(3) Creating exercise time
Creating a bedding area:
In creating areas for Tiffy that I called nests I used materials that were soft, absorbent and flexible. These materials included foam rubber (which can be obtained at a fabric store in different heights and then cut to any size you desire), rubber backed 100% cotton rugs, flannel sheets/shirts, towels and materials used for babies (baby blankets, etc.). I also used disposable diapers to avoid her being wet. I used the size of diaper that matched her weight – newborn size because Tiffy weighed 3 pounds. I found the Huggies brand or type to not work well because I wanted them to lay flat. These materials could be arranged so Tiffy was sitting up or laying down.
For the sitting up nest which I used during the day, first place a thin piece of foam rubber (1-2 inches high) large enough to make a bedding area – for Tiffy this was 1 by 2 feet. Then place an all cotton rubber backed rug. Then place a diaper folded out flat where bunny’s bottom will be. Then place a higher piece of foam rubber (several inches high and the length of the bedding area) on the edge of the rug to serve as a support. Then place a flannel sheet/shirt, towel or baby material bunched up and arranged in a U shape against the piece of foam rubber support. Then place veggies/feed/hay elevated to a position where bunny can reach them – for Tiffy I used a Tupperware container turned upside down with a plate on top of it.
Place bunny so that the front portion of the U shape serves to support the front half of the body and elevates it to the height where bunny can reach the veggies as desired. Place the front feet on top of/over the edge of the U shape. Then form the other part of the U shape around the body on the side and around the back area supporting both against the piece of foam rubber support. This will enable bunny to eat or rest as he or she desires.
For the laying down nest which I used overnight, still place a thin piece of foam rubber, an all cotton rubber backed rug, and a diaper folded out flat. Then take multiple flannel sheets/shirts/towels/ baby material pieces and wrap around to make a back support not as tall or firm as the higher piece of foam rubber. Also wrap it around the side and make a gradual slope in front and place veggies and hay where bunny can reach them. It is good to cover bunny with the material to keep him or her warm overnight.
I found it helpful to spread the sheet/shirt/towel/baby material in a larger area around Tiffy so that her companions Puff and Maggie could lay with her to share her veggies and enjoy the softness of her bedding.
Creating an eating stand:
To enable Tiffy to be in different positions during the day and also to eat sitting up when she first received her veggies, I created what I call an eating stand. I made it out of common houseshoes purchased at Wal-Mart and duct tape. I used 5 houseshoes total (that was the right height for Tiffy) laying them on top of each other and inserting the heel part of one into the toe part of the next one then securing with duct tape wrapped around the whole thing. I put small pieces of foam rubber in the toe portion of the top pair to create side supports.
For the veggie holder I used Glad food containers – 1 turned upside down and a 2nd duct taped to it right side up with a portion cut out of one side for eating. I found the Glad food containers easier to cut than regular Rubbermaid or Tupperware plastic. I tried various sizes until I found the right height for Tiffy.
After the eating stand and veggie holder are ready, place veggies in the holder with the side cut out toward the eating stand. Then place bunny with front feet in front and back feet in back of the eating stand allowing it to support the body. Do not leave bunny in the stand more than 10-15 minutes. At times Tiffy would get restless and work her way out ending up on her side on the floor with no support. For eating time, this is a wonderful way to give bunny an upright position that closely resembles the normal eating posiiton. You may need to supplement side support with a towel bunched up on one or both sides.
Creating exercise time:
It was important to get Tiffy up on a regular basis and exercise her. In the beginning of her losing use of her back legs we were able to utilize a cart which is equivalent to a wheelchair for a person. We used one that a talented friend made for us using Tiffy’s measurements and also one loaned to us from someone that had ordered it from Doggon’ Wheels custom made for their bunny. After a period of time the carts did not work as Tiffy’s front leg usage came and went. Exercise session[/caption]At that point we would hold her stomach and allow her to move around as she desired. Exercise time for a back leg paralysis bunny is better done in short periods of time (10-15 minutes) several times a day instead of 1 or 2 lengthy sessions per day. Be sure to stop and allow them to rest when they want to do so. Tiffy was exercised at least 5 times per day. Usually exercise time involved eating at some point. We would support her for this by holding her up by her stomach.
Caring for a paralyzed bunny requires dedication and work. It involves time and energy and money. Most importantly it involves love – both from human to bunny and bunny to human. I was ready to euthanize Tiffy before my husband Terry was. He chose to extend her life and care for her in her paralysis. She knew the sacrifice we were making to create a quality life for her. After her paralysis, she began kissing us and became more affectionate than she had been. She left us when she was ready. She stopped eating one day and died the next day in Terry’s arms. I hope this information will be helpful to you if your journey of love with a bunny takes you down this road. I know for our family it was well worth it.