In light of recent events in the rabbitry (the loss of an entire litter to a first time mom), I decided to make a post regarding kit revival. This is something that, although it may not work 100% of the time, it is always worth a try. It is most important to remember:
They’re not dead until they’re warm & dead.
First timers are especially prone to losing litters. When Powder kindled, she pulled PLENTY of fur, however she didn’t have quite enough hay for insulation and instead of being in one cohesive “nest” in the nest box, her kits were strewn throughout the box so they couldn’t use each other’s body heat to stay warm. Another issue with Powder’s first litter was that she overcleaned them, all of the kits had scratches and some had spots of skin missing. It is likely she attempted to clean them, overcleaned, and stepped on the others while doing so, causing the injuries.
When I found the nest, all kits were cold. I immediately brought the whole nest box inside and ran warm water in a bowl. I put all 8 kits into a ziplock baggie, left un-sealed, and floated the bag full of kits (attempt to lay them in a single layer so they can all get the warmth of the water) in the bowl of water. This should get any potentially surviving kits moving within about 5-10 minutes.
Once I noticed movement from the first kit, I began gently trying to remove any dried blood (from birth and from the cuts sustained via mom) and fur with some luke warm water and a q-tip. I then moved the moving kits onto a heating pad lined with a dish towel so they stayed warm but didn’t overheat. I continued working one-by-one to clean every kit, movement or not.
Once I had assessed the kits who were wiggling and treated their injuries as best as I could, I checked the others and sure enough, blood had pooled in their nails (see photo below). Blood pooling is a sure indicator that a kit has passed the point of revival.
If you ARE able to revive any cold kits and bring them back to warm temperatures with movement, be aware, this does not necessarily mean they will survive. One kit who I had revived had its jaw split at the front teeth and clearly would not be able to eat – so I dispatched that one quickly. The other two kits who had revived began to make a “gasping” motion – another sign that they will likely not make it. Still, I attempted to continue warming the kits, and did so until the last one to be revived had passed and blood had pooled in its nails as well.
I will rebreed Powder for another litter next month. I operate on the 3 strike rule, and generally try not to count first time litter losses towards those 3 strikes, as it happens. If her next litter is stricken with as many losses, then she will obtain 2 strikes, and another lost litter will have her meeting the crock pot. Overall, I was happy with the size of the litter, the amount of fur she had pulled, and the size of the kits. A litter of 8 large kits for a first time mom is a great feat, and I’m hoping she has an equally large litter for her next breeding. Only time will tell!