Here at Bunny Burrows, we are always having to make difficult decisions, but at all times the needs of the animals are foremost in our minds
One such problem case was a rabbit named Tullulah. S he arrived at Bunny Burrows in October 2000, with her mother and brother, grossly overweight and with a less than pleasant odour emitting from her lower rear end. Rabbits are generally very clean animals, which make them easy to litter train, but despite Tullulah’s and our best efforts in keeping her clean, we were unable to destroy the odour, which was combined with sore private areas.
Tullulah’s weight and odour problems left her thoroughly miserable and unable to get comfortable. Something had to change, but with all the disruption she had recently undergone, we could not risk anything too alarming. Rabbits can easily suffer from stress, which can lead to them harming themselves or refusing to eat, which in turn can lead to gastro-intestinal stasis (the rabbits gut shuts down and often needs veterinary assistance to get working again) which can lead to death.
After careful consideration, we took the decision to have Tullulah spayed. This was not an easy decision to make because we did not know her complete history, therefore we did not know if there had been any illness that could affect her whilst under the anaesthetic. Spaying female rabbits not only eliminates the risk of uterine cancer, but can also calm the animals down and therefore eliminate some of the stress.
The spaying was a success, but unfortunately it did not do anything to combat the odour problem. By now the smell was just like rotting fish and Tullulah was finding it increasingly difficult to clean. It was heartbreaking to see her turn this way and that, trying to clean herself, but no matter which way she turned, the rolls of loose skin would always get there first.
It was at this point we decided to do more. When a rabbit cannot clean properly there is an increased risk of flystrike (which is when a fly lays it’s eggs on a rabbit that is not cleaning itself properly and then the lava start to eat the rabbit), which could lead to further health problems. We took advice from vets who had successfully removed excess loose skin from rabbits, in an operation they call a ‘tummy tuck’, resulting in an animal that can again move freely, clean itself and is generally much happier.
We did not rush into anything, but instead carefully weighed up the pro’s and con’s. We do not believe in risking a rabbit’s health or even life just for cosmetic reasons, but on medical grounds, we have taken a few low risks. Tullulah was always uncomfortable and had difficulty just moving about. Cleaning was virtually impossible and so left her in constant risk of further complications. We decided to let the vet do the ‘tummy tuck’ operation.
Following the operation, Tullulah was a much happier and better smelling rabbit. She is now living with a companion rabbit, Aladdin, who was brought to Bunny Burrows by his owners to enable him to choose his own friend. Tullulah and Aladdin are now inseparable and are both cared for by a loving family that provide a big garden for them to play in.
We cannot say that we would not have the operation done again, but it would depend upon the rabbit and it’s health problems at the time. Thankfully it is not something that comes up very often.