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Rabbit First Aid: Basic Medical Procedures and Emergency Response


Photo by MART PRODUCTION



As prey animals, rabbits are masters at hiding pain and illness. So it's important for rabbit owners to learn how to provide first aid and emergency care. Knowing how to check vitals, administer medications, and respond in a crisis could save your rabbit's life. Here is an overview of some key rabbit first aid skills and information:



Taking Temperature, Respiration & Heart Rate

To take your rabbit's temperature, you'll need a special rectal thermometer for small animals. Normal temperature is 101-103F. Count breaths per minute for respiration rate (normal 30-60). Check heart rate by feeling the pulse in the arteries (normal 130-325 beats per minute). Tracking vitals helps spot illness early.



Giving Oral Medication

Oral medication is often prescribed for rabbits. Place the rabbit on your lap and wrap loosely in a towel, leaving head exposed. Tilt head upwards and gently open mouth. Administer medication with syringe aimed at the pocket between back teeth and cheek. Give treats after to encourage swallowing.



Applying Ointment

Sometimes ointment is prescribed for eye, ear or skin conditions. Have someone assist by holding the rabbit. Apply gentle but firm pressure on either side of the head to extend the eye or ear for better access. Apply ointment as directed, being careful not to touch eye directly.



Emergency Resuscitation

If a rabbit is in respiratory or cardiac distress, resuscitation may be needed. Cover rabbit's nose and mouth with your mouth and give 1-2 quick breaths. Check for clearing of chest between breaths. Give chest compressions if there's no pulse, doing 100 per minute. Seek veterinary care immediately.



Treating Wounds

Minor wounds can be cleaned with saline solution and dressed. Apply direct pressure to stop bleeding. If laceration is large, see vet immediately. Fractures should be stabilized and immobilized before transportation. For burn injuries, flush wound with water and apply antibiotic cream. Prevent infection.



Choking / Blocked Airway

Hold rabbit with head down and give sharp blows between shoulder blades. Check airway for obstruction. If choking persists, lay rabbit flat and gently compress ribs to expel object. Extend neck and sweep mouth with finger. Get emergency vet assistance if needed.



Transporting an Injured Rabbit

Move the rabbit gently on a rigid board or stable surface. Keep warm using blanket or heating pad on low setting. Avoid giving food or water. Transport quickly and smoothly to avoid further stress or injury. Keep airways clear, apply direct pressure to wounds as needed.



Emergency Preparedness

Have a rabbit first aid kit ready with basic supplies: thermometer, bandages, antiseptic, scissor/tweezers, saline, eye ointment, towel, and transport carrier. Keep vet's number handy. Know emergency 24 hour vet clinics in your area. Act quickly, as rabbits can decline rapidly. Stay calm - your rabbit will pick up on your reassurance during a crisis!




The goal of first aid is to stabilize the rabbit until professional veterinary treatment can be given. Any significant injury or distress merits an immediate vet visit. With some basic knowledge and preparations, you can potentially save your rabbit's life in an emergency!





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