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Rabbit Health: How a Misaligned Jaw Almost Killed my Pet Rabbit

Despite being partially blind, Matthew the rabbit is easily one of the liveliest pets in my house. His outgoing personality, penchant for mischief, and insistent foot stomps for attention are both endearing and frustrating. So, when boisterous Matthew huddled in the back of his cage one night and refused to eat or play, we knew something was wrong. When his head suddenly listed to one side and his muscles tensed minutes later, we were terrified that we were losing our little mischief-maker.

Fortunately, Matthew survived. Quick online research confirmed what we already thought; Matthew had suffered a stroke, though minor enough that he regained most of his muscle control. We scheduled a veterinarian appointment and monitored him carefully in the meantime. While he could nibble some of his pellets and try to chew with his right, the left side of his face seemed locked and stiff, and he could not move his lips enough to grasp hay or fully close his right eye.

We figured this was a result of the stroke only, but our veterinarian found a root cause that surprised us. After determining that Matthew’s lips still had circulation and feeling, he used a scope to view Matthew’s back teeth, which are tightly positioned back by the cheeks and almost impossible to examine otherwise.  After this check, our vet informed us that Matthew’s jaw was slightly misaligned, causing one of his back left teeth to wear improperly. This created a sharp, uncomfortable point that discouraged him from using that side correctly for a while. The area underneath this tooth became infected, and the infection’s swelling had likely triggered the stroke. While the movement of his left facial muscles would slowly return, the pain from the tooth and infection was discouraging him from using them. Matthew required a few weeks of antibiotics to overcome the infection, along with some rabbit-safe painkiller and anti-inflammatory to encourage proper use of the pointed tooth.

While the vet explained that sedating Matthew and physically filing the back tooth was an option, he did not recommend this after such a high health risk as a stroke. He explained that the location and of the tooth and current discomfort made filing without anesthesia impossible, and our safest bet for Matthew was to see if we could get him to use that side again himself. He also recommended purchasing rabbit-safe cardboard tubes to chew. Unlike normal wooden chews, these would be softer and help prevent making the sensitive area sore. If Matthew still could not wear his tooth enough to be comfortable, sedation and filing was still an option, but it would indicate that he would likely need it every couple of months. Placing a sensitive animal such as a rabbit under anesthesia so frequently is in itself risky, and he suggested we wait on that option unless it seemed necessary.

We left the vet’s office both fearful and optimistic, armed with information, medicine, and a powdered probiotic food to maintain Matthew’s digestive system after his time spent with inadequate eating. As his poor muscle control made using a water bottle difficult, we also boosted his fluid intake with feeding syringes. Providing dishes of water was a poor idea for Matthew; with his poor vision and compromised health, he merely kept his distance from the unfamiliar shape.

After a few days, slow improvements began to show. Matthew’s energy was returning, and he no longer sulked in the back of his cage. He began eating his pellets more regularly and could use his water bottle again, and we stopped the supplemented feed soon after he began his first clumsy bites of hay. He could fully blink his left eye, and movement returned to the left side of his face.

As of today, Matthew seems to be recovered and shows no difficulty grasping, chewing, or biting. While there is no way to correct his conformation, the medications assisted him enough to begin wearing the tooth more properly. I’ve seen many different health conditions in rabbits, but I never expected such an unusual cause as a poor jaw alignment jaw to potentially cause something as serious as a stroke. The vet suggested keeping a close watch for any changes in behavior, as infections as he had can be difficult to truly eliminate in rabbits and might eventually reoccur. For now, Matthew is himself again: stomping for attention, digging at the floor, and watching the activity around him with an alert curiosity.



Pet Compatibility – Helping to Ensure Successful Cohabitation Between Pets and People

Boxer & CatBringing a new pet into the family or combining households each coming with their own pets can pose some interesting problems. It’s important to consider the logistics of forming relationships between pets and between people and pets before rushing them into a situation that may be strenuous for all involved. There are some easy ways to minimize or even eliminate problems during these transitions if you are willing to take take the steps necessary.

Adopting a New Friend

Whether you may be looking into adopting your first pet or bringing a new one into the family, it’s important to meet lots of candidates before deciding on the one who will fit best in your family. While you may be attracted to a specific breed or look, it is ultimately a pet’s personality that will make integration a success.

Doggie kissIf you already have a dog or cat or have previous experience in living with one (or more), you probably already have an idea what you’re looking for in your next companion. You probably already know what works for you as far as pet behavior and personality and what animals may be the best fit for your situation. First time pet people may have more difficulty in making the right choice and getting past the first impression they may have from a photo or first glance. Pet seekers may think that they know what they want, but may fail to understand the tendancies and potential issues that may come along with specific types of pets, and it may be hard to muster patience and understanding to get through if you’re a first-timer. As a result return rates to shelters can be as high as 20 percent, failed connections and sad endings that may have been avoided with a little more time or planning.

The ASPCA has developed a simple and effective method for helping those ready for their next friend to find a good fit. Their Meet Your Match program begins with a personality assessment of each pet they bring in to determine each individual’s dominant traits and characteristics including friendliness, playfulness, energy level, ect. The animals are then categorized into one of nine color-coded personality types including laid-back “Couch Potatoes,” or “Go-Getter” types.  The personalities are not assigned on preconceived breed notions, but on the individual.  These classifications help you as a potential adopter, to meet cats or dogs with personalities who might suit you best. While you are not restricted to choose pets in your category, representatives encourage you to meet and interact with these pets first in hopes of creating a forever situation.

Be sure to consider how any current pets may feel or adapt to a new pet in the house as well.

Pulling Pets Together

Cats GroomingPerhaps you are adopting a second pet or maybe you’ve reached a point in your life where you will be combining households, whether through a new marriage, relationship or some other situation. Now both sides have to consider how your pet(s) will adjust to new surroundings or new entities that haven’t been in a shared space before. Some pets venture through these transitions with ease, while others can become stressed or exhibit undesireable “acting-out” behaviors you may not expect or appreciate. Take steps to ensure a smooth move and adjustment, but stay prepared for issues that may arise that could require extra attention, patience, time from the humans in the house.

One of the most important first steps is to let potential housemates meet and interact in a neutral location. This helps to seed relationships without as many complications with territoriality and/or possessiveness.  Dogs may be a little easier to socialize than other pets. Take the pups and the whole family to the dog park or a similar locale to meet and play, and do it several times so everybody gets to know each other. If you’re adopting, ask the shelter if you can bring your current pet(s) to meet the potential adoptee–many shelters will ask that you do othis anyway, and they often have dog runs or contained areas where the animals can interact before you bring the new pet home. Keep open communication about your pets, making sure (specifically with children) that you all know what pets like and don’t like. If your dog doesn’t like his ears touched, for example, be sure the new crew knows it to prevent any misunderstanding.

Once things seem kosher on neutral ground, give the new home a visit. It may help to remove familiar items like toys, bowls and treats from the area which may bring out some territoriality in established animals. Be watchful during these initial visits to deal with any problem behaviors. Dogs are pretty good at communicating and setting up a natural order.  After a few visits the pecking order should be established and the permanent move should be pretty smooth. Be consistant in training and attention to all pets involved so the natural order isn’t upset by jealousy or competition.

Cats and other pets may not be quite as easy. Try slow introductions and be sure to give them some space to avoid each other if they want to. Remember, even if you take all the precursory steps, matches aren’t always ensured and sometimes a relationsip may never form between pets (or pets and people for that matter). Just be prepared to accommodate if they choose not to like each other, possibly even dedicating seperate spaces where they can avoid each other.


Cats Grooming image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Jessica Deily
Doggie Kiss image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Mike Baird

Choosing the Best Collar, Lead, or Harness for Your Dog

So you got a new puppy or adopted a new forever friend and now you’re in a mad dash to find the perfect accessories for your new pet. It seems like it should be an easy thing to do, but your choice may not be so cut-and-dry once you’re faced with a row of products to pick from. Lets talk a little about some of the popular products and maybe the decision making process will be a little easier for you.


There are lots of different collars on the market made of lots of different materials and designed to help you best handle your pet.  You can find collars constructed of nylon, rubber, vinyl, leather, recycled materials, natural fiber like hemp or bamboo, or metal; some are embellished with gems, ribbons or other decorations.  Typically, the material of the collar is choosen for durability and to appeal to you, the handler.  These materials are also used to provide the ultimate comfort to your pet. For the most part these materials are inert, but on rare occasions dogs with sensitive skin or skin allergies may develop skin irritations to some materials. If you notice frequent itching or irritation around your pet’s neck, you may need to consider a collar of a different style or material. A collar of any of these materials can have a long life…but your choice should be influenced by your dog’s personality and lifestyle. The most popular collars are basic, reliable woven (or leather) with either metal or plastic buckles. These collars are easy to adjust, easy to clean, and perfect for everyday wear. Rubber and rubber-coated “ultimate” collars share a similar design, but are resistant to water, odors and stains, great for swimmers or sporting dogs! Read More »

Choosing the Best Toys for Your Cat

Kitten PlayingVisit any pet store and you’ll be faced with hundeds of toys for cats and kittens. From simple fur mice to elaborate cat trees adorned with bobbers, danglers, catnip and carpet, these products are designed to satisfy the natural predatory and sensory desires every cat has. Cats are also curious and athletic by nature, and choosing toys to keep them stimulated and active can prevent problem behaviors and keep your pet happy and healthy, especially when they are confined in your home. Let’s get to know cat toys so you can pick the best variety for your favorite feline. Read More »

Recognizing and Treating Bee Stings on Pets

Eastern Yellow JacketInsect stings are probably not the first hazard you consider when you and your pet are enjoying the outdoors. While most stings are not life threatening, there are several factors that can mean the difference between an itchy lump and a trip to the emergency vet. Stings can occur anytime, though they are obviously more common during warmer months when insects are more active. It’s important to know how to recognize reactions and symptoms of stings so you know how to treat them and when to seek veterinary attention.

A Story

When I was a teenager, fall was the time for firewood collection in the wooded lot behind my family’s home. It seemed simple enough, we used a tractor and cart, collecting wood from fallen trees as my father sliced them into fireplace-sized logs to warm us through winter. Collection trips were family affairs: me, my parents, siblings and several of the family dogs who would romp through the underbrush and creek beds in search of wayward squirrels, muskrats and other wildlife to chase. The chill in the air that brought an end to humid summer days lulled the woods into a quiet dormancy, but not everything had quieted for the winter on one particular evening — and an unfortunate disturbance spurred a night to remember. Read More »

Loose Leash Walking – Training Aids

I’d like to look at a few products available in stores that can help you while you are retraining your dog to walk without pulling. None of these products work miracles; you still need to train your pet to walk on a loose leash, but these products can be useful in training particularly stubborn dogs.

Standard Harnesses

Contrary to popular belief, standard harnesses do not curb leash pulling. They are really just an alternative to a collar. Some dogs will benefit from a harness, especially those that tend to slip their collars, breeds that have short noses, and breeds that are more prone to suffer collapsed tracheas from pulling (such as small breeds). I’ve actually found harnesses make it easier for some dogs to pull, because they are not pulling against their windpipe and gasping for air. You can still teach your dog to walk on a loose leash using a standard harness, but it will not serve as a ‘helper’ for the training. Read More »

Loose Leash Walking – Training Techniques

urrrgggh! pulling at his leash!A simple search on Google for “leash pulling” brings up a lot of different products that claim to end the days of your dog dragging you around the block. Could it really be that simple? A collar/harness/leash attachment/doo-dad can solve one of the most prolific dog behavior problems all for only $19.95?

Well, I really don’t think it is that simple. A search for any common dog behavior issue will bring up a lot of ‘miracle products’ that claim to end bad behavior with a single swipe of your credit card. The truth is, these products are really just cashing in on our desire for instant gratification without all the work. If dog training were easy, everyone would have a well-behaved dog walking by their side without pulling, lunging or barking excessively who brings you your slippers to you when you ask, without de-stuffing them first. Read More »

Pets and Plants Living In Harmony

Cat and Kitten_4522I have 2 main loves in my life (aside from my husband and family, of course): My pets, or furchildren as I like to call them, and gardening. From time to time these two loves clash. Most of my friends’ cats don’t bother the garden or the houseplants. Mine, on the other hand, have a knack for grazing on just about everything in sight. My dogs are equally mischievous. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night to hear a crash in the kitchen only to find a beloved houseplant lying on the floor, dirt everywhere, and the culprit(s) nowhere to be found or found a pup trotting towards me in the yard with a seedling or two in tow.

So what is a plant enthusiast to do? First and foremost I always consider the safety and health of my pets. Before I decide to bring home a new plant, I check the ASPA’s list of poisonous plants.  The list may seem daunting at first, but there are still a lot of plants that you can bring into your home or garden that are safe for pets.  Another thing to consider is that some plants are only mildly toxic to pets, while others can be highly toxic.

mimeticSecondly I do a mental check of where the plant will reside in my home or garden, and determine if those areas are accessible to my pets. There are few places inside my house that my cats can’t reach, but they do exist, and that is where my most prized plants reside. I also have a lot of hanging baskets that the cats can’t reach.  I’ve unofficially classified my dogs as ‘diggers’ and because I know their behavior around potted plants usually leads to a muddy disaster in my house, I avoid placing plants in dog territory at dog level. A lot of keeping the peace between pets and plants requires proactive planning. Read More »

A New Member of the Pack – Considerations When Bringing Another Pet Into Your Home

Doggie gamesAny owner of multiple dogs can tell you that each dog has a unique personality and removing a dog, or adding a new one, can significantly alter the dynamics of the group. Last December, I added a new dog, Sara, to our pack (she makes 3). I’ve been watching the dynamic of my group of dogs change ever since. To successfully add a new dog to your family pack requires training and management of certain situations until the new group dynamic has been established.

Making the jump from 2 dogs to 3 was easier for me than the jump from a single dog to 2 dogs, partly because my boys, Barret and Gatsby, were already past the adolescent stage and partly because I’d learned some hard lessons when I brought Gatsby home from the shelter. The decision to add a second or third dog to your family isn’t one that should be taken lightly. While animals in the shelter can be tempting, take the time to decide if you can properly care for your new animal and consider the personalities of your existing pets to decide if they would benefit from a new companion. Read More »

Cat Trees – A View From Above

New Cat TreeOne of the very first things I learned when I got my first kitten was that they love to climb and perch at the highest level of a room. I would come home to pin pricks in my curtains and kittens perched at the tops of the windows. When they got bigger, I would return to holes in the curtains or draperies on the floor. Read More »

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