Of our 29 (and counting) rabbits this month, our two latest may well bring with them our biggest challenge, emotionally, physically and financially, as Lhanna, an FBRC foster carer, explains:
I love rabbits and while I have my own I also love to foster them, as it is so rewarding to help sick and neglected rabbits return to health and learn to trust humans again.
But it can be heart breaking, too and as I write this I do not know whether my two new beautiful foster bunnies, Leah and Lucy, will even survive this coming night as they are so very sick.
I am trying hard to be positive that I can nurse them back to health but the vet has warned me that help might have arrived too late for these adorable little sisters, who have been starved almost to the point of death. Tragically, it was certainly too late for their sister – she died before her life had hardly begun.Â Her surviving sisters are just 16 weeks old and instead of getting up to mischief like young rabbits do they are fighting to stay alive.
In five years of fostering I have never seen such severe malnutrition in a rabbit since I fostered Smokey last summer. He was found abandoned in a crisp box and urgently needed not only food but dental care, too. He had never seen hay and it took me six months to nurse him back to health. It was distressing at times and many tears were shed but there was a happy outcome and Smokey now lives with my group of rabbits.
I am desperately hoping that the girlsâ€™ future will be just as happy, particularly since they have had such a sad beginning to their lives. They were unwanted by their original owner and were offered to a neighbour who felt obliged to take them on but she was unable to look after them and so they came into rescue.
When I collected these poor girls it immediately became clear why their sister had died. They are so horrifically emaciated that I can feel every bone, joint and internal organ and their stomachs are inverted. Amazingly, however, they are both heartbreakingly trusting towards humans and extremely protective of each other.
When I rang the vet for advice on what to feed them I was advised to bring them in as soon as possible. When head vet Neil McIntosh lifted Leah and Lucy from the carrier he was so shocked that he let out a gasp of horror as his hand was able to reach right round their tiny bodies. He weighed them – Leah is just 1.4kg, and already has the start of dental spurs and some scarring on her cheek from them. Lucy however, is only 1.2kg and she also has dental spurs as well as conjunctivitis and is now on eye drops.
The sad thing is that the girls need to have dental operations but as they are so malnourished we have been told that they would not survive them. Until they are fit for surgery the vet has advised that they are given 72g of Excel a day each, unlimited hay and a small cup of veg, which will hopefully help their teeth. I will do my utmost to get these bunnies well but Neil has warned me that Lucy may not survive and in fact we will need a lot of luck for both of them to pull through.
These girls have only been on earth for just 16 weeks and yet their life now hangs in the balance and they have already witnessed the loss of their sister. Looking after them is going to be both physically and emotionally challenging: their severe malnutrition has caused not only their muscles to virtually waste away but their bones are so fragile that they have to be kept on a soft, padded surface to prevent fractures. They canâ€™t even play outside because if they suffered fear – say from a sudden noise like a bang or a dog barking – it could cause shock and kill them.
I cannot tell you how heart breaking it is to see two young rabbits, who through no fault of their own have endured such neglect in their short lives. Who knows whether they will ever have the opportunity of discovering the joys of hopping and binkying across grass or whether like their sister they will die because a human failed them.
I will do my utmost to show them that not all humans are the same. Leah and Lucy will have the best help and care that anyone can provide.