How To Identify Shock in Rabbits and Help Them Recover

Your rabbit suddenly seems weak and unstable, struggling to stay upright. Their eyes appear glazed over and half-closed as their head sags. Despite the warm temperature, their ears and paws feel cool and pale. Your heart drops as you realize these are telltale signs of shock setting in, requiring emergency action. While the causes may vary, shock means your rabbit’s life is in imminent danger without rapid treatment. As a loving rabbit owner, understanding how to identify shock, provide crucial first aid, and get life-saving veterinary care can make all the difference. This article will cover all the key information you need to help bring your bunny back from the brink if shock strikes. Time is of the essence, so read on to empower yourself to save a life.

Growing Timothy Hay

Timothy hay is an important part of a rabbit's diet and helps promote good digestive health. When growing your own timothy hay, it's important to follow best practices to ensure you end up with a high quality crop. Here are some tips on growing great timothy hay for your rabbits:

First, make sure to choose a timothy grass seed that is free of weeds and originated from your region. Timothy grass grows best in cool, humid climates. Prepare the soil by removing all weeds and debris and tilling it to loosen and aerate. Add any needed amendments like lime to balance the pH. Work the soil into a fine texture. Plant the timothy seeds about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep in the prepared soil. When planting, aim for around 10 pounds of seed per acre.

Keep the seedbed moist until the new timothy sprouts and becomes established. This usually takes around 2-3 weeks. Be sure to keep an eye out for weeds which need to be removed as soon as they sprout. Fertilize the new growth lightly when it reaches around 3-4 inches tall. Apply 2/3 of the fertilizer once the plants reach 8 inches and the final 1/3 when they are 12 inches.

The timothy should be ready for the first cutting about 8-10 weeks after planting when it reaches a height of around 15 inches. Check that the fields are clear of weeds before cutting. Cut the hay once about half the heads on the plants have emerged from the stems. Use a mower or scythe and allow the cut hay to dry out in the field for a day or two.

Turn the hay over after the top layer appears dry so the underside can dry out as well. The ideal moisture level for baling is around 15-20%. At this stage, the hay can be gathered and baled. Store bales off the ground in a dry, covered area. Leave some stubble about 4-6 inches tall in the field after cutting to allow for regrowth.

Continue to monitor for weeds and apply fertilizer as needed to encourage regrowth. The second cutting can usually be taken about 4-6 weeks after the first cutting when the plants reach 15 inches again. The same practices are followed in terms of allowing the hay to properly dry before baling.

Two cuttings per season are common for timothy hay, but a third cutting can be taken in some cases. Avoid cutting later than September, as this can deplete the crop going into winter. Proper drying and storage of the bales will help maintain the nutritional quality. High-quality timothy hay is green, fragrant, and seed head free.

Harvesting Timothy Hay

Harvesting timothy hay at the optimal time and using the proper techniques is key to getting a high nutritious and palatable crop for your rabbits. Here are some tips:

  • Cut when the grass is at peak nutrition, which occurs right before the head emerges from the stem. This is usually at late boot stage.

  • Cut in the morning after dew has evaporated to allow same-day drying. Avoid cutting when rain is expected.

  • Use sharp blades for clean cutting and less leaf shatter and nutrient loss. Mowers or scythes work well.

  • Allow the cut hay to wilt in the field for a day or two until moisture levels reach around 20%. Turn over with a tedder or rake to speed drying.

  • Check moisture levels regularly by twisting a stem. It's ready for baling when the stem breaks cleanly instead of bending.

  • Make tight bales without excess handling to retain leaves and nutrients. Store bales under cover.

  • Leave adequate stubble height (4-6 inches) to encourage fast regrowth for next cutting.

  • Time cuttings about 4-6 weeks apart for optimal yield and nutrition. Take no more than 3 cuttings per season.

  • Avoid harvesting after early September to allow plants to store nutrients for winter dormancy.

  • Check bales for dust, mold, discoloration, and off-odors before feeding. Discard any spoiled bales.

Following these guidelines will provide the highest quality timothy hay full of nutrients, fiber, and palatability that rabbits love! Proper harvesting at peak nutrition results in less waste and lower feed costs.

1st Cutting Timothy Hay

The first cutting of timothy hay each season is highly prized for having an optimal balance of nutrition and fiber content. Here's an overview of first cutting timothy hay and why it's great for rabbits:

  • Taken roughly 8-10 weeks after planting when timothy grass reaches about 15 inches tall.

  • Cut before seed heads emerge, while grass is still leafy and green.

  • Highest levels of essential vitamins like A, E, B-complex, and C compared to later cuttings.

  • Good protein levels averaging 9-11% to support growth and body condition.

  • Higher levels of digestible nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

  • Moderate, stemmy fiber around 30-35% ADF ideal for dental health and GI function. Not too coarse or too soft.

  • Lowest calorie count per pound helps prevent obesity.

  • High palatability with a leafier texture and sweeter taste than later cuttings.

  • Pleasant green color, fresh smell, and limited dust or mold when properly dried.

  • Free of potentially harmful nitrate accumulation that occurs in mature grasses.

The balanced nutrition and digestible fiber in first cutting timothy makes it a great all-around choice to feed as the staple portion of a rabbit's diet. It's especially well suited to young, growing rabbits and pregnant/nursing does. Rotate cuttings for variety.

2nd Cutting Timothy Hay

The second cutting of timothy hay occurs about 4-6 weeks after the initial spring harvest. Here’s an overview of its nutritional profile:

  • Taken when regrowth reaches 15 inches, before seed heads emerge again.

  • Decrease in protein compared to first cutting, averaging 7-9%. Still sufficient for most adult rabbits.

  • Fibrous but slightly softer than first cutting with ADF around 27-30%.

  • Lower in vitamins like carotene, B-complex, and Vitamin E than first cutting but still present.

  • Calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium levels start declining but are adequate.

  • Calories per pound increase slightly as grasses mature.

  • Palatability remains high but flavor becomes a little milder than first cutting.

  • Good green color though starting to lighten. Lower moisture content.

  • Dusty or moldy if baled too dry or moisture gets in storage.

While second cutting is slightly lower in nutrition than first cutting hay, it still makes great rabbit food. The increase in fiber benefits gut motility and dental grinding. The nutrients are sufficient for most adult rabbits. Watch moisture content when baling and storing to avoid dust and spoilage issues. Limit treat pellets to compensate for decreased protein and vitamins.

3rd Cutting Timothy Hay

A third timothy hay harvest is possible in some regions, taken about 4-6 weeks after second cutting in mid-late summer. Here's an overview of third cutting timothy nutritional values:

  • Cut when regrowth reaches around 15 inches, though maturity is advancing.

  • Protein levels decline to 5-7%. Borderline minimal for non-breeding adult rabbits.

  • Calcium, phosphorus and vitamin concentrations are lowest out of the cuttings.

  • Highest fiber levels around 32-38% ADF as grasses become stemmier.

  • Highest calorie count per pound due to increased carbohydrate content.

  • Reduced palatability and blander taste. Rabbits may reject it.

  • Light green or yellowish hue. Stems are thicker. Lower moisture content.

  • Increased potential for high nitrate accumulation. Should be tested before feeding.

  • Dusty and prone to mold growth during storage.

While third cuttings can help utilize fields, the decline in nutritional value makes it a less ideal choice for feeding rabbits. It's best used for older rabbits with minimal needs or mixed with better hay. Test nitrate levels before feeding and monitor rabbit health. Consider supplementing with pellets.

Why You Need Timothy Hay For Rabbits

Timothy hay is a essential part of a rabbit's diet. Here's why it's so important:

  • It's high in long-strand fiber that promotes dental health. The coarse, abrasive stems wear down constantly growing teeth and prevent overgrowth issues.

  • The long fiber strands also support healthy digestion and gastrointestinal motility to prevent issues like hairballs or stasis.

  • Rabbits need to nibble almost constantly to wear down and file teeth. Timothy hay allows them to satisfy this need.

  • It provides a balanced source of nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals needed for good health and growth when paired with pellets.

  • The lower calorie count compared to pellets helps prevent obesity, which is a common problem.

  • The variety in cuttings and different seasonal harvests keeps rabbits interested and enthusiastic about eating hay.

  • It offers enrichment by satisfying natural foraging behaviors. Rabbits love digging into a fresh pile of hay.

  • Hay aids rabbit bonding by giving pairs something constructive to do together side-by-side.

Timothy hay is lower in nutrition than legume hays like alfalfa but it's ideal for adult and companion rabbits. Feed it in unlimited amounts along with a measured amount of pellets and fresh veggies.

Timothy Hay For Your Rabbit's Teeth

Here’s how feeding timothy hay helps keep your rabbit’s teeth healthy:

  • Timothy hay provides long, coarse strands full of hard, abrasive stems. These wear the teeth down and prevent overgrowth issues.

  • The gritty texture also helps rub off plaque and tartar buildup to reduce tooth decay risks.

  • Hay requires rabbits to chew in a grinding motion that wears the molars evenly. This maintains proper alignment and a smooth surface.

  • Rabbits will chew and nibble on hay throughout the day even when not hungry. This provides near-constant dental wear and stimulation.

  • The high silica content in grasses may strengthen tooth enamel over time, reducing fracture risks.

  • Hay mechanically breaks off sharp points or small abscesses that can form on the teeth before they worsen.

  • Switching between different cuttings and harvests provides variety to engage the teeth from all angles for thorough wear.

  • Avoid feeding only softer hays like alfalfa long-term, as they lack the coarse, abrasive textures rabbits need.

  • Rotate hay along with untreated wood chews to provide parietal tooth wear and mental stimulation.

Timothy hay is the staple of a healthy rabbit diet and provides the ideal dental exercise and abrasion they require while also delivering balanced nutrition. Ensure unlimited access to encourage constant nibbling.

How Much Timothy Hay Should A Rabbit Eat A Day?

When feeding timothy hay to rabbits, how much you provide is just as important as the quality. Here are some guidelines on quantities:

  • Provide timothy hay in unlimited amounts. Rabbits should always have abundant access to hay.

  • Aim for rabbits to consume hay equal to approximately their body size daily. For example, a 4 lb rabbit will eat about 4 cups or 4 ounces of hay per day.

  • Hay should make up at least 75% of a rabbit's daily food intake. For some rabbits, hay alone is sufficient.

  • Feed hay in a sturdy rack or dispenser to prevent waste and contamination. Make sure rabbits can access it easily.

  • Refill hay often and before it runs out entirely to prevent overeating of pellets or treats in the gap.

  • Monitor quantities consumed and adjust to maintain healthy weight. Obese rabbits may need hay with lower calorie first cuttings.

  • Increase amount of hay for pregnant, nursing, growing, or unwell rabbits to boost nutrition and hydration.

  • Decrease hay temporarily if a rabbit is obese or dealing with mandated restricted intake due to illness.

  • Weigh hay before and after placing in cage to get a sense of exact consumption over 24 hours.

Ensuring rabbits have unlimited timothy hay every day is crucial to their health and happiness. Hay promotes healthy teeth, digestion, weight, and behaviors in rabbits when fed generously. Monitor consumption amounts based on your rabbit's needs.

Can You Get Organic Timothy Hay For Rabbits?

Yes, organic timothy hay is available for purchase to feed rabbits. Here's some info about sourcing and using organic timothy hay:

  • Organic hay is grown without chemical pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers per USDA standards. This eliminates potential chemical residues.

  • Sources include small organic farms, vendors at farmer's markets, health food stores, and online retailers that specialize in rabbit products.

  • Production is smaller scale so supplies may be limited based on region. Hay may cost a little more than conventional.

  • Inspect hay for signs of proper harvest time, leafiness, color, and aroma indicating quality and freshness regardless of organic status.

  • Organic certification focuses on cultivation methods rather than nutrition. Analysis values are usually comparable to conventional hay.

  • There is no evidence that organic hay is healthier or safer than properly grown conventional timothy. No difference in effect on rabbits.

  • Organic status is more meaningful for parts of plants directly consumed like vegetables versus hay. But some rabbit owners still prefer organic.

  • Use organic hay as you would regular timothy hay. No changes needed to amounts fed daily or preparation methods.

While organic timothy hay is a great option if you prefer to buy organic, regular timothy hay is perfectly healthy and nutritious for rabbits as well. The most important factors are sourcing high quality hay and feeding proper amounts.

How to Identify Shock in Rabbits and Help Them Recover

Signs of Shock in Rabbits

Some signs that a rabbit may be going into shock include:

  • Coolness in the ears, paws, and extremities as blood flow is reduced

  • Pale or bluish gums indicating oxygen deprivation

  • Weak, rapid pulse that may be irregular

  • Shallow, accelerated breathing or panting

  • Trembling, shaking, or collapse

  • Glazed over, half-closed eyes showing dazed mental state

  • Lethargy, unresponsiveness, inability to stand

  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

Rabbits are prey animals, so they instinctively hide signs of shock at first. Subtle changes in behavior like tucked posture, sitting hunched up, lack of interest in food or surroundings can also signal the onset of shock before more severe symptoms appear.

Causes of Shock in Rabbits

There are several possible causes of shock in rabbits including:

  • Traumatic injury such as dog attack, fall from heights, vehicle strike, or abuse

  • Fractures or damage to vital organs from blunt force

  • Severe blood loss from injury or surgery

  • Toxin ingestion such as pesticides or other poisons

  • Rodenticide poisoning inhibiting blood clotting

  • Bacterial infection like pasteurellosis spreading to bloodstream

  • Life threatening conditions like heart failure, stroke, bloat

  • Anaphylaxis or allergic reaction to medications, vaccines, foods

  • Addison's disease adrenal gland failure

  • Severe dehydration or dangerously low body temperature

  • Intense stress, extreme fright, panic

First Aid for Rabbits in Shock

If your rabbit is exhibiting signs of shock, here are some first steps in stabilizing them before emergency veterinary care:

  • Check airway and breathing. Clear airway obstructions, wipe away mucus. Perform rescue breathing if needed.

  • Stop any major bleeding by applying direct pressure on wounds with a clean cloth.

  • Check heart rate, examine gums for color.

  • Gently lay rabbit on their right side supported, with head slightly lower than body. Never constrict chest.

  • Keep rabbit restrained but calm and quiet. Limit handling.

  • Flood coat with room temperature water to stabilize body temperature. Avoid cold water.

  • Use a warm water bottle, socks filled with rice, or wrapped hot water bottles to provide supplemental heat.

  • Check for and treat any obvious causes like poisoning or trauma.

  • Provide oxygen support if available.

  • Give oral electrolyte fluids or pedialyte if able to swallow. Use syringe without needle, go slowly.

  • Transport to vet immediately. Continued monitoring and treatment needed.

With rapid action, the chances of recovery improve but shock can worsen quickly. Vet care for intravenous fluids, medications, supplemental oxygen is often essential.

Treating Shock Under Veterinary Care

At the veterinary hospital, rabbits in shock can be treated with:

  • Oxygen therapy often given through a mask or other delivery system. This may continue for several days.

  • IV catheter and fluids to restore blood pressure and circulation. Warm fluids help stabilize temperature.

  • Injectable corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and support adrenal function.

  • Pain management with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and/or opioids.

  • Antibiotics if infection is the cause. Blood cultures identify bacteria.

  • Blood transfusions in severe anemia cases to improve oxygen carrying capacity.

  • Medications to increase heart function and blood pressure like dobutamine or dopamine.

  • Wound cleaning, surgical repair and treatment of any injuries causing blood or fluid loss.

  • Treatment of clotting disorders or toxicity from poisoning.

  • Fluid therapy to rehydrate if dehydration is present. Subcutaneous or intraosseous fluids may be given.

  • Assisted feeding for nutrition support.

With intensive therapy, consistent monitoring of vitals, bloodwork and progress, many rabbits can recover fully from shock, even if initially severe. Patience and dedication is key.

Leave a Comment