One day in March 2012, I received a text saying that the rabbit was not eating or drinking. So I texted back that it needed to be examined. I thought it was a rabbit owner who had consulted Dr Daniel and me earlier. See the case of The Rabbit With A Tearing Eye at:
She made an appointment via text. I confirmed similarly. A slim young lady in her early 20s came with a 5-month-old dwarf rabbit. She was a new client. "My rabbit is not eating and drinking. Could she be suffering from hairball? Could she be pregnant?"
Dr Daniel would be treating the case with me as the mentor. He palpated the abdomen. "Pregnant, with one (kit)," he declared. I palpated the abdomen and felt the soft 4x3 cm mass in the lower third of the abdomen. "Only an X-ray would tell how many kits there are," I said. "In an X-ray, you can see the number of foetal skeletons." And therefore the number of kits.
"When was the rabbit mated?" I asked the young lady who had said that there was a 6-month-old male rabbit living together with this rabbit. "Around 2 weeks ago," she said. "How long is the pregnancy?"
"Around 28 days," I said. In this case, the rabbit would be only 14 days pregnant.
"Should I get the rabbit X-rayed?" she asked me.
"No need to do it," I said. "Just wait for a few days. In the meantime, remove the male rabbit. Keep her in a quiet dark place by herself and give her newspaper pieces to make a nest."
"We still have to check the teeth," I said to the lady and Dr Daniel.
"Scruff the neck," he said. That is the usual method of restraint of a rabbit.
"No," I noted that the young lady was particularly concerned about her rabbit and would misconstrue that the vet was rough handling her dwarf rabbit. If you think about it, a dwarf rabbit is very small. Her mouth is also very small. Scruffing the neck with a man's hand would practically cover most of the forehead, leaving little space to open the mouth.
I imagine that this might not be the most appropriate method to open the mouth for the dwarf rabbit but it would be for the cat or dog.
"Just wrap the rabbit inside a towel, like wrapping a present," I said. The young lady was watching apprehensively and this method would be more gentle. Perceptions of a client as regards the vet's "rough handling of their pets" are made and remembered when the rabbit struggles or squeals during scruffing. Sedation was not necessary in this case and in this situation of a pregnant rabbit.
It was obvious that the cause of not eating and drinking could be due to pregnancy. But the teeth must be checked for malocclusion or overgrown as this is a most common problem in the rabbit when it does not eat.
So, I wrapped the rabbit in a soft white towel with the head showing. The lady was watching quietly. Then I got the artery forceps to open the rabbit's mouth. I asked Dr Daniel or the owner to shine the white light as the rabbit resisted the mouth opening. "See the back teeth," I said. "Are they overgrown or short?". It took some time and patience but the lady was able to see that the teeth on both sides of the cheek were short and trimmed. The rabbit was not co-operating but could not move much. She did not squeal.
I thought the rabbit was around 14 days pregnant since the lady said the mating was seen around 14 days ago. Life is full of surprises as you can see from the text message of thanks I got from her 3 days later when I texted her as a follow up. In fact, the rabbit stopped eating and drinking because she was about to give birth!
Dr Daniel predicted one kit on abdominal palpation. I was very cautious and said that only an X-ray would tell how many kits were there from the number of foetal skeletons visible in an X-ray.
Well, veterinary medicine is always full of surprises. In this case, the rabbit gave birth to two kits. So, you know why I never predict the number of kits, puppies or kittens just on an abdominal palpation! It is just unpredictable usually. Unless it is a "single pup" syndrome in a chihuahua!