So, where did I leave you yesterday? A Sunday visit to the vet with Jeremy, everybun else still present and correct. It was that day I also noticed that the local wild rabbit population suddenly seemed to have dwindled. At this time of year there are usually multiple bunnies out grazing most of the time, and when I walk down to the bottom of the garden where most of my rabbits live, about 10 wild bunnies scatter in various directions as I come. From Sunday there was maybe 1 or 2 at a time – adults. Far fewer youngsters.
Anyway, on Monday Jeremy was quite moribund. He still didn’t seem in pain and he was still nibbling, but only if you placed food around him in a little pile, he wouldn’t move from where he was to go looking for it. He sat alone, all his siblings in their usual pile. Did he take himself away from them, or did they take themselves away from him, I don’t know. He was very vacant, and very wobbly. He reminded me of how a bunny is when coming round from anaesthetic. I didn’t want to take him back to the vets while he wasn’t in pain, as I didn’t want to take a ‘contaminated’ rabbit to the vets if there was nothing more to be done at that point; I just needed to monitor, medicate and hope for the best. Later that afternoon he started to perk up very slightly. Still very wobbly, still very vacant, but started to move around a little more. Tuesday morning he was slightly perkier still. Really picky with food – he wanted to rummage around in dried herbs to pick out a few choice bits, and he wanted to eat wild geraniums/herb robert. Whether he instinctively ‘knew’ what would be good for him, or whether there were certain smells which attracted him, I don’t know.
I had an appointment booked last thing on Tuesday, but as the day progressed he got more and more bright – still wobbly, still vacant, but less so, and more appetant again. The initial results weren’t yet back so I rang to see if I could move the appointment to Wednesday in the hope that there would be results by that point. I was given the first appointment of the day with the same vet who had seen Lily the week before.
Wednesday morning came, and I knew it wasn’t going to be good news when I was ushered straight into the consult room by the nurse. The initial results were back, and it was looking very much like VHD. The vet felt Jeremy’s abdomen and said it felt exactly the same as how Lily’s had felt – with a very hard swollen stomach and liver area. But Jeremy’s was much more chronic in onset and he didn’t have the pain that she clearly did, so we agreed to continue to monitor and treat and hope for the best. The vet had seen an outbreak of RHD2 at another sanctuary the previous year, and said that it tended to come in waves, with a couple of bunnies affected, then nothing for a few days, then another one, and so on. Given that 7 of them are in one family group, and we have wild rabbits and other wildlife (and cats) to spread it around our garden to the others, we discussed the need to try and get them vaccinated ASAP, even if it meant taking them on a long trip to get it. This is how I ended up taking them to Manchester, which was the only place to have the vaccine at that point. Even if it arrived at my own practice just a few days later, that few days could make all the difference.
Jeremy slowly improved over the following few days. On the Thursday, I had a complete panic because I couldn’t find him when I went to do his evening meds, and I feared that he had found a dark corner in which to cower or pass away. But no, he was behind me, trying to climb up my leg. As each day passed, Jeremy got progressively less wobbly and progressively more bright. I admit I didn’t weigh him, I’m afraid it would have just made me panic if I’d realised how much weight he had lost. I know he did, as he was very thin and boney compared to the others, but I just couldn’t face finding out the reality on that. After about a week, I think you’d struggle to tell from the behaviour that Jeremy had been sick. He is still a little smaller and bonier than his pals, but he is much more back to normal. I don’t know if there are ongoing effects, or if sometimes they can look recovered only to crash again later – all I can do is wait and hope. All the bunnies apart from Jeremy had their vaccinations. I guess there are questions now around whether/when he should have his. Will he have some residual immunity from his infection? Presumably so. If so, for how long? How long will he shed the virus for? How long will any of the others shed the virus for (assuming they are carriers too)? Does that change now they’ve been vaccinated – does that accelerate it out of their systems? I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. If anyone does, please do let me know!