(GRAPHIC) Deformed kits wtf happened here?

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sassafrasshat

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***THERE ARE PHOTOS OF DEFORMED KITS WHICH SOME PEOPLE MAY FIND DISTURBING. PLEASE PROCEED WITH CAUTION.***

Let's start off with a little backstory. I'm newish to the rabbit world, coming up to my second year raising rabbits. I'm raising them to be dog food, so I found some large local stock to begin my journey. I got a large Cali mutt from a rabbit farm nearby and a NZ (but probably also a mutt) buck from someone who decided that rabbits are too much work to have as a pet. They had two litters until both tragically died. The buck just keeled over and died after mating. I blame the sound of a snowplow banging on the street giving him a heart attack. At week 3 for the second litter, the doe began laboring her breathing and died. I think she choked on an apple and no amount of bunny Heimlich or CPR could revive her. They were my first rabbits, so I was admittedly too heartbroken to open them up and check the insides for good health. Didn't even feed them to the dogs. I was so broken up about it.

I kept a doe from each litter and got a sturdy REW NZ buck, and found a massive French Lop buck studded out just to add some longer ears to the mix. The doe from the first litter, I'll just call her L1, bred with the French Lop twice and had two beautiful litters with no issues. Each litter had over 10 kits. The doe from the second litter, L2, bred to the NZ and had a litter of 7, but L2 was a bad mother and killed 3 of them.

I then bred the NZ to L1 and again to L2.

L1 then birthed 4 kits, 2 of which were healthy. The other two were completely deformed, with one being a stillborn and the other STILL ALIVE. There was no possible way this kit was going to survive long, so I had to dispatch it. That wasn't fun at all. The stillborn deformed kit was missing one front leg and its head, though I think L1 began to eat it since there was blood. I don't have good pictures of that one. The one that was still alive had fully formed limbs but the upper palate had a huge hole in it. The nose was squished over to the side and the eyes were bulging due to lack of bone structure there. It was able to crawl, breath, and even make the "I'm hungry" noises that my kits normally make. Pictures of it are at the bottom.

L2 aborted the litter apparently. One day I found a gelatinous kit about the size of a toonie/half dollar coin. It had all of its limbs but was obviously not fully developed and dead. I kept waiting for more babies, but they never came and I chalked it up to an abortion.

Now suspicious of the NZ, I bred him one more time to L1. She was due last week and hasn't given birth, although seemed to be pregnant at one point. I decided to cull the NZ and L2 and be done with it. I still have L1 since she was a wonderful mother and the sweetest personality.

I've retained a buck from L1's French Lop litter to breed back with L1 as well as a doe from L2's litter to see what happens. If there are issues with them, I'll just cull the line completely. I have a small mutt breeding pair I have still producing for me so I am not completely out. It's just really confusing and worrisome that I'm having these troubles.

I am most curious about what would have caused the deformities in L1's kits. Not sure if it's possibly bad genetics considering the departed grandparents. It just sucks since they're the sweetest rabbits I've ever interacted with before and I really love them.

*****GRAPHIC PHOTOS ARE BELOW*****
The blue arrow is pointing where the nose is.

1633719040056.png

Here is a better view of the nose, blue, and you can see the bottom jaw, red.
1633719134791.png

A better view of the front.
1633719183884.png
 

eco2pia

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Wow. That is not the kind of deformity I would expect from anything mutt like. That is the kind of deformity I would expect from a heavily inbred strain only--and this is coming from a vast number of species--not just rabbits.

You are in Ontario...do you have a local-ish agricultural/veterinary university? Because while it could just be that there is some really common rabbit phenomenon I am not aware of, I feel more likely this is fairly rare, and might be of interest to them. If you have not disposed of the kit carcass I would freeze it, and offer it to them to necropsy. In a brief search of PubMed, there was a case study of a rabbit with even more extensive birthdefects than yours, and they assumed it was a spontaneous mutation, I will put the link here, but must offer that the birth defects documented in the link are even more graphic than the ones in your photos: Link to paper documenting GRAPHIC BIRTH DEFECTS in rabbits

While the doe may not be at fault, and I might try breeding to a different buck, I would also hesitate to save any of her kits.
 

sassafrasshat

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Thanks for your reply. The original doe, grandmother to the deformed kits, was from a farm of probably two to four hundred rabbits. I can't remember the number he said but there were a LOT. I was thinking possibly there was some inbreeding there, however none of the rabbits I saw looked anything but normal. I obviously don't work at such a large scale, but it seems like some sort of line breeding would happen at a more commercial setting. Maybe the REW just brought something out the French Lop didn't.

This deformed birth occurred at the beginning of July. I gave L1 a break before trying her again for this unsuccessful attempt. I'll have to check if the kit is in my freezer, I honestly don't remember what I did with it. If I still have it, I'll definitely see if one of the universities near here would want it.

I was thinking if it is something genetic, breeding L1 to her son would produce the same results. But then again, I'm not sure if I should waste the time.
 

sassafrasshat

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Another thing...If it is genetic, do you think the meat is safe to eat? My dogs seem fine, but I have also saved bellies to try making "bacon" for myself. Don't want any of us sick 😥
 

Zee-Man

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Off the cuff I would say that you have some sort of teratogen that your rabbits are exposed to.

The most common teratogen is lead. I can't say for sure about (offensive word removed) Better word added Canada, but here in the USA lead was present in solder as late as 1978. Here in present day, lead (and other heavy metals) are present in common PVC garden hose. So long as the water remains cold, the lead doesn't leach out. But the summer time sun baking the garden hose can, conceivably, raise the temperature to leach lead.

Now, suppose you or your neighbor had work done on the house where lead paint was disturbed by sanding and the workman did not test or follow protocols, then the ground could be contaminated and all your green forage could be at risk. Here in the USA contractors must be RRP certified if work will disturb more than 6 sq feet.

You can test your solder joints using a swab made by 3M and sold though Home Depot. Soil testing will require sending samples to a lab.

Thre are many other teratogen, though. Lead is simply the most common. Another common teratogen that can contaminate soil and water tables is PCBs. PCBs were commononly used in flourecent lighting ballasts. These were banned in the USA something like ten years ago (maybe longer?) . The mother rabbit could be "poisoned" without showing effects, but the kits would be deformed.

We often think genetics as breeders since it is a part of what we do. But contaminants are the more likely cause.
 
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sassafrasshat

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I appreciate your insight, though I think the "Chinada" comment is completely unnecessary, unrelated to the topic, and adds no value to this discussion.

My house and all around me are newly built, so I am doubtful of lead. I'll grab a kit to test just in case. I also have a small breeding pair and they have never had any issues. No abortions, no deformed kits, and always kindle on time. That makes me a bit suspicious of another type of poisoning. They all get the same feed and water. Their enclosures are built with the same materials. They get the same hay. I feel like any contamination that L1 or the REW would have be exposed to, the small pair would have been exposed to as well. Maybe they're just lucky.

Regardless, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'll try to acquire a kit to test for multiple contaminants and report back with any findings.
 

Preitler

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Another thing...If it is genetic, do you think the meat is safe to eat? My dogs seem fine, but I have also saved bellies to try making "bacon" for myself. Don't want any of us sick 😥

If genetic or a flaw definitly safe.

If it isn't some environmental or food issue, which would quite likely show up in other animals too, the genetics don't matter on the plate.

Things like that happen. I would say rabbits invest more energy in mass producing sheer numbers than in sturdyness, precision and quality control, figurativly speaking. Once in 9 years I too had a litter that was an ugly mess, 16 discriminable kits in all forms, parts and stages of development - next litter was ok.
 

sassafrasshat

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If genetic or a flaw definitly safe.

If it isn't some environmental or food issue, which would quite likely show up in other animals too, the genetics don't matter on the plate.

Thank you. This makes me feel a lot better! I'll still test everything that I can to make sure it wasn't an outside mutagen. I'd assume if that were the case, it would be unsafe.
 

eco2pia

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I appreciate your insight, though I think the "Chinada" comment is completely unnecessary, unrelated to the topic, and adds no value to this discussion.

My house and all around me are newly built, so I am doubtful of lead. I'll grab a kit to test just in case. I also have a small breeding pair and they have never had any issues. No abortions, no deformed kits, and always kindle on time. That makes me a bit suspicious of another type of poisoning. They all get the same feed and water. Their enclosures are built with the same materials. They get the same hay. I feel like any contamination that L1 or the REW would have be exposed to, the small pair would have been exposed to as well. Maybe they're just lucky.

Regardless, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'll try to acquire a kit to test for multiple contaminants and report back with any findings.
I will agree with Zee-Man regarding the possiblity of a teratogen--I also considered such a thing. I live near a superfund site, and the soil is badly contaminated. Eating anything out of that area is not reccomended. However, I also think Preitler is right that it would be likely a fairly wide spread thing, with known issues in the area--just as I am aware of sites of industrial toxicity in my area, such as the area around Hanford, the Duwamish, etc. It would be a good idea to know the history of the property you are living on, and a soil test for toxins might be a good idea also if the problem recurrs with other animals.
 

sassafrasshat

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I will agree with Zee-Man regarding the possiblity of a teratogen--I also considered such a thing. I live near a superfund site, and the soil is badly contaminated. Eating anything out of that area is not reccomended. However, I also think Preitler is right that it would be likely a fairly wide spread thing, with known issues in the area--just as I am aware of sites of industrial toxicity in my area, such as the area around Hanford, the Duwamish, etc. It would be a good idea to know the history of the property you are living on, and a soil test for toxins might be a good idea also if the problem recurrs with other animals.
Thanks, I'll grab a soil test kit as well. The land I'm on used to be farmland, nothing out of the ordinary but doesn't hurt to be certain. My small doe actually gave birth two days ago to completely healthy kits. I tried breeding L1 to the small buck I have but she wasn't receptive in the same way she would act if she was pregnant. I'll give her another week just in case this is an extra long pregnancy and then breed her to him to see if she produces normal kits.
 
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eco2pia

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I wouldn't be too sure that "farmland" implies safety. Check out this article about the teratogenic effects of Roundup.
That is an incredibly high dose...analogous to spraying food with freshly prepared roundup immediately before eating...they were literally force feeding rats straight glycophosphate at 1000 mg/kg daily. In contrast, roundup applied to soil in a greenhouse showed 1-3 mg/kg OF SOIL a year after previous application. No rabbit is going to consume 300kg of soil in a lifetime of eating weeds, let alone daily for the duration of a single pregnancy. The degradation of glycophosphate in normal outdoor conditions is pretty well documented. Not an endorsement at all--the stuff is nasty, and bad for the animals in the field when is it beign sprayed. However I would be surprised if it caused this kind of issue years later.

That said, glycophosphate is far from the only thing that happens on farmland. I would be worried about someone dumping fuel or other things (solvents with dissolved heavy metals, old siding or paint) in an out of the way spot...Things that do persist in soils. Or treated wood they can chew, or any number of other things they might have managed to eat--If it is a genetic fluke then a change of partners will likely solve the problem, if it is the doe's genetics, it might recurr...but if multiple rabbits start having deformed kits and and wild birds or rodents are showing crossed bills, cleft palette, microcephaly, etc, in your area, then you have a bigger problem. There are so many things that can cause these effects that your best line of defense is probably observation of the world around you.
 

sassafrasshat

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I wouldn't be too sure that "farmland" implies safety. Check out this article about the teratogenic effects of Roundup.
Very good point. I know a lot of agricultural chemicals are highly regulated here, but I don't know specifics and when the heavy monitoring began.
That is an incredibly high dose...analogous to spraying food with freshly prepared roundup immediately before eating...they were literally force feeding rats straight glycophosphate at 1000 mg/kg daily. In contrast, roundup applied to soil in a greenhouse showed 1-3 mg/kg OF SOIL a year after previous application. No rabbit is going to consume 300kg of soil in a lifetime of eating weeds, let alone daily for the duration of a single pregnancy. The degradation of glycophosphate in normal outdoor conditions is pretty well documented. Not an endorsement at all--the stuff is nasty, and bad for the animals in the field when is it beign sprayed. However I would be surprised if it caused this kind of issue years later.
True, it would need to be a large dose and only for half of my rabbits. You're probably right it's not a factor here, but it's still worth considering.
That said, glycophosphate is far from the only thing that happens on farmland. I would be worried about someone dumping fuel or other things (solvents with dissolved heavy metals, old siding or paint) in an out of the way spot...Things that do persist in soils.
This is also something I've not considered. I was mainly focused on the industrial polluters here. Now you've got me concerned over my garden!
Or treated wood they can chew, or any number of other things they might have managed to eat--If it is a genetic fluke then a change of partners will likely solve the problem, if it is the doe's genetics, it might recurr...but if multiple rabbits start having deformed kits and and wild birds or rodents are showing crossed bills, cleft palette, microcephaly, etc, in your area, then you have a bigger problem. There are so many things that can cause these effects that your best line of defense is probably observation of the world around you.
Yes, all wildlife appears to be healthy. Caught so many skunks, chipmunks, squirrels, and rats in my live traps and everyone was fine. The wild rabbits here also are healthy, though we haven't seen inside their nests.

I'll be breeding her to my small buck soon. Hopefully this litter will be a success.
 

WyoWool

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Check your feed.

I have had malformed kits exactly like this, and my feed was recalled for gross heavy metals- way beyond limits stated on the tag.

changed feed and never had a problem again.
 
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