Today has been characterised by the need to find increasingly creative ways to get Delilah to eat enough. She continues to battle on with her terrible breathing and her sticky eyes, but between those two things, she is starting to lose her appetite. It is very dangerous for rabbits not to eat, so it’s really important to keep that food going in. I don’t think it is that she doesn’t want to eat, it’s more that she is holding her head up to breathe so is struggling to bend down to graze from the floor. And while she is still nice and mobile and moving around a lot, her very poor eyesight and sense of smell at the moment are making it harder for her to find what she wants.
Her breathing is better, relatively speaking. It’s still poor, and it’s still very laboured, but there are now periods of time when I can’t hear her quacking and burbling, so the blockages are maybe easing off. The scabs continue to peel up and some of the nodules on her legs have now fallen off, so we really are making progress. It gives me hope that just maybe, we’re soon going to get to the point when her breathing will start to ease properly, giving her some respite from using her stomach muscles and mouth to support her breathing.
In situations where rabbits are reluctant to eat, the usual course of action would be to syringe feed (on the advice of a vet, after a veterinary check to ensure that there is no blockage and to ensure that any other medicines/investigations are done). Rabbits tolerate this incredibly well and will often munch away on liquid food squished into their mouths, even if they won’t take it voluntarily. But because Delilah is using her mouth to help with her breathing at the moment, there’s a risk that she could accidentally inhale food if I tried this. So instead I need to encourage her to eat for herself.
I’ve basically spent the entire day following her round trying to get her to eat things. If you waggle a piece of parsley or dandelion leaf in front of her nose, more often than not she’ll snatch it from you and eat it, but she won’t go looking for it herself or take it from a pile on the floor. So this calls for alternatives. I said yesterday (I think I did anyway) that I was buying some pureed baby foods so that I have delicious options to try if needed. So today I made up a fairly watery mush of critical care (a rabbit recovery food) mixed with pureed carrot baby food. Oh my goodness she liked that. I reckon she’s taken about 50ml of that by lapping it from the end of the syringe throughout the day. About another 50ml has dribbled all over the carpets, my hands and my clothes.
It also seemed sensible to think about raising her food so that it’s easier for her to find and eat while keeping her head level. Cow parsley is what she really wants to eat at the moment, but there’s not much of it about yet – the second flourish is only just starting to appear – so I popped to the local supermarket to get some fresh flat leaf parsley and carrots with their tops, as a poor substitute. While I was there, I had a wander around looking for inspiration…what could I use to raise her food up to a better height. And then I found it. A washing up cutlery holder. It’s been so long since I’ve done any washing up that I don’t even know what it’s called, but I’m sure you know the thing. It holds the cutlery for drip drying after you’ve washed it up. In fact it’s in the photo at the top of this post, and you can see that it works, as Delilah found it easy to keep her head nice and level and select her tasty treat.
Also today we popped back to the vet (I really should have my own seat in the waiting room) so that she could have another clean up and some subcutaneous fluids. Because of her breathing, she isn’t really drinking enough, and it has been very warm. Plus on her high dose of metacam I want to ensure that she stays well hydrated to support her kidneys. I saw the nurse today and she too said she thought that Delilah is looking much better than she had earlier in the week. I still don’t see it myself, but then that’s what happens when you’re with them all the time, I guess.
She is still not really eating as much as I’d like her to, and she is needing a lot of encouragement to do so. But she has eaten well today and has had lots of nice fluids, so I’m as happy as I can be that she’s comfortable. And we wait. And wait. And wait. And hope. One day it would be nice to have some uninterrupted sleep too!