Retrospective Evaluation of Prognostic Indicators for Survival in 1256 Orphaned Eastern Cottontail Rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus)
Stephanie L. Principati1,2, VMD; Krista A. Keller1, DVM, DACZM; Matthew C. Allender1,2, DVM, MS, PhD, DACZM; Sarah Reich2,3, DVM; Julia Whittington2,3, DVM
Orphaned eastern cottontail rabbits (ECR), Sylvilagus floridanus, are commonly presented to wildlife medical facilities and necessitate large personnel and financial allocations. The purpose of this study was to determine prognostic indicators for survival in orphaned ECR to maximize their survival and ensure appropriate utilization of limited resources at wildlife medical clinics and rehabilitation centers. A total of 1256 ECR presenting to the University of Illinois Wildlife Medical Clinic from 2012–2018 fitting the inclusion criteria were included. Rabbits were identified as survivors (surviving, transferred, or released within 72 h of presentation) or non-survivors (euthanized or died within 72 h of presentation). Presenting weight, body system abnormalities, reason for presentation, hydration status, and singleton versus group presentation were categorically recorded for each case. A best fit logistic regression model determined that ECR weighing ≤70 grams (OR:2, p<0.0001), presenting as singletons (OR:2, p<0.0001) exhibiting mild integumentary system abnormalities (OR:1.87; p=0.0261) or moderate-severe integumentary abnormalities (OR:4.53, p<0.0001), and those exhibiting neurologic system abnormalities (OR:4.48, p<0.0001) were more likely to have a non-survivor status. Wildlife medical clinics and rehabilitation centers can use the data presented here to guide the triage and therapy and/or euthanasia protocols for orphaned ECR. Future research should be pursued to determine therapeutic methods that can be utilized to maximize survival status in this species.