Monthly Archives: March 2013

Easter and Rabbits Do Not Mix

House Rabbit Society strongly urges parents not to buy their children live “Easter bunnies” unless they are willing to make a 10-year commitment to properly care for the animals. Each year, thousands of baby rabbits, chicks, and ducks are purchased as Easter gifts only to be abandoned or left at shelters in the days, weeks and months that follow Easter.

Margo DeMello, president of HRS, encourages rabbit lovers to support the “Make Mine Chocolate” ™ campaign created by the Columbus, Ohio, chapter of HRS .“Rabbits are not ‘low maintenance’ pets,” says DeMello; they require at least the same amount of work as a cat or dog, and often more. Chocolate rabbits are a great alternative; kids can enjoy them for 10 minutes, and they won’t have to take care of them for the next 10 years.”

Mary Cotter, vice-president of HRS, says that many of the rabbits purchased as Easter pets will never live to see their first birthday. Some will die from neglect, while others will be abandoned in local parks or left at animal shelters. “It is irresponsible for pet stores to push rabbits and other so-called Easter animals during the holiday,” says Cotter. “Unless parents are willing to take full responsibility for the possible 10-year lifepan of a live rabbit, they should buy their children chocolate rabbits instead.”

Most children want a companion they can hold, carry and cuddle, but rabbits are fragile, ground-loving creatures who break easily when dropped. Additionally, rabbits are easily frightened by loud noises. It is unreasonable to expect a small child to make a 10-year commitment to taking care of a rabbit. All too often, the child loses interest, and the rabbit ends up neglected or abandoned.

Does this mean no families with children should never have pet rabbits? “Not at all!” says DeMello. “But what it does mean is that parents must be actively involved on a daily basis, and willing to supervise any interactions between rabbits and children. Otherwise, chocolate is the way to go!”

For families willing to make the long-term commitment, here are a few points to consider before acquiring a rabbit:
**Housing: For rabbits who use a cage, the cage needs to be at least six times the size of the adult rabbit. It should not have a wire bottom, as the wire can cause sores on the rabbit’s feet. There should be room for a litterbox, toys, food and water bowls. Others may choose to forgo a cage entirely, using instead a pen for the rabbit’s home base.
**Playtime: Rabbits need plenty of exercise and should be allowed at least 30 hours out-of-cage or pen running time in a rabbit-proofed area of the home per week.

**Outdoors: Rabbits should never be left outdoors unsupervised. They can, literally, be frightened to death when approached by predators such as dogs, cats, raccoons and owls. They can also dig under fences to escape.
**Litter Box: Rabbits, once spayed or neutered, will readily use litterboxes that are place in one corner of the rabbit’s space; the rabbit’s running space should contain at least one additional box. Use dust-free, natural litter–not the clumping kind, and no softwood shavings.

**Diet: Rabbits need fresh water, unlimited fresh, grass hay, 1-2 cups of fresh vegetables, and a small serving (1/4 c per 5 lb. rabbit) of plain rabbit pellets each day.
** Health: Like dogs and cats, rabbits should be spayed or neutered. The risk of uterine cancer in unspayed female rabbits is alarmingly high, and unneutered males are likely to spray.
**Grooming: Rabbits shed their coat 3-4 times per year; use a flea comb and brush away excess fur.

A person who chooses a baby rabbit as a companion must:
**Have lots of time, a household that can withstand some chewing, and a stable residence.
**Expect an unneutered/unspayed baby will spray urine. Know that neutering/spaying (at four to six months) will stop the problem.
**Expect accidents when baby forgets the location of the litterbox.
**Allow the energetic young rabbit at least 30 hours a week of free time outside her pen, habitat, or cage.
**Know the cute baby will soon be an adult rabbit and may have a different personality.
If you think you would enjoy sharing your home with a rabbit, please contact HRS, your local animal shelter, humane society or rabbit rescue group for information about adopting a rabbit. No matter where you live, you are probably within 10 miles of a rabbit who desperately needs a safe, indoor home. If you are not sure you can make this kind of commitment, please consider buying your child a chocolate bunny this Easter instead.

Making a Stink

The outdoors abounds with amazing opportunities fro your pets to explore and have fun. Occasionally, though, your dog may come face-to-face (or should we say face-to-rump?) with a skunk.

In addition to smelling like, well, a shunk, the musk from skunk’s can actually be toxic to dogs, especially when sprayed heavily in the face. Severely affected dogs can suffer from Heinz body anemia, which can lead to death. Skunk musk can cause less grave issues as well, as it is a potent skin and eye irritant. If your pet has suffered a direct hit to the face, keep an eye on his activity levels and check his gum color occasionally (they should be pink, with no hint of paleness). If anything changes, call your vet immediately.

Of course, the 64 million dollar question is how to get rid of the smell! Here’s a do-it-yourself remedy: combine a 16-ounce bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide, one box of baking soda, and three tablespoons of liquid dish detergent. Pour it over your dry dog and lather well. Allow the mixture to remain on the skin for ten minutes before you rinse and repeat (as needed!).

Fetch 2011 No.3 Issue 9

Diagnosis Leptosporosis

When dogs venture into the wild, they can encounter well-known dangers such as rabies, heartworms and Lyme disease. A lesser known (and luckily, less common) outdoor menace is leptosporosis.

Leptosporosis is spread by contact with the urine of an infected animnal. The hardy organism contaminates water and soil, making standing water, like ponds and lakes a potential hotbed for hazard.

Once the organism contacts mucous membranes (like the mouth or nose) or wounds, it spreads rapidly. Worse yet, sympotms can be vague. Fever, lethargy and joint pain are common complaints for leptosporosis (but for many other diseases as well). Ultimately, “lepto” can lead to kidney failure.

Fortunately, leptosporosis can be treated with antibiotics. And if caught early enough, treatment can be very effective, with little to no long term organ damage. Keeping your pet’s paws out of trouble starts with a few simple steps at home. Avoid contact with native rodent populations, which can spread disease, and keep an eye on pets outdoors, especially if they have access to standing water. As an extra preventative measure, consider getting your pet vaccinated against leptosporosis.

Fetch 2011 No.3 Issue 9

A Searing Narrative of Rabies, and the Desperation to Forget It

 I started reading “Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus,” a new all-about book, thinking that I would be most interested in the grim anecdotes and lurid details the book promises, and delivers.
I ended, however, by realizing that I am actually, along with other dog owners, a kind of public health hero.

Among the lurid details I didn’t know about until I read the book is that rabies, on its inexorable death crawl through the nervous system to the brain, can cause sustained erections, and on rare occasions frequent, and uncontrollable ejaculations in human males.

The authors write, “case reports from history describe up to thirty ejaculations in a single day” and go on to note that “The Roman physician Galen, in his own remarks on rabies, describes the case of an unfortunate porter who suffered such emissions for three full days leading up to his death.”

So now I know, and I kind of wish I didn’t. The book, like any good history of disease has a narrative course something like a highway with traffic accidents liberally scattered along the shoulder. You feel compelled to look, against your better judgment.

The reading experience thus swings between voyeurism and remorse, as your mental map of rabies comes more and more to resemble a fever dream, or a Hieronymus Bosch painting, and you feel that rabies must be diabolical indeed if you can be infected by the bite of a book.

That is until you come to a reminder of the mundane but profoundly comforting fact that rabies vaccinations for dogs, which have always seemed to me a bureaucratic annoyance (who gets bit by rabid dogs these days anyway?), have produced one of the historic successes in public health.

Hardly anyone in developed countries gets rabies now because dogs are routinely vaccinated.

In the rest of the world, however, 55,000 people die each year of rabies. The authors of “Rabid,” Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy, a married couple who are, respectively, an editor at Wired, and a veterinarian with a degree in public health, write that most of these deaths are in Africa and Asia, a great many are children, and almost all are the result of being bitten by mad dogs.

Other animals become infected with rabies and spread it to humans, but dogs are and have always been the link. We spend $300 million a year in the United States on rabies prevention. In a pet-centric world, we may sometimes forget that the vaccinations are not primarily to protect our pets, although they do, but to protect ourselves.

It was for human beings that Louis Pasteur risked his own life in developing the vaccine. The authors give a vivid account of his using a pipette in his mouth to suck saliva from the mouth of a rabid dog strapped to a laboratory table.

They also remind the reader of the double role dogs have played in human history — as man’s proverbial best friend, and as a common, and dreaded bearer of incurable, fatal madness.

Where rabies is still prevalent vaccination of dogs is still the answer, and public health experts argue that it can be cost effective and practical, even in very poor countries.

A 2010 paper in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases reported that the idea that most dogs in Africa are strays is wrong, that the “vast majority” of dogs are owned, can be presented for vaccination by the owners, and that mass vaccination campaigns are feasible

In the end, I came away from “Rabid” with much more than a store of anecdotes to drive away annoying dinner guests. I realized that dog owners who bring their pets for regular vaccination are actually a homeland defense corps of great importance. They help keep all of us safe from rabies infection and its many horrifying results — the fate of that poor Roman porter barely scratches the surface — which I am now trying desperately to forget.

The New York Times