Monday, April 7, 2014

Baby Scout: a lesson

Baby Scout passed away, suddenly, last Thursday morning. Aaron had an interview Wednesday (and by the way he got the job!) so we ended up spending most of the day/evening at my in-law's house. When we got home, we found that Scout had a case of pretty severe diarrhea. It was late, and our vet wasn't open. Neither was the local feed store (where we hoped to find some meds). Throughout the rest of that night, I syringed him water every few hours and gently cleaned up his bum and feet as best I could with a warm washcloth. He was still drinking and eating (a little) so we were really hoping that he would pull through.

When Aaron woke up the next morning, Scout had passed away. I had checked on him at 5am, so he apparently died sometime between then and 7:30. Elliot didn't notice right away, not until Aaron went to take him outside to bury him. When he did, Aaron told him that he was just sleeping and that he was taking him outside so that the wild bunnies could make him better. Now, I know some of you might chastise me for not taking this opportunity to teach my son about life and death and the ways of the world. Well, call me crazy but I just can't fathom a way of describing such a sad, terrible thing to a little boy who turned three only a few months ago. There will be other opportunities, I'm sure he'll learn eventually... but for now, it comforts me knowing that although he misses his "baby bunny" terribly, Elliot is confident that the wild bunnies have brought him into their home (he says they have a house in the woods) and that they're taking great care of him. He talks about this often, and it makes me smile. Oh, to be that innocent!

You might be wondering why I'm writing about this. Well, there are a few lessons to be learned here.

  1. Scout was only nine weeks old when he died. He was about six weeks old when he came home with us, which leads me to believe he was probably weaned at only 5 weeks old. The sad part is, he probably wouldn't have died if the breeder had left him with his mother for only a week or so longer. So many rabbit breeders yank baby bunnies away from their mothers and force them to wean before they are truly ready, and it can wreak havoc on a tiny baby bunny's digestive system. Rabbits have sensitive digestive systems to begin with, and when you add weaning too early to the stress of moving to a new home full of strange smells and sounds and you basically have a recipe for disaster. PLEASE do not buy a baby bunny under eight weeks old! 
  2. While diarrhea sometimes goes away on its own for dogs and cats, it is often FATAL for rabbits. Rabbits dehydrate quickly, and they need to have food in their stomachs constantly in order to prevent their digestive system from completely shutting down. If your rabbit develops diarrhea, please take him to the vet as soon as possible. We planned to wait until the morning for take Scout to our vet... and by the morning, it was too late. 

Easter is coming, which means parents all over the world are rushing out and buying their children baby bunnies on impulse without knowing a single thing about their proper care or diet. Please if you're thinking about bringing a rabbit into your household, do some research!

Rabbits can be WONDERFUL pets, but:
  • they require as much care as a dog or a cat
  • they need very large cages and ample time outside of the cage every day
  • they do NOT do well kept in outdoor hutches, where they are susceptible to predators, weather extremes, and receive very little socialization or exercise
  • they have very specific diets 
  • in order to live long and healthy lives and to prevent behavioral problems, they need to be spayed or neutered
  • they (generally) do not enjoy being picked up or carried around (especially not by small children)
  • and above all else, they are prey animals who hide illness very well. Diarrhea or any others signs of illness should be considered an emergency and unless you are a rabbit expert, you should take your rabbit to a vet immediately or else they might not survive the next 24 hours.

The best rabbit resource out there (in my opinion) is The House Rabbit Society. They always have the most up to date, correct information about practically any subject of rabbit care that you could think of. Check their website out :)

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