During the seven years I’ve owned house rabbits, one or the other of them has had to take medication when they were sick. Getting a rabbit to swallow tablets, however, can be a bit of a nightmare, especially when they get a particularly bitter medication or have to take them over a prolonged period of time. They hate the taste, they detest being held and don’t like the feeling of having something shoved into their mouths that they don’t want to eat.
That being said, if you go about it the right way, not only can you get most rabbits to swallow even a bitter tasting pill, they’ll do it without feeling stressed at all.
Here are some of the tricks I used to get all my house bunnies to manfully (and womanfully) swallow their tablets, and there wasn’t even a panic attack while they did it.
Disguise the tablet in a banana – The first time it became obvious that getting my rabbit to swallow tablets when he was sick wasn’t going to be much fun, I went straight to the banana trick. A trick my mother used with me when I was a child, it works with rabbits as well.
Just break the tablet in half and hide each half in a piece of banana, making sure that the tablet is completely coated. Bunny can’t smell it and, by the time he’s even realized he can taste it, the tablet is halfway down the back of his throat and off to do what it’s supposed to.
If the tablets are small or can be broken into tiny pieces, this works just as well with a raisin too, or with any other squishy treat that has a strong smell or taste.
Crush it and mix it with vegetarian baby food – When my rabbits have been sick in the past, one of the things I’ve fed them to make sure they are still eating is a small jar of vegetarian baby food. Pumpkin, kale and peas, carrots and broccoli, squash and basil leaves — I either buy it from the baby section of the supermarket, or whip up my own homemade version in the blender.
Of course, vegetarian baby food, or pureed vegetables, are great for hiding tablets in and all of my rabbits love the taste. I just put a tablespoon of my rabbit’s favorite puree on a saucer, crush up the pill and mix it all in.
The smell and taste of the vegetables usually covers up the taste of the tablet and mine will almost always lick the plate clean, but do make sure your rabbit eats all of it as one third of a pill isn’t going to do him much good.
Remember too, if he won’t eat the entire batch, you can always mix the remainder with a little water and syringe feed him soon after.
Mash rabbit pellets with the tablet – One of my rabbits absolutely loves the carrot-flavored pellets that come in his rabbit pellet mix, and he’ll spend ages picking them all out and ignoring the rest. While not a great way for him to eat normally, this is an added bonus when it comes to trying to get him to swallow a tablet when he’s sick.
That’s because I pick out about a tablespoon full of carrot pellets from his pellet mix, and crush them with a rolling pin. Then I put them in a small bowl, add some pineapple or watermelon juice and mix it all together. Finally, I crush his tablet, add that to the mix and serve. My rabbit loves it so much he’d lap it up every day if I let him so, even when he’s only getting it to take a pill, it still seems like a very special treat.
Crush, mix with fruit juice and syringe feed it – As a last resort, you can always crush the tablet, mix it with fruit juice and then syringe feed it to him. I have only done that once, as all my rabbits detest being syringe fed, and it stresses them out when I try.
So, while the other methods tend to take longer, especially as I supervise to make sure the entire tablet has been eaten, they are still my preferred method of tablet delivery where my rabbits are concerned.
Plus, with syringe feeding, if you’re not incredibly careful, you can end up with him choking on it or it going into his lungs and him aspirating it. Pneumonia can result from that.
That’s why I always say from my experience, the next time your rabbit is sick and needs to swallow tablets, try one of the first three methods first before resorting to the syringe method.
I tend to try the banana and tablet first, as it’s successful with my bunnies at least 50 percent of the time. If not, I move onto attempt number two.