Bobby's PDSA Weight Loss Journey

Sunday, 19 August 2012

This week Bobby comes to the end of her PDSA fit club regime and looking back it's easy to see how far she's come along.

Copyright PDSA
Earlier this year Bobby lived in an indoor cage with guinea pig friend, Huey, and had visibly piled on the pounds in her four years of age.  I was concerned greatly about her fitness, or rather her lack of being able to move as a rabbit normally should, and her weight related problems were affecting her in her daily activities.  Grooming was made difficult because of her enlarged dew lap and when she would attempt to run she would drag her feet erratically.

Copyright PDSA

When Bobby was selected for Pet Fit Club I was over the moon and I was shortly going to be surprised at the news that Bobby was actually a mini lop and not the larger dwarf variety as I'd previously thought.  Her 2.4kg weight was too much for a mini, and we were told that Bobby would need to get down to her recommended target weight in the region of 1.6kg.

The plan included the provision of diet food by Burgess who sent us several bags of Excel Light nuggets to get Bobby's weight loss under way.  The change over from regular nuggets to the diet nuggets made a huge difference and the fact she was now only eating her own smaller sized portion, the overeating issue was eradicated.  We took the steps to finally split Bobby and Huey up and moved Bobby into a large penned area allowing Huey to live in peace in the cage on his own with guinea pig neighbours.  Bobby's pen was a marked difference in size.  Before, the most Bobby could attempt was to hop on and off her bedroom and over to the bowls.  Now, she had ample space to hop several times, even run laps around toys and accessories.

When Bobby moved onto the floor in her pen she gained a bunny neighbour; rival Lucy, the lionhead lop who lived free range of the floor.  Both girls, they'd previously clashed less than two years earlier.  Lucy would chase Bobby and attack her, leaving Bobby petrified and afraid.  At first Bobby was dubious with seeing Lucy so often and within such close proximity of her new home, but they grew to acknowledge each other, eventually sitting close to one another on either side of the pen.

Over the weekend I decided to move things up a notch and brought Bobby and Lucy downstairs into the living room and sat them side by side on the sofa.  No grunting.  No attacking.  Just amicable sitting and cosying up.  Things were looking good!

As it stands, they're play time buddies, having spent already 11 hours together on the floor just today.  When they're not cuddled up close, nuzzling and grooming each other they're tearing around the room, binkying high into the air.  I'd never seen Bobby binky in my life so it was endearing to watch her so happy and content.  Last night we did try to move them in together which didn't go quite as successfully (I'm thinking territory is the issue) but we'll work on it and in time I know they'll be permanent floor mates.

At the last count, Bobby weighed 1.8kg, so very close to her 1.6kg target.  Later this week we'll find out what Bobby officially reached for the record.  Fingers crossed!

Becky x

Elderflower Cordial update...

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

To follow up on my cordial making over the weekend, on Monday Sean and I finished off the process and have already been enjoying the summery drink - the only summery thing we have right now in the midst of this wet July.

The infusion of elderflower and orange slices along with the syrup were kept for two whole days covered with clingfilm and in the fridge.  So when it was time to take it out, the next job was to remove the fruit and sodden elderflowers (the big bits by spoon) by draining through a large piece of muslin.

Once all the liquid was strained and no bits were remaining, all that was left to do was bottle it up.  The glass bottles we'd stored up were washed and then placed in a hot oven for 30 minutes to sterilise them. Hot bottles at the ready, our cordial was poured by jug, filling each bottle to the rim.

Three of the four bottles

From the recipe which we followed and doubled in quantity of elderflowers and sugar, we decided not to include six pints of water but four with the intention of making the cordial more concentrated.  We came out with four bottles and a little left over to make about five or six drinks, so if we'd made up the full water content, we'd have had a few more bottles out of it.  I think four bottles is still very much worth the effort though.

Me with my first taste!

The end result is a really tasty drink!  We hadn't included any slices of fresh lemon to our recipe so I was curious as to how it would turn out with mainly the oranges providing the fruit flavour.  Although we did add two spoons of lemon juice, I think the taste is gorgeous and not as orangey as I'd expected.  The elderflower really comes through and is very moreish.  I'm chuffed with how it turned out and even though we won't be able to make any more this year (the flowers are now dying off outside not helped by all the rain) we'll definitely do it all again next summer.

Tip: Don't waste any the discarded orange (or lemon) slices.  Instead, keep them and add to your drink, because the fruit is saturated in the cordial syrup.  The rest of the slices are frozen to add whenever I fancy a slice!

Becky x

Foraging for Elderflower Cordial

Saturday, 7 July 2012

I've been a little naughty and not posted here in a while as I've been writing loads on Becky's Boudoir.  But, I do have plenty things to share with you, including today's activity: foraging for elderflowers and making elderflower cordial.  Yum!

Living out in the countryside you visibly see the changes in the seasons and weather and get to learn when natural foods are in their prime for picking.  Early summer is the flower of the Elder tree's time to shine.  If you make a point of looking for it, you'll notice elderflowers in their bunches of creamy white glory along hedgerows everywhere, even in towns.  What you want to make sure is to pick the flowers away from roadsides to avoid polluted flowers and go for the whiter, younger flowers over the creamy yellow older flowers.  Dry days are also, apparently, best for picking.  Today we were lucky to have a good bright sunny day without any rain for once so me and Sean took the opportunity to reap our harvest.

The sun was hot out yet there was a refreshing breeze blowing on our backs which made our foraging all the more enjoyable.  What was not enjoyable though were the muddy fields where the torrential rain had seeped down to the bottom of the fields and congealed in thick stodgy mud swamps.  I would usually have worn my walking boots but on this occasion (of course!) I went with my trainers.  The mud took a liking to them and sucked my trainer right into the mud leaving me socked foot free, which then in my attempt to gain my balance plunged right back into the mud.  Yuk!  It wasn't pleasant and I was later wishing Sean had recorded me so I could at least send it into You've Been Framed.  When I ended up total foot submerged in the preceding giant puddle ponds, I decided the foraging was complete and I couldn't wait to get home and shower!

Me all muddied up

A bowl of elderflowers

After a good wash and refuel I set onto preparing the cordial.  We had managed to gather two carrier bags of flowers so I trimmed the bunches down and removed any lurking bugs.  (There was a spindly spider tinkering around amongst them which Sean promptly evicted for me!)  Flowers all checked and trimmed went into a standby bowl while the sugar and water was boiled up to create a syrup.

The sugar and water syrup

Boiling the elderflowers

With the syrup boiled we added the elderflowers and brought the pan to a boil again.  I then added orange slices, lemon juice and citric acid.  The mixture was stirred up and simmered then left to cool in the pan, covered over.  When it's cooled, the infusing mixture will go into the fridge for 24-48 hours, stirred occasionally.  My plan then is to drain and separate the liquid which will then be poured into glass bottles.

Simmering fruity flowers

A word of warning about citric acid:  it's a nightmare to find in the shops.  After much investigation, we eventually found a specialist homemaking beer and wine shop who sold us a tub (500g for £3.99).  You will have to ask for citric acid over the counter as drug concoctioners use it.

I don't have a clue how the cordial will turn out as this is my first foray into cordial making.  I did make this with oranges and only lemon juice so it may be different, but I'm hoping it'll be tasty and fragrant and even a little as nice as the commercially made elderflower cordial.  It's a gorgeous infusion to drink diluted with still or sparkling water.  I'll have to let you know how it tastes!

Do you have any fail safe recipes you make up each year?  Any tips?

Becky x

Bobby's New Apartment!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Last weekend we set about transforming Bobby's living arrangements.  She'd been living in an indoor cage in the room with the other cages but despite it's large size, it just wasn't big enough for a rabbit to be living in.  (Remember - a hutch is not enough.)

We got a puppy pen and created a long area for which Bobby could live in instead of the cage.  I lined the pen with cardboard and covered it with fleece blankets.  The wooden bedroom went into it, along with the bowls, some toys and a pigloo for piggy Huey to escape to.

Lucy, our other rabbit who spends her time with the cage opened to the floor, seemed pleased to have another bunny close by.  In the past Bobby and Lucy didn't get on well and Lucy would pounce on Bobby when given the chance but she seems to have mellowed.  

When we first set the pen up we had a mishap, something that luckily didn't go wrong like it could have!  Lucy had found a way into the pen and one morning we went into the room to find Lucy laying down inside the pen next to the bedroom.  I couldn't get her out quick enough!  But I was surprised by the lack of kerfuffle.  Bobby seemed okay and was definitely unharmed.  It looked as if Lucy just wanted to be near Bobby.

I didn't want Bobby to feel afraid of having her territory violated so we increased the security of the pen by affixing a smaller pen I already had to the top of the pen frame, which stopped Lucy thinking she could get a grip on the pen.  It's working because she no longer attempts to jump in.  What we have noticed though is that they're appreciating each other's company by sitting on corresponding sides so they can sniff and be near each other.

I'm still cautious of having them together without the pen because I don't fully trust their temperaments, especially since, being girls, they aren't spayed.  (Well, when we took in Lucy we were told she had been, but to be honest I don't know how to tell.)

Over this weekend we took the steps of separating Huey from Bobby.  We've known for a long time that rabbits and guinea pigs shouldn't be together but since they've lived in each other's company for over a year, and Bobby has never known company other than a guinea pig, it was a really tough decision to part them.  So, Huey is now in his own cage and getting used to the fact that he no longer has Bobby there.  I feel awful about it, Bobby looks lost and it's a cruel thing to have to do to her for both of their sakes.  Bobby must be dieted properly and can not do it properly having another lot of food in the vicinity.  Huey has been struggling weight wise himself but with him it's weight loss.  We're hoping to build him up again, but there are already concerns with him which has been overseen by our vet. 

We're pleased now that Bobby is at least able to move about more freely when she's not downstairs with us.  She has more space and the company of her own species in the best way for the both of them. It's nice to see both Bobby and Lucy being attentive.

I weighed Bobby yesterday, her weight now stands at 2kg exactly, or 4.2lb which is a step in the right direction.  Hopefully by the time she is weighed properly again by the PDSA team, she'll have lost some more.

Becky x

Bobby's Toys

For those of you who have been following Bobby's placement on the PDSA pet fit club through my Diary of a Cavy Girl blog, you'll know that exercise and free time is generally the real struggle with Bobby.  The vast majority of the time she spends in her cage which, although is a huge size for a commercial cage, is not sufficient enough to allow Bobby to run.  When we'd bring her out of her cage and downstairs she'll generally opt to laze around rather than run laps round the living room.  Since Bobby joined the fit club however we've been bringing her out more often and for longer periods and she's gradually started to engage more with the room space.

Towards the end of last week Bobby received a parcel from the PDSA, it was a present consisting of a rabbit harness and lead, a play dumbell and a chew and roll toy.

Bobby's toy delivery

A year or two ago we bought Bobby a lead ourselves which she wasn't too amused with.  Neither was I, as I struggled to fit the harness properly, and thankfully while we had her in the house, she slipped out of the harness and away!  I was always too apprehensive to try it again, but I'll see what she thinks to this one.

The dumbell is a funny toy that looks like a true exercise tool!  It's deceivingly quite heavy and a robust little thing, but Bobby wasn't interested in playing with it at all.  It didn't even warrant a chin rub she was that blase about it.

Bobby did find the chew and roll toy was an exciting plaything.  Once the sections were fitted together it was a good sized toy.  Bobby was intrigued by it, repeatedly chinned and sniffed it and watched curiously as I'd roll it around.

The chewed Chew and Roll

I wanted to shake up the living arrangement of Bobby's house so ordered a puppy play pen online.  We used to own one which ended up being permanently borrowed and I got sick of waiting for it to return so when I saw they were selling relatively cheap on eBay I thought I'd best buy a new one.

The play pen arrived today and I was keen to get it open and erected in the piggy room (well, piggy and bunny room!)  We spent two hours figuring out which format was best only to give it up for another day in the end.  The problems were getting it to fit with the cage allowing Bobby the choice to come and go from her cage, but it wasn't working out.  Bobby was reluctant to leave the cage despite her toys being out and grumped when she knew Lucy (enemy rabbit) was in close vicinity.  That was the other problem, Lucy just wouldn't stay away from the pen and was determined to find a way in.

We put Bobby back in her cage and closed the door so there was no access into the pen.  Just as well, as not much later on we heard Lucy had found her way into the pen and was mooching around it where Bobby would have been.  I'm over protective of Bobby like this and paranoid that Lucy will get to her and attack her.  It's happened in the past and it frightens Bobby, I just don't want it happening again.

We need to decide what to do with the pen and getting Bobby into it, safely and ideally permanently.

In the meantime, it's Bobby versus the living room as usual.  I caught her eyeing up my exercise bike, threatening to bite the bullet and use it, I'll never know!

Becky x

Bobby Had A Fit Today :-(

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

It hasn't been the best of days; Bobby had a fit today.

It was a bit of a shock.  We had my parents over for the day and following a little Spring jaunt we came back to the house and went to visit the piggies and buns up in their bedroom.  My Mum and Dad loves seeing them so we had some fun with the piggy brothers; Scooby, Stewie and Timmy running about playing together.

Then we noticed Bobby behaving really strangely in her cage.  Her body was almost contorted and she had her head tucked weirdly underneath her; I couldn't figure out what she was doing.  I lifted her out of the cage immediately and knew something was wrong.  Normally she'd have struggled herself free or at least made some sort of verbal in-compliance.  When I held her on my knelt lap I realised she was having some sort of a seizure.  Her feet were moving erratically and her head was skewiff, her nose and mouth looking very wet.  I could only think she'd caught something off us from being outside, perhaps having an allergic reaction.  I felt her dewlap and to me is felt strange, like it was filled with fluid or ballooned, which fueled my worry that she was experiencing a bad reaction to something.  I tried to calm Bobby by gently stroking her and talking to her while my other half, Sean, rang our vet, Stanhope Park Veterinary Hospital in Darlington.  They said to go straight down when he told them what had just happened.

I was so upset even when she stopped fitting because she wasn't herself; she felt hot, especially her ears, and her breathing was rapid.  She kept yawning in her carry box on the way to the vets which is always a sign of Bobby getting stressed.  I just tried to reassure her by stroking her in her box on my lap.

When we got to the vets I was surprised by how full the waiting room was, I don't think I'd ever seen it so busy before which was just typical.  We found somewhere to sit and waited to be called.  I was really concerned that Bobby was in distress and was in total disbelief as we watched other people's appointments being taken.  It appeared Bobby wasn't being treated as an emergency, when in the past at previous vet practices we'd have been called straight into a consultation room right away.  Why on earth routine appointments and pet collections were more important is beyond me.

When we were finally called it was a vet nurse who initially assessed Bobby, for the vet to follow in shortly after.  She couldn't give a reason why Bobby had a fit, adding that we couldn't know whether she may have had seizures before this occasion.  The vet said it can be a sign of diabetes and so took a small sample of blood taken from Bobby's ear.  It showed normal results.  I asked about the strange feeling in the dewlap too but that apparently was normal as well.

We mentioned again that Bobby is in the PDSAs Pet Fit Club and that she's been on a new diet of Excel Light Nuggets.  The vet popped Bobby on the scales (which again read as 2.41kg) and said that Bobby is an extremely fat rabbit, also asking is she's been spayed.  Bobby hasn't been spayed because of the risk of an operation while over weight, which was actually the same vet's recommendation a while ago.  We know Bobby is heavier than she ought to be which is why we're doing all we can to get her more active.  It doesn't help to have your own vet say that getting an overweight rabbit down to size is virtually impossible because 'they're not like wild rabbits'.  If we abide by that attitude we all may as well give up now.

So as it stands we don't know why Bobby had a fit, and it's extremely worrying not knowing.  I've never experienced it before so it's an awful shock to see your pet reacting in such a violent way.  If anyone has a rabbit, or indeed any pet, who has had seizures I would be really keen to hear from you.  I just hope Bobby doesn't have any more of them.

Becky x

Bobby's Fit Club Weigh In

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Bobby's misbehaving today!  Her second weigh in and check up for the PDSA Fit Club was due and, because we couldn't make it to the Middlesbrough hospital, head vet nurse, Steph Williams, came for a visit.

When Bobby had her first weigh in a month ago at her initial check up she was 2.39kg.  Back home we weighed her on our normal bathroom scales and it said she was 2.3kg.  The professional scales that the vets have will be more precisely calibrated but we wanted to know for our own use back home when we'll weigh her regularly to see how she's going.  I weighed her on Friday and we were over the moon that Bobby now weighed 2.1kg, already a small but significant loss from when she began.  Rather confusingly though when Bobby got on the vet scales this afternoon it read that Bobby is now 2.41kg.  Not the direction we want to be going in at all!

Official PDSA photo - but Bobby was 2.39, not 2.38

What the scales said did not measure up to what Steph saw though.  As soon as she came into the room she said Bobby looked slimmer and she saw for herself how active Bobby now is.  We're not quite sure why her weight has gone up when she's clearly moving about a lot more than she used to be capable of and already more mobile.  Vet nurse, Steph, said that she could see that Bobby looked more alert and happier in herself which is something we agree with.

Bobby on the move!

Two main issues I knew needed to be dealt with concerned Bobby's living arrangements and her food.  Bobby, opposed to my own long standing advice, lives with a guinea pig called Huey.  It started back when we had a little guinea pig called Clover who was an ill piggy and I wanted him to have some company who would look after him.  Bobby loved him and when he crossed the rainbow bridge Bobby was really lonely.  It wasn't the right time for us to get another rabbit so when another of our guinea pigs, Beans, fell out with his cage mate he was the perfect friend for Bobby.  Then when Beans died, the same happened when Huey (a similar looking white pig as Beans) fell out with his friend and that's how Huey and Bobby became buddies.  Even though I love seeing the pair together, cuddling up and grooming each other, my gut knows they shouldn't really be together and it makes a very tough problem knowing how to go about doing it.  The fact that there's two bowls of dry food in the cage too means Bobby may be munching on what's really Huey's ration.  I need to figure a way of separating them without them feeling the split.

Bobby spending more time on the floor has meant there's also the issue with her pooping and peeing wherever she pleases, so Steph said she would arrange some information regarding litter training.  When I bring Bobby out of her cage she comes downstairs for free run of the living room, and I put a carry box with water bottle attached out on the carpet with some newspaper and a heap of hay so she has a place of refuge.  Not that she's much interested in the box, as she prefers to lie around on the rug!  Steph suggested a very valid point that perhaps Bobby doesn't go in to the carry box to do her business is because she probably associates it with negativity, such as going in the car to the vet.

So we have quite a way to go!  I will begin by cutting down the dry food even more, which is now Bobby's diet Excel Light Nuggets.  The vet overseeing Bobby's diet plan, Helen Dyson, suggested we do this while Bobby and Huey are together and then to substitute the vitamin C which Huey would normally get from his guinea pig nuggets by supplementing the water with a vitamin C soluble tablet.  (If we split a human Vitamin C tablet of 1000mg into 10 bits, and pop 1/10th into 800ml of water.)  Bobby also has a good supply of Excel Fresh Herbage and Excel Nature Snacks Mountain Meadow Herbs provided by Burgess to keep her munching her way to a better diet.

Bobby meanwhile is being very cheeky and rebellious during her floor time as I speak.  She keeps trying to get behind the tv and then tearing the wallpaper off the walls.  I think she knows what she's up to because she keeps running (yes, running!) over to me and chinning my foot!

I'm sure we'll get there.  Whatever the scales say right now there's no denying Bobby is fitter than when she was at the beginning.

Becky x

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