How To Make Critical Care Rabbit Formula For Emergencies

Has your rabbit suddenly stopped eating? This can quickly become a life-threatening emergency! Without proper nutrition, rabbits can develop deadly gastrointestinal stasis within days. As a rabbit owner, you need to be prepared to make and feed critical care formula. This nourishing blend of fine-ground pellets, hay, veggies, and fruits provides the calories and nutrition your rabbit desperately needs when sick and weak. In this comprehensive guide, learn step-by-step how to mix up homemade critical care in a pinch and properly syringe feed it to nurse your bunny back to health. With quick action, you can help your rabbit recover and prevent serious complications from arising. Read on to empower yourself with the knowledge you need to care for your rabbit in an emergency situation!

What is Critical Care?

Critical care is a calorically dense formula designed for rabbits and small herbivores that are too weak or unwilling to eat their normal diet. It contains complete nutrition to sustain them until their appetite returns. Critical care formulas are made up of timothy or orchard grass hay, pellets, vegetables, fruits, oils, and vitamins and minerals. The ingredients are processed into a powder or paste that can easily be syringe fed. Having critical care on hand is important for rabbit owners in case of an emergency.

Critical care is useful for situations where a rabbit stops eating or has dental issues that prevent them from properly chewing their food. Stress, pain, gastrointestinal stasis or blockages, infections, abcesses, surgery, overgrown teeth, and other illnesses can all inhibit a rabbit's appetite and lead to dangerous weight loss. Even a day or two of not eating can be very detrimental. Critical care provides the nutrition and calories they need to recover and regain strength. It helps stabilize them until the underlying issue can be treated.

Veterinarians often recommend and even provide pre-made critical care formulas like Oxbow's Critical Care. But it can also be made at home if needed in a pinch. Having the ingredients and instructions on hand before an emergency means you can quickly mix up a batch if your rabbit suddenly stops eating. Prompt treatment with critical care can help get them back to normal faster.

When do you need to give your rabbit Critical Care?

There are several situations where critical care feeding is recommended for rabbits:

  • If your rabbit stops eating or reduces food intake. Rabbits need to constantly eat for digestion and to prevent dangerous gastrointestinal stasis. A couple days without food can be fatal. Critical care keeps them nourished.

  • For dental issues like spurs, malocclusion or teeth needing to be trimmed. Rabbits unable to properly chew need soft foods.

  • After surgery, while in pain, or when ill. Appetite is reduced when rabbits don't feel well. Critical care provides calories for recovery.

  • For gastrointestinal stasis, gas, or blockages. The gut needs kept moving so obstructions don't worsen. Critical care can help overcome stasis.

  • For mouth sores, abscesses, or respiratory infections. Problems that make eating difficult or painful are helped with soft critical care.

  • For senior rabbits who stop eating due to age. Critical care helps older rabbits from backsliding.

  • For conditions causing tooth grinding or reduced food intake like pain or stress. Critical care supports them until the underlying problem can be addressed.

  • To supplement nutrients if the diet is a bit lacking. Critical care makes up for any gaps in nutrition.

Any situation where the normal diet is disrupted calls for critical care to fill nutritional deficits. It's a good emergency tool all rabbit owners should have on hand or be prepared to make. The powdered formula has a long shelf life if kept sealed and dry. Having critical care already made and in the fridge streamlines the response time for a rabbit emergency.

How to make rabbit Critical Care

Making your own critical care at home for your rabbit is simple with just a few ingredients. Here is a recipe:


  • 1 cup timothy hay pellets
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons ground timothy hay
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped carrots
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped apple or approved fruit
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable baby food (optional)
  • 1/4 cup water or 100% apple juice

Optional additions:

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil like olive or coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground flaxseed
  • Probiotics or nutritional supplements


  1. Grind up 1 cup of timothy hay pellets into a powder consistency. You can use a food processor, blender, spice grinder, or coffee grinder.

  2. Pour pellets into a bowl and stir in the oats, ground timothy hay, chopped greens, and chopped fruits/veggies until fully blended.

  3. Add in any optional oils, ground flaxseed, probiotic paste, or nutritional supplements and stir in evenly.

  4. Slowly mix in the water or apple juice until a thick paste is formed that can be sucked up through an oral syringe. Add a little at a time until the desired mushy consistency for syringe feeding.

  5. Store extra critical care paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Warm it up slightly before feeding.

  6. Can also be stored in spoonful sizes in an ice cube tray and frozen for later use. Thaw before feeding.

Adjust ingredients to suit your rabbit’s needs. Follow your vet's instructions if they provide a specific recipe. The key nutrients are derived from the timothy pellets, hay, veggies and oats. Beyond that you can tweak with fruits and oils to encourage eating.

How much to feed your rabbit

The amount of critical care food needed depends on the size and condition of your rabbit. Follow your vet’s recommendation for how much to give your specific bunny per day. Generally you can start with the below guidelines:

  • Small rabbit (under 4 lbs): Around 30-50cc per day
  • Medium rabbit (4-7 lbs): Around 50-80cc per day
  • Large rabbit (over 7 lbs): Around 80-100+ cc per day

Split this into 3-4 feedings spaced out during daytime hours. Give larger amounts more frequently for rabbits who are not eating at all. Offer smaller amounts a few times a day for rabbits who are eating a bit but need supplementation.

Closely monitor appetite and fecal output. Increase or decrease amounts according to:

  • How much is being consumed – Don't force feed more than they'll accept.

  • Energy level – Feed more to lethargic rabbits needing nutrition.

  • Hydration status – Increase if urine output decreases or mucous membranes look dry.

  • Fecal pellets – Increase amount if fewer or smaller poops. Decrease if getting diarrhea.

Weigh daily if possible and adjust food up or down to maintain weight. Amounts can be tweaked as needed based on monitoring the rabbit. Recovery once they start eating again is a good sign to start slowly decreasing supplementation.

How often do you need to feed your rabbit

The frequency of critical care feeding depends on how much nutritional support is needed. Follow veterinary advice for your particular situation. Here are some general guidelines on how often to feed critical care:

  • Rabbits eating minimally but still interested in some food can be fed critical care 1-2 times per day. This supplements their diet.

  • Rabbits eating nothing at all should get critical care 3-4 times throughout the day. Smaller but more frequent feedings are ideal.

  • For severe malnutrition from long-term lack of eating, feed every 2-4 hours around the clock including nighttime.

  • During recovery as appetite increases, slowly reduce feedings down to 1-2 times per day, then further apart until eating normally.

Spread feedings out over daylight hours when rabbits are awake and active. Give at consistent times, especially if giving medications too. Limit stress by handling rabbits gently and limiting nighttime feedings.

Monitor if they develop diarrhea and reduce quantity if stool gets too loose. Constipation is also possible if not enough fiber, so watch for reduced fecal output. Adjust feeding schedule according to symptoms and changes. The amount given each time is less important than consistent daily calories. Work with your exotic vet to determine the ideal feeding schedule.

Step-by-step instructions

Here are step-by-step instructions for how to properly syringe feed critical care formula to your rabbit:

Supplies Needed:

  • Critical care food
  • 10-60cc oral syringes
  • Small bowl
  • Heating pad or towel (optional)
  • Towel for bunny burrito (optional)

  • Place a little critical care in a bowl and warm slightly to room or body temperature. Cold formula can cause gastrointestinal upset.

  • Draw the mushy critical care into the syringe, removing any air bubbles. Insert the plunger to the desired feeding amount.

  • Sit down and gently wrap the rabbit in a towel burrito-style if needed, leaving head exposed.

  • Position the rabbit with head tilted slightly upwards. Stroke under the chin to stimulate swallowing.

  • Gently insert the syringe into the corner of the mouth along the cheek teeth. Slowly depress the plunger, allowing time to swallow between syringefuls. Avoid covering the nostrils with formula.

  • Give breaks as needed if they resist or fail to swallow. Allow them to rest calmly in between bites. Offer encouraging greens or treats.

  • When finished, be sure to give water and wipe any formula from the face. Offer fresh hay.

  • Clean syringes thoroughly after each use in hot soapy water. Rinse well before the next use.

Go slowly and be patient. Stop if the rabbit struggles or won’t swallow. Stress will make matters worse. With practice most rabbits get used to syringe feeding. Make it as calm and pleasant as possible with pets and snacks.

Homemade critical care recipe

Here is a recipe to make homemade critical care in an emergency if you don't have any prepared formula:


  • 1 cup timothy grass pellets
  • 1/4 cup ground timothy hay
  • 1/4 cup rolled or quick oats
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (olive, coconut etc)
  • 1/4 cup + water or apple juice


  1. Grind pellets and hay to a powder consistency in blender or food processor.

  2. Add powder to a bowl along with oats, ground flaxseed if using, and oil. Mix well.

  3. Gradually mix in water or apple juice until a pudding-like texture is reached. Should be soft enough to suck into a syringe but not watery and runny.

  4. If too thick, add more liquid. If too thin, add more powdered pellets/hay.

  5. Can store in an airtight container in fridge up to 5 days.

  6. Warm up portions to room temperature before feeding.

This simple homemade recipe provides the fiber, carbohydrates, and protein needed. Adjust ingredients based on rabbit's age and health conditions. Adding fresh greens, vegetables, fruits or supplements boosts nutrition. Use within a few days and discard any leftovers if moldy, sour, or smells bad.

How to syringe feed your rabbit

If your rabbit stops eating, syringe feeding critical care is crucial. Follow these steps:


  • Critical care food (prepared or homemade recipe)
  • 10-60cc Oral syringes (not insulin syringes)
  • Small bowl
  • Heating pad or towel (optional)
  • Rabbit burrito towel (optional)


  1. Warm formula to room temperature to prevent GI upset.

  2. Draw food into syringe, tapping out air bubbles.

  3. Optional – Wrap rabbit in towel burrito-style, leaving head out.

  4. Tilt rabbit's head upwards and insert syringe side of mouth along cheek.

  5. Slowly depress plunger to give time to swallow.

  6. Stop if rabbit struggles. Give breaks between syringefuls.

  7. Try stroking throat to encourage swallowing.

  8. Give water after. Offer treat rewards.

  9. Clean syringe thoroughly after each use.

  10. Repeat feedings every few hours based on veterinary advice.

Go slowly to reduce stress. Give breaks as needed. Ensure they swallow each syringeful before giving more. Contact vet if difficulty swallowing, choking, or aspiration occurs. Be patient and stay calm – your mood affects the rabbit.

Related questions

How do you know when your rabbit is sick?

Rabbits hide illness well in the wild, so owners need to watch for subtle signs of health problems. Here are some red flags:

  • Lack of appetite or reduced eating
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy, sluggishness, lack of activity
  • Hiding more than normal
  • Disheveled coat
  • Overgrown teeth
  • Excess tear staining
  • Diarrhea or fewer/misshapen fecal pellets
  • Urine staining, odd colored urine, or lack of urination
  • Labored breathing
  • Limping or trouble moving
  • Abnormal swellings/lumps

Also watch for signs of pain like teeth grinding or flinching when touched. Personality changes like increased nipping or aggression can also signal illness. Any deviation from normal habits in eating, drinking, elimination, activity level, appearance or behavior can mean something is wrong. Contact your rabbit-savvy vet at the first signs of sickness for prompt diagnosis and treatment.

How do I know if my rabbit’s poop is healthy?

Checking your rabbit's poop daily tells you a lot about their health. Here's what to look for in healthy rabbit poop:

  • Round, moist fecal pellets

  • Uniform size and consistency

  • Brown color from digested hay

  • Minimal white urine coating

  • Minimal hair fibers from grooming

  • Separate hard round cecotropes

  • Passed regularly in piles

  • Minimal odor

Signs of unhealthy poop include:

  • Small, misshapen, or mushy stools

  • Lack of fecal pellets or reduced amount

  • Diarrhea, very wet or smeared poop

  • Strange color – green, yellow, black, red

  • Strung together with hair or tubes

  • Lack of cecotropes or not consuming them

  • Slimy residue or mucous

  • Strong strange odor

  • Difficulty passing stool, straining

Any deviation from normal poop could mean an illness or imbalance. Make dietary changes slowly if the cause is suspected to be diet. See a rabbit vet promptly if accompanying signs of illness or the cause is not clear. Monitor litter box habits to stay on top of your bunny's health.


Being prepared to make and properly administer critical care formula to a sick rabbit can save their life in an emergency situation where they stop eating. Knowing when to start syringe feeding critical care, having a recipe handy to make it, how much to give and how often to feed can get them through a health crisis. Monitoring weight, appetite and poop provides important feedback for adjusting the care plan. With patience and persistence, many rabbits can be nursed back to health with the help of homemade or commercial critical care products. Being informed on critical care methods helps rabbit owners respond quickly when needed.


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