Massage is simply purposeful touch. Caregivers of disabled bunnies massage their bunnies every time they groom or pet with healing intent. Grooming in the animal kingdom is perhaps the earliest form of massage and most disabled bunnies not only require, but desire, frequent grooming for quality of life.
The demands on a disabled rabbit caregiver are far greater than the care of a healthy bunny. Not only does the disabled bunny need a gentle nurturing environment, so does the often-stressed caregiver. Massage offers enhanced relaxation and circulation but is most importantly a form of meditation for both giver and receiver.
Daily bathing and medication time creates the perfect opportunity to slow down, nourish, and celebrate the unique human-disabled animal bond. Approach each touch session with heightened healing intent. A disabled rabbit may not be able to scratch or properly groom many areas of its body. The caregiver can use simple techniques, such as a soft bristle baby brush, or finger circles, to gently stimulate the superficial skin layers of the face focusing on the jaw and base of the ears. Many physically challenged bunnies enjoy light tapping or finger fluttering along the compromised feet for a mini reflexology session. Finger nibbles along the tail and the loose skin at its base pleases many disabled buns.
Often a less mobile bunny can lie on just one side. The muscles along this “down side” may become weakened and stretched. This is an impossible area for bunny to groom. Lightly raking the fingers from belly to spine, or light skin rolling here, can create one contented tooth-purring lagomorph. Sharing these moments of bliss is uplifting to the most weary bunny caregiver.
Creating a regular routine and special grooming-massage space is not only crucial for bunny’s comfort, but allows opportunity for impromptu one on one time. Consider the entire environment, making sure it is quiet, temperate and supportive for both of you. Assess your own posture and be certain the surface is safe for bunny. A sheltered and padded grooming table is my personal favorite for massage time. Have rolled towels and small pillows available to support bunny’s body, perhaps placed under the “down hip” or cradling a hardworking “support” arm and shoulder. Place a smooth rock under bun’s feet for a sense of grounding, mold a rice-filled sock along bunny’s body or use your free hand and arm to stabilize and gently lift bunnies “downside”. Conscious deep breathing and laying on of hands can often release a quivering muscle while offering a sense of security for our most vulnerable bunny companions. The body must feel supported to relax fully. Calm physical contact is very restorative and nurturing and helps to slow the breath. Each moment of the grooming-massage session must be focused on gentle support of the disabled rabbit’s body-mind-spirit.
Caution: Never use deep pressure, traction or stretching. Deep Vein Thrombosis, or blood clotting, is a high risk for any physically challenged being. The use of deep or aggressive strokes or techniques is never appropriate for small rabbits and is especially dangerous for a fragile disabled bunny. Instead, encourage bunny’s legs to move, if ever so slightly, by light brushing of the compromised feet. Always check with your rabbit savvy Vet before doing any bunny massage. Let your Vet know you appreciate the value of massage for small animals, especially house rabbits.
Every day is a gift. Slow down, breathe mindfully and take time to nurture your disabled bunny with the power of touch. See with clear eyes. Feel with fresh fingers. Each days needs are unique. Be gentle, be supportive, and be present. Nurture without challenge. You and your precious disabled bunny will both be nourished.