Friday 6th April 2001: Went to a local backyard shelter. Whilst there I saw him. A tiny little Netherland dwarf. His eye's were streaming with pus and his sides were heaving like bellows as he struggled to breath. His nose was covered by thick crusts leaving him two pinholes to breath through. He was quite skinny and sorry looking. I asked Rita what his story was, she told me his owners knew he was dying so they dumped him on her. They didn't want him dying at home. This tiny scrap, thrown out like rubbish. He was going to the vets the next day. It would be a one way trip.
"Can I nurse him?". I wasn't going to take in any more but how could I not? The words came out before I even thought them. Rita agreed and I took him home.
I tried washing away the crusts from his nose but this made things worse. The muck went like glue and stuck more to his fur. I also thought I might suffocate him, so I had to pick them off. This must have been painful but he didn't complain. I think he was too tired to. It was lovely to see two wide flaring nostrils. His chest sounded clear but I knew snuffles sometimes takes a long time to clear. He had long twisted nails so I set about cutting them off. That's when I found it. A huge abscess right under his chin. I depressingly wondered about who would pay to treat him. He didn't belong to anyone and no-one would adopt him. He didn't seem quite as 'put rightable' now.
I took him straight to my local rabbit savvy vet, Dominique. She said it was a dental abscess. He needed his teeth cleaned up and shaped, the abscess removed then a further dental after a couple of months before she could give a more definite prognosis. I gloomily went home and phoned Rita to tell her the news. She couldn't afford or justify the expense but offered to pay for euthanasia.
Then I had a thought. What about bicillin? This new treatment was reported to cure osteomylitis, surely it could sort out an abscess. Dominique, Rita and I agreed to give it a try. So on the 6th of April 2001 Jack commenced bicillin treatment. I also gave him decent pain relief and started enrofloxacin for his snuffles.
The next day I was washing
all the pus off his face when I found heaps of abscesses all over the right
side of his face. They would be inoperable. It was bicillin
or nothing. I decided then and there that I would keep Jack.
He was now my rabbit.
A couple more days passed and his nose was clear of snuffles. Things were looking up. Then an abscess burst through his nose and started draining through his nostril. I cleared his nose and phoned Dominique. She said he would be aspirating the bacteria into his lungs and this could set up another site of multiple abscessing. She offered to put him to sleep. "But he's eating well, I protested, his snuffles has cleared and rabbits can live for years with encapsulated abscesses in the lung's, lets see if the bicillin works and if he stops eating or is in pain I'll bring him in". I told her I'd taken him on as my own. Fortunately Dominique knows I'm sensible enough not to let emotion cloud my judgment so Jack got a reprieve. That night as he fell asleep with his abscessed chin on my chest I vowed I would fight for his life. If he wasn't giving up then neither was I.
I bought tons of cotton buds and regularly cleared his nose. I cut his veg up small so he could manage it. After a couple of weeks the snuffles had stayed clear and his eye's were better so we stopped the enrofloxacin. He was really bright and started to binky around and flop and roll.
As he'd improved so much we decided to do his teeth, castrate him, drain the largest abscess and inject the facial ones with bicillin while he was 'out'. The day arrived and when Dominique saw him she was surprised, she said he looked like a different rabbit. He was operated on. Then I got a call. The tooth that had caused the abscess in his nose was removed and all the other work done. Dominique told me he had severely inflamed gums and numerous abscesses but if his gums healed his prospects would be better. However, he had loads of abscesses under the big abscess. All round his neck and too packed in to remove and way too close to his jugular to risk it. Was it ever going to be good news for him? He recovered well and came home and started tucking straight into his dinner. This little rabbit was remarkable.
Life carried on and Jack settled into his new world. A couple of months later I was checking the healed 'pouch' his abscess had left behind (It must have been there for months to leave a saggy bag behind) when I found what felt like tomato pips. I took him to Dominique. She was amazed, it was the neck abscesses. They'd shrunk and dropped into the pocket! She said it must have been the bicillin. So she operated on him. She just opened the bag and out they all came. There was just one left right on his jugular. She injected the last remaining facial abscess and said he was very much improved.
So Jack continued to do well. After about four months we stopped the bicillin. Unfortunately his facial abscesses started to return. So we put him back on it. By this time he was bonded with a dwarf lop doe and life was really looking up for the little fella.
A good while later I started to taper off the injections. I got down to one a week when disaster struck again. I got up one morning to find Jack with a severe headtilt. I was sick with fear. He'd come so far! I took him to my other vet, Guy, an expert in bunny medicine and also 'open all hours'. He started treatment immediately with enrofloxacin, steroids, pain relief and bicillin. I took him home and intensively nursed him with feeds and fluids. I set up a safe environment and prayed a lot. After a week he stopped rolling and after a fortnight he was better. Another reprieve for Jack, whew!
So, ten months later we think we're 'safe' and start to taper the bicillin again. Jack had had no problems for ages, perhaps it was coincidence that he got the tilt? Then, can you believe it, I noticed he wasn't breathing the same. Now Jack is very old so has a bit of an old mans 'huff' but this was different. I took him to Guys. He diagnosed low-grade pneumonia. We discussed and agreed we would NEVER take Jack off bicillin again. This was it. He would be on it for life, however long that would be before the pneumonia 'took' him. There wasn't much more we could do now. I took him home and started injecting religiously every other day.
That was four months ago. I took Jack and Angel to see Guy the other day for a check up as they were molting and looked a bit under par. He listened to Jacks chest. It was completely clear, apart from his old man wheeze. No pneumonic rattle. I'm stunned. How many miracles does a miracle bun get?
I'm convinced that Jacks problems stem from the severity of his neglect. It's veterinary opinion that Jack was abscessed for MONTHS. How the little scrap survived is beyond me but im real glad he did. I feel privileged to have such an inspiring little fella sharing my life, all 1.4kgs of him!. Where Jacks story ends only time will tell. Maybe he will be the longest bicilliner? Its been 14 months already. What I am sure of is that without it, there would be no Jack. The only sign that anything was ever wrong with him is a clear running eye and the pouch under his chin. He's my miracle bunny. =:)