Well, well, well…my herd is not. Unfortunately, an outbreak of snuffles is passing through my herd at the moment. While it is possibly caused by several hostile bioforms (nod to Margaret Atwood), most would blame pastuerella multicoda. Regardless of what is causing the sneezes in my rabbit shed, it is a major drag. Honestly, it is heartbreaking. A one week old baby rabbit is right now struggling to breath in its nestbox, and will surely have died by morning. It’s mother is also suffering the worst of the adults, and I am wondering if leaving the babies in their nest box was a mistake on my part.
For the past two weeks, when I first noticed a sick young doe in my shed, I have been spending hours each day caring for ill rabbits. The first doe to have nasal discharge has recieved medical care and is on enrofloxacin. Unfortunately, I cannot afford or do I want to medicate all of the rabbits showing symptoms. Several are simply sneezing. Some have shrugged this off within 3 days, being a bit weepy eyed or sneezy, but then returning quickly to health. The babies have all seemed to be effected. One litter is fairing well, though I do hear some wheezing from them. The other litter of 4 may all die. Nonetheless, I spend an hour a day wiping their little baby noses, one by one…thank god there are only four of them. It is very interesting to see that some of the rabbits are able to carry on about this outbreak with almost no change in their health, while to others it is decimating. One rabbit, Erma, has always been susceptible to snuffles.
I have struggled to keep Erma healthy since she had an accidental pregnancy at the age of 6 months. She was not completely grown at that age, and, I believe, she was not physically ready to carry a litter of kits. The pregnancy wreaked havoc on her system, and since then, she has had outbursts of weepy eye and runny nose when stressed. This latest pregnancy was another accident (I seem to be prone to them, and they are a thorn in my heel), yet seemed to be going well. Two days after kindling, however, when I checked Erma for symptoms of the plague circulating from rabbit to rabbit, she for the first time was exhibiting some white snot. After a period of intense denial and anger, I pulled her from the barn and began to provide her with the best holistic medicine has to offer—fresh greens of every type possible, vitamins, nose wiping, diaper wearing, in my bedroom living accommodations. I put her on fresh grass daily to disperse the germs, allow her to forage for her choice of greens, and keep the bedroom from smelling awful. She has improved. I have also been using colloidal silver in her eyes (one drop per eye twice a day, in each nostril, and half a dropper full in her mouth. The pampering has helped greatly. When I first brought Erma into the house, she was heaving and wheezing heavily, as well as coughing and sneezing all night. Now her sneezes continue, but most of the snot is gone from her nose, and the coughing and heaving has ceased. I am still wondering what I will do with her when and if her kits are ready to be weaned. Will I cull her? I’m not sure yet.
The conventional way to deal with outbreaks like this is to cull all of the sick animals. That means to kill them. Though I am wanting to use the rabbits for meat, my husband has said he won’t eat sick rabbits no matter what anyone says about cooking it well making it fine to eat. And so how will I eliminate these from the herd? I believe I should cull all of the sneezers from the herd, and in fact still use them for meat. The larger litter I will select one healthy wooled kit from to keep, and then process the remaining healthy animals for meat when they become large enough, hopefully by 12 weeks (10 is preferable, but I know mine won’t be very big at 10 weeks).
How do I move forward from this event? Will I turn to vaccination to prevent this in the future? These questions weigh heavily on my heart. These past two weeks have been some of the hardest since I have started to raise rabbits, and the sorrow perforates my soul at work and home, night and day.
I admit I did believe that this would not happen to me. I thought I would never be in the position of having to choose to cull my entire herd. I am not a large scale breeder, I don’t neglect my animals, I try to be clean…but now it has happened. The same is true of matting in my wool. I thought I would never allow a matt to form on an angora. Well, being a working mommy trying to save sick rabbits doesn’t leave time for grooming. I am behind on grooming. This knowledge, and the need to seriously consider culling sick animals, is leaving wanting for a smaller herd. Regardless of how these events unfold, I am weary of them, and ready to move on.