UPDATE: Bigwig came out of surgery yesterday with two large, open incisions on his cheek. They must remain open for the pus to drain out. He is already more active, and we’re pumping him full of antibiotics and painkillers and keeping our fingers crossed. I had my own appointment with the dentist yesterday, so I was too loopy and numb to update until today. A big thanks to everyone who donated to the cause!
One of the saddest ways to get a new rabbit is from a child that has outgrown their bond with it. Just before Thanksgiving, we learned of a rabbit in need of such rescue — and we might have gotten there in the nick of time. Bigwig Bunny (we named him for the character in Watership Down) had been neglected. He was less than half his proper weight, with an abscess in his cheek from insufficient dietary fiber.
He arrived at his new home hidden inside a jacket. Generally, rabbits should always come home in their cage, which should be their safe place — like a child’s room, not a prison. But the wire bottom of Bigwig’s cage had left sores on his feet, and we needed to inspect him in better light, so we put him on a bedspread. He immediately lay flat, reveling in the physical contact he had been denied for so long. We applied a flea treatment, offered him an apple, and assessed the damage.
Bunnies need more than pellets. They need grass or hay, and lots of it. Fiber helps them maintain proper digestion and healthy teeth. Bigwig has an abscess on his jaw as a result of a fiber-poor diet that let one of his teeth get too long, cutting into his cheek. Rabbits lack the enzyme that makes human, canine, and feline abscesses liquid, so the abscess has the consistency of silly putty. We thought it was a bone spur at first because it was so firm.
The abscess is now softer thanks to antibiotics, and Bigwig is scheduled for surgery tomorrow morning. A veterinarian will have to file his teeth down and extract the abscess. In the meantime, he has stopped coiling into a ball, gained weight, and become a member of the family. He enjoys being chased, and sits outside munching fresh grass and nibbling tunnels under the bushes whenever the weather permits.
Because of their unique needs, rabbits are not like other pets — but they need daily attention just like any other pet. Bigwig now enjoys fresh pellets, hay, green leafy veggies, treats, and fruit snacks. He never goes a day without fresh water anymore. He has toys and room to run.
The odd head tilt from his abscess, and the way it made him tick and shake, made us think he had suffered a stroke. In fact, Bigwig was simply malnourished and contorted from dental agony. With hydration, exercise, and care, his body has begun to uncurl into a more relaxed, almost-straight shape. This condition is called torticollis, and we hope it will go away forever after tomorrow morning. But since he was so sick for so long, we may need to search the world for a rabbit chiropractor to get him completely unkinked.
I have told many friends about Bigwig privately; some are eager to help, and they’ve requested that I open the PayPal link. All contributions will be earmarked for the loving care of rabbits.