Did you know that thousands of companion animals are surrendered to shelters and euthanized each year simply because their human caregivers died or became too ill to care for them? These animals became homeless because their caregivers made no plans for their continued care.
We all know that providing care for our pets is a lifelong commitment, but have you taken the time to plan for your pet’s future, in case you are no longer there to honor that commitment? Having a plan in place will you give you peace of mind knowing your companion animals will always be cared for.
An organization called “2nd Chance 4 Pets” is a non-profit group of volunteers educating pet caregivers about lifetime care options. You can write to them and request their “Guide to Planning for the Lifetime Care of Your Pets” and you’ll get a subscription to their newsletter.
2nd Chance 4 Pets outlines three simple steps to ensure that your pets receive the best care possible should they outlive you:
- Step 1: Identify Caregivers
Identify people who would be willing to care for your pets in the hours, days, or weeks after an emergency, such as friends, relatives, or neighbors.
- Step 2: Prepare Written Instructions
Outline how your pets should be cared for, whether in another household or sanctuary, and whether animals should be kept together.
- Step 3: Set Up a Fund
Set aside funds to cover temporary or permanent care of your pets.
They have lots of resources and good advice on their webpage:
Or write them at:
2nd Chance 4 Pets
1484 Pollard Road, No. 444
Los Gatos, CA 95032
More resources for pet trusts and estate planning for pets:
PetGuardian Pet Trust Plans provides a comprehensive pet trust plan and is affiliated with Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
Websites for estate planning for pets:
You may be used to leaving your cat for the weekend, but it’s never a good idea to leave rabbits at home alone while you’re out of town. A rabbit’s instinct is to hide illness and they could become seriously ill while you’re gone. They may get stressed by the change in routine and go into GI Stasis, or suffer symptoms from the parasite E Cuniculi, which must be treated immediately to have good success at recovery.
Whether you’re planning on having someone visit your home, boarding your rabbits at a bunny sitter’s home, or using a veterinarian’s office or kennel, bear in mind a few pros and cons and plan to make your rabbit’s holiday as stress-free as possible.
Boarding in Someone’s Home
- If the person you choose is familiar with rabbits, symptoms of illness may be more quickly recognized.
- Your rabbit may get more attention than from a visiting sitter.
- A caged rabbit may get more exercise time than if left at home.
- Your rabbit will be in unfamiliar surroundings.
- Other rabbits and pets may stress your rabbit.
- You may need to pack your rabbit’s cage and supplies.
Leaving Rabbit at Home
- Your rabbit will be in familiar surroundings.
- Feeding routine will be closer to usual routine.
- It will be quiet.
- A veterinary technician or someone familiar with rabbits is more likely to notice symptoms of illness.
- Pet sitters can be more cost effective than boarding if you have more than one animal.
- Your rabbit is not exposed to unfamiliar animals as in a boarding situation.
- Your rabbit may get lonely, especially if she’s the only animal in the house.
- She may not get out of her cage.
- Having a sitter or neighbor visit only once a day leaves a lot of time for symptoms of illness to go unnoticed and also makes it harder to maintain the rabbit’s routines.
- If you have other pets such as dogs or cats, you need to make sure they do not bother the rabbit.
Boarding at Vet Office or Kennel
- An experienced rabbit vet can treat your rabbit should he fall ill or have a chronic health problem.
- Can be difficult to find a vet/kennel with space separate from dogs and cats.
- Kennel staff is not always familiar with rabbits, especially house rabbits.
- Unfamiliar surroundings and noise from upset animals may be stressful to your rabbit.
- Your rabbit most likely will not get out of his cage.
- Kennel staff probably won’t give much personal attention other than feeding and cleaning.
- Can be expensive, especially if you are boarding other pets, too.
I know it seems like summer hasn’t even officially ended, but it’s already time to start thinking about where to board your bunnies if you plan on traveling for the winter holidays. A quick phone around to a few local bunny boarding services revealed that some of them already completely booked for Thanksgiving with just a few spots left for Christmas, so the time to start your planning is NOW.
How to Find a Pet Sitter
Several San Diego HRS volunteers offer pet-sitting services in their homes. A few of our tried and true favorites are:
Bunnies R Us
Show Me the Bunny
Bessie Bunny’s Bed & Breakfast
Sweet Dreams Bunny Lodge
Fees vary by pet sitter according to the number of bunnies being boarded, the size of their enclosure, and other factors. In San Diego County, pet sitting fees for a single bunny can range from $10 per day to $25 per day. Many pet sitters will also offer grooming, nail trimming, photography, and other services for additional fees.
Most bunny boarding houses are limited on space, especially around the holidays, and they will fill up fast. Don’t delay. If you already know your holiday plans, get your bunnies booked in now!
If you cannot afford the cost of bunny sitting, offer to trade services with another bunny family. Join San Diego HRS’ “fan” page on Facebook, to meet other local rabbit lovers and you are very likely to find someone who is willing to exchange bunny sitting services with you. Who knows – it may turn out that someone who lives right down the block from you has a rabbit, too, and is willing to make trades with you.
Speaker Series Spotlight on Elder Buns
This Saturday, August 14, join us for our regular Speaker Series as we welcome Linda Knox, DVM, of Palomar Animal Hospital, who will give a presentation on Health Issues of the Elder Bun.
With advances in medical care and better-educated caretakers, our rabbit companions are living longer lives. With longevity comes a host of other issues our buns may experience; arthritis and spinal degeneration, cataracts, chronic weight loss and potentially, even cancer.
Older rabbits can develop diseases related to higher levels of calcium. For example, did you know that pellets should contain no more than 0.6% calcium? Many popular feeds contain more than 0.6%, so to reduce calcium intake you must reduce the amount of pellets fed or make them a smaller portion of the diet. An excellent pellet for rabbits of all ages is Bunny Basics/T made by Oxbow Hay, and available at the San Diego HRS Bunny Store. BB/T is timothy-based rather than alfalfa-based, so it naturally contains fewer calories and less calcium.
Older rabbits generally need fewer pellets and more hay and vegetables. However, frail, older rabbits may need unrestricted pellets to keep weight up. Alfalfa can be given to underweight rabbits, only if calcium levels are normal. Annual blood workups are highly recommended for geriatric rabbits.
Dr. Knox will discuss the variety of health issues we may see, and how to manage them. She’ll give tips for keeping a closer eye on our older rabbit friends, and what to watch for and when to take them to be seen by their vet.
Health Issues of the Elder Bun
presented by Linda Knox, DVM
4 to 6 p.m.
4805 Mercury Street, Suite C (on the Ronson Road side of the complex)
Corner of Mercury & Ronson Road
See a map to our location
$5 Donation at door covers refreshments
Thanks to Alison Giese’s Photo Creations (www.alisongiese.com) for use of her image of Scooter with his cane!
Fireworks are a spectacular way to celebrate our nation’s birthday, but they aren’t much fun for our pets. They hear sudden loud noises and see flashes of light in the sky that don’t occur every other night. It must look like the end of the world to them!
Thousands of animals are injured every year as a result of fireworks. Rabbits especially are susceptible to fright and can easily harm themselves by thrashing around and trying to escape an enclosure. Some even have heart failure caused by terror.
It’s well worth taking a few precautions to ensure you and your pets both have a safe and happy Fourth of July.
- Get inside: San Diego HRS advocates keeping rabbits indoors, year round, and especially during the July holidays when the heat and noise outside can be overwhelming for a rabbit. Make sure rabbits have a “bolt hole” or a safe place where they can retreat, inside their enclosure or somewhere in the house if they are free roaming. They need to feel secure in a dark, enclosed and quiet place, such as a carrier or cardboard box, during the worst of the noise.
- White noise: If your pets are particularly nervous, try playing a radio at a level that will cover the noise of the fireworks so that the sound is constant, rather than a loud bang here and there. You can also accustom them to the noise by playing a radio a few days before the event, gradually increasing the volume until the culmination of the fireworks.
- Block out the lights: Draw the curtains to block out the visual display of the fireworks going off, and turn on the TV or radio to provide distraction. Be sure to check on your pets regularly and reassure them that everything is okay. If fireworks are going off close by, stay with your pet and reassure them until it passes. If you are going out for a party, try to get someone to stay at home with your pets to reassure them and make sure everything stays safe.
- Fireworks safety: It’s not just noise that’s the threat. Practice fire safety. Don’t let pets out into the garden at any time. Fireworks can be thrown over walls or hedges into a yard, so keep a close eye out for stray sparks or fireworks that could cause a fire. Keep all pets away from matches and fireworks, especially ones that are lit on the ground. Curious pets may try to sniff or eat fireworks, and pet hair can easily catch fire if they get too close. Be sure to have the phone number of an emergency vet at hand in case there is an injury.
- Take a chill pill: If your pet is so nervous as to become ill at the mere thought of fireworks, herbal remedies, such as Bach’s Rescue Remedy, help calm pets.
A Warning About Flea Medications
Fleas! The very word can make you want to start scratching. Summertime means warmer and more humid weather, which is great for letting your rabbit enjoy the outdoors. Unfortunately, fleas love it, too. It can also mean increased risk of ticks and mites. Even indoor rabbits can attract fleas, and they can be a real nuisance.
As a rabbit rescue, we’ve heard too many sad stories about rabbits who have died after being given a flea treatment with an unsafe product. Be certain you know what you are giving your rabbit, and only under the supervision of your vet.
We’d like to remind our readers that there are some safe flea and mite treatments out there, and there are also some very unsafe, even fatal, treatments that you should avoid:
SAFE Flea Treatments:
- Use a flea comb (available at the San Diego HRS store and at pet supply stores) to search and destroy!
- Comb herbal powders of rosemary, sage or bay leaves through your rabbit’s coat. The aromatic oils in these herbs are meant to deter insects.
- You may need to temporarily separate your treated rabbits from other bunnies and pets to avoid any licking and grooming off of the product.
If these methods don’t resolve the fleas, it’s time to phone your vet and have a safe medication prescribed.
- Available by prescription only through your vet, who can specify a safe dosage.
- Advantage, Revolution or Capstar
UNSAFE treatments to AVOID:
- Beware of products marketed toward other animals such as cats and dogs; they can be lethal to rabbits.
- Brands such as Hartz, Frontline and other over the counter products. Frontline in particular has caused the deaths of several rabbits, and has never been recommended by the manufacturer for use on rabbits.
- Avoid anything containing the herb pennyroyal, which contains pyrethrin and is toxic to buns.
- Never, ever “flea dip” or flea-shampoo a rabbit, as the chemicals can kill them.
When Temperatures Soar
When temperatures soar above 80°F, your rabbit is better off being a couch potato. If the forecast is for a scorcher, plan your excursions early in the morning or in the evenings when it’s slightly cooler. Make sure your bunny always has a shady spot to retreat to, and plenty of water to drink.
What to do if your rabbit is overheated:
Rabbits cannot sweat to cool down the way other animals can, so if they get overheated it’s an emergency.
- Call your vet immediately.
- Get your bunny to a cool spot as soon as possible. Drape wet towels over his cage or carrier and circulate the air with a fan.
- Always keep a few frozen plastic bottles of water around for hot days.
Mosquitoes proliferate in the warm, humid summer weather. Not just annoying, mosquitoes can also spread the deadly myxomatosis virus and there have been reported cases in San Diego County. Fleas can be a problem, too, and if pesky enough can cause anemia. Give your rabbit a thorough combing before heading back in the house, or treat them with a mild herbal flea powder.
Never use Frontline on rabbits, as it has proven fatal.
Playing outdoors can be very healthy for your rabbit. They need Vitamin D from the sunshine, a chance to exercise, and plenty of stimulation for their curiosity. With a little planning, your bun can be cool as a cucumber this summer.
Keeping Your Rabbit Safe This Summer
When temperatures rise, flowers bloom and birds sing, it must be time to sun your buns—the furry ones, that is! House rabbits appreciate fresh air, green grass and a breeze in their fur, but they need a safe environment to enjoy them in. Here are a few tips for you and your rabbit to have a safe and happy summer.
- Rabbits are world-class grazers and will nibble on anything, but they won’t instinctively avoid poisonous plants. Make sure you know what’s growing in your yard and how to identify poisonous plants. Grasses and lawns can also contain harmful fertilizers and pesticides. Find out whether your lawn has been treated and with what, especially if you are at a public park. Keep the Animal Poison Hotline ((888) 426-4435) where you can get to it in an emergency.
- Provide something safe and tasty for your rabbit to enjoy instead, such as an herb garden, or plant some bunny-friendly flowers such as pansies, nasturtiums, and geraniums.
- Digging is one of the rabbit’s chief pleasures, and digging outside is preferred to your carpet. Dirt may contain unavoidable harmful bacteria and parasites, so if you see your rabbit eating large amounts of it, stop him. Otherwise, digging holes and burrowing in the yard is absolutely fine.
- Predators are always a danger outdoors. Neighborhood dogs and cats, no matter how well behaved you think they are, see your rabbit as prey. Wild animals such as raccoons, possums, foxes and hawks pose an equal threat, even in the city.
- Never leave a rabbit unattended in the yard. Keep them on a harness and leash, in an enclosed pen, or within a few feet of you at all times so they can play worry-free.