Safe antibiotics for rabbits
Not all antibiotics are safe for use in rabbits. In fact, some antibiotics, when injected, can cause abscesses or even death. We've included links to other sites that list all the antibiotics that can and should be prescribed for rabbits at the bottom of this page.
Read this Amoxicillin Warning. Amoxicillin is NOT SAFE FOR USE IN RABBITS.
In our experience (remember, we are not vets, so always consult your veterinarian before making any health decisions about your rabbit), Baytril is a good 'go-to' antibiotic for rabbits. It is an oral antibiotic, and it tastes TERRIBLE (you don't need to be a vet to know that for sure!). When we administer Baytril, we 'pull' the medicine in to the oral syringe and then fill the rest of the syringe with something very tasty and very sweet, like fruit syrup (from a jar of jam or jelly), juice, or even syrup. While sugar is not good for rabbits, a tiny amount to 'help the medicine go down' seems only fair. Don't be surprised if your rabbit learns very quickly to try to avoid the Baytril syringe at any cost, and be ready with something delicious (like a piece of banana, apple, or berry) to wash away the flavor.
Administering oral medicines to a rabbit
Even the tiniest rabbit can put up quite an effective fight if it doesn't want to take its medicine. It's important to be calm and in control when giving your rabbit medicine so that neither you nor your rabbit gets hurt (even our most experienced volunteers have been bitten by rabbits trying to avoid their med.
To give oral medications to your rabbit:
- Wrap your rabbit in a towel: Place the towel over your rabbit's back and 'tuck in' the edges to confine your rabbit's movements.
- Carefully kneel over your rabbit, so that your knees are on either side of your rabbit's head, and your weight is on your feet or butt (and not on your rabbit's body in any way!) Bring your legs and knees in close to your rabbit's body to immobilize him or her during the procedure.
- Keep the medicine syringe in your dominant hand.
- Use your non-dominant hand and place your thumb and fingers over either side of your bunny's face, so that you are touching the upper sides of his or her mouth on both sides.
- Gently pull your rabbit's cheeks/lips upward, being VERY careful to keep your fingers away from the front of your rabbit's face. That's where his or her very sharp teeth are!
- Place the syringe into the side of your bunny's mouth. There's a gap between the front and back teeth that allows for a syringe.
- Gently empty the syringe into the back of your rabbit's mouth. Allow him or her time to swallow--don't dump the whole syringe fast if it's a full syringe (if you are administering more than .3 of a cc, slow down a bit to give your rabbit time to handle the fluid).
- Apologize profusely and give your rabbit one too many treats to try to buy back his or her love and affection.
- You're done!
Injectable antibiotics for rabbits
Some infections require injectable antibiotics that your vet must prescribe. "Pen-G" or "Combi-Pen" are injectable antibiotics sometimes used in bunnies.
Make sure you get detailed instructions on how to inject your bunny safely from your veterinarian. Your vet will probably show you how to inject the medication into a 'tent' of skin at the scruff of your bunny's neck. It's critically important that you do not inject antibiotics into muscle. This can be deadly to your rabbit.
Ask your vet to show you how to 'pull back' on the syringe after you place it under the skin but before you inject the medication. If you pull back on the syringe plunger and see blood, your needle could be in muscle.
The injectable antibiotics are notoriously annoying to inject, because they are a thick liquid that can get stuck and clog inside the very thin needles your vet will provide. Here are our tips and tricks for 'outsmarting' the injectable antibiotics so that your needles don't clog.
- If your vet gives you the antibiotic in a bottle, and you have to fill your own syringes, use one needle to draw up the liquid and fill the syringe from the bottle, and change the needle before injecting your bunny.
- If your vet gives you pre-filled syringes, ask for extra needles, even if there are already needles on the pre-filled syringes, and change the needle before you inject your bunny.
- DO NOT push any antibiotic up into the fresh needle before you inject (e.g., don't 'get the air bubble out' with the new needle on the syringe). The goal here is to keep the liquid out of the needle until it's time for it to go into your bunny. This can help keep the needle from clogging.
In other words, ask your vet for lots of extra needles!
Consider Probiotics if you are giving your rabbit antibiotics
Antibiotics can disrupt the gut flora of rabbits, just like they can in humans. If you are giving your rabbit antibiotics, consider also giving your rabbit a probiotic to replenish the 'good bacteria' in the gut.
You can give your rabbit chewable acidophilus tablets, available over the counter at your drugstore. In fact, many bunnies consider these flavored tablets to be treats, and gobble them right up.
You can also get Bene-Bac, which is a formulation of probiotics specifically for animals. It comes in gel and powder form, and the gel works best for administering to bunnies.
Links to other sites with good information about antibiotics for rabbits
MediRabbit has created this excellent (if somewhat technical) chart showing various antibiotics, whether they can and should be used in rabbits, and, if so, how. MediRabbit's Antibiotics Safe For Use In Rabbits WARNING: There are images of abscesses caused by antibiotics on this page. Scroll down quickly if you are squeamish.
Rabbit.org (the House Rabbit Society's website) has a good article on Appropriate Use of Antibiotics in Rabbits (and there are no gross pictures on the page...)