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Elderbuns: what goes on inside as your rabbit gets older.

rabbit anatomy

Photo credit: Buel P. Colton, Zoology: Descriptive and Practical

You can see some signs your rabbit is getting older.  She’s not jumping up on the couch to snuggle with you and watch Grey’s Anatomy.  He’s not as good about keeping his poo in the litter box anymore. 

What kinds of things might be happening on the inside of our Elderbuns?  What is the part of aging we can’t see? 

For rabbit’s who have been obese, we always have to worry about cardiac problems.  And some older rabbits can develop hind leg paralysis, for any number of reasons (subluxation, joint fusion, inflammatory illnesses, tumors, etc). 

A great number of rabbits will end up with some compromise in kidney and/or bladder function, and a decrease in liver function is often involved.  As all of us get older, things just start to wear out and become less efficient.  This whole process snowballs, though.  As one part starts to slow down, the other parts are overtaxed and they get damaged.  The whole cycle feeds on itself. 

Kidney failure happens when the kidneys just can’t clear the toxins from the body well anymore, and those toxins begin to build up.  Your rabbit may be drinking enormous amounts of water, and there might be way more urine that usual. 

Bladder problems also give us symptoms, if we are watching.  Stones and sludge can cause your rabbit to sit for a very long time in the litter box without making any urine, or straining to urinate with little to nothing coming out.  Your rabbit may start going (or trying to go) in “inappropriate” places.  She may have pain if her abdomen is touched.

Older rabbits who lose their appetite (from dental issues, or some other illness) run the risk of hepatic lipidosis.  This is a situation where the fat stored in tissues is metabolized, caecal bacteria are all out of whack, and there is a general breakdown of how nutrients are processed.  The end result is that the pathways that the liver uses to process fats become clogged and the liver shuts down.  It is critical to keep rabbits eating, and any lessening of appetite is cause for concern! 

The takeaway: any changes in eating or litter box habits are worthy of noting.  If your rabbit has stopped eating, get to a vet ASAP.  Not after dinner, not Monday morning, NOW. 

Elderbuns need more attention paid to details, but they have a dignity that can’t be pulled off by a young pipsqueak.  They’ve been our best friends all these years, and we know each other so well.  They deserve our respect, our help, and our appreciation.

Go love on your Elderbun!  And watch for the next installment on our older friends.

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