Making sure your rabbit is in perfect health is a fundamental part of your rabbit’s overall welfare. As a pet rabbit owner, it is your responsibility to protect your rabbit from injury, disease, and suffering needlessly.
Rabbits feel pain in the same way as other mammals, including people. So with that in mind, the following links and pages have been created so you can quickly find solutions to any problems you may be having with your rabbits and be one step ahead, learning all you can before any injury, illness or disease occurs.
Indoor Rabbits Health Guide
Vet Rabbit Health Check – Take your rabbits for a routine vet check once each year.
Home Rabbit Health Check – It is your responsibility to check your rabbits daily.
The basic areas to check are:
- Rear End
Check your rabbit every day, provide limitless clean water and hay. Doing these simple things will help you know if your rabbit has become injured, or is suffering from some diseases such as dental issues or a gut complication.
Check that your rabbit is eating every day. Also, check to make sure they are producing plenty of droppings and that they appear normal in size and texture. If your rabbit’s eating or drinking habits change, or the number of droppings gets less or stops altogether, talk to a vet immediately as this could be the beginning of stasis – a life-threatening illness that kills thousands of rabbits every year.
This is a vital part of your rabbit’s health care. In the US, not all areas require vaccinations, but if they are recommended by an exotic vet, they should definitely be given. The two main vaccinations guard against Myxomatosis and Viral Hemorrhagic Disease (VHD). If these are a problem where you live, your rabbit should be given vaccinations, whether they live indoors or outdoors.
Rabbit boarding facilities also check each rabbit’s medical record as diseases are spread very easily among rabbits.
If you are showing your rabbits at events and competitions, vaccinations are also a requirement and you will need to show proof of medical history.
Note: At the moment vaccinations are only available in the US and the UK. Europe, Africa & Oceania have not made them part of standard practice yet. However, contact your local vet to see if the important vaccinations are available.
Most US rescue centers including the HRS only vaccinate rabbits if located in certain geographic locations. Most UK rescue centers including the RSPCA vaccinate all rabbits as part of normal procedure.
Micro-chipping is always a good idea, especially for rabbits kept outdoors as they are masters of escape. With a micro-chip, they can be easily identified and treated quickly if they are injured and returned to you if they are lost.
Spaying/Neutering for Indoor Rabbits Health
Unless your rabbits are intended for breeding, you should get them spayed or neutered. There are many benefits including the following:
The main reasons for neutering rabbits:
- Prevention of accidental pregnancies and the elimination of false pregnancies in does which can be stressful and damaging to their fur where they pull it off to make a nest.
- Less aggressive territorial behavior including fewer attacks on other rabbits and less growling, biting and scratching done to you! Plus the elimination of urine spraying in bucks, especially important when your rabbits are housed indoors.
- Decreased male sex drive – the female gets a break and both rabbits have increased relaxation and calmness.
- Less chance of uterine cancer in does.
- Easier litter box training, a bonus for indoor rabbits.
There are many other reasons too.
People often have a lot of questions when it comes to deciding on neutering their rabbits or not. Find answers to some common questions such as –
- Is neutering rabbits safe?
- How much does it cost?
- What care do rabbits need after an operation?
- How long do I wait before introducing neutered rabbits together?
Some breeds are more susceptible than others and are particularly prone to inherited disorders and diseases. Show rabbits and some meat and fur rabbits have been bred so as to enhance certain physical features. This can cause them to suffer and can greatly lessen their lifespan and alter the quality of their life.
Prevent your rabbits from having contact with wild rabbits or areas where wild rabbits have been. Domestic rabbits can easily catch deadly infectious diseases from wild rabbits, even if they are housed indoors.
Unfortunately, rabbits can succumb to many different diseases, illnesses and problems. Here is a list of the most common illnesses and diseases that rabbits get:
- Bladder stones / sludge (calculi)
- Dental disease (malocclusion)
- E. Cuniculi (Encephalitozoon Cuniculi)
- Ear mites (canker)
- Eye infections (runny eyes)
- GI (gastrointestinal) stasis
- Heat exhaustion (heat stroke)
- Skin mites (mange)
- Sore hocks
- VHD (Viral Hemorrhagic Disease)
Only use medicines that have been specifically recommended for your individual rabbit by a vet. Some medicines that are used for other animals can be very dangerous to rabbits’ health. Consult a vet immediately if you suspect that your rabbit is in pain, ill or injured.
However, prevention is better than cure and a good diet and even rabbit supplements may increase your rabbit’s health and prevent many of the above problems.
Here’s a quick symptom checklist to help you decide the best course of action if you think you may have a sick bunny on your hands.
Rabbit Behavior During Illness
Changes in Routine
Check your rabbit for signs of illness or injury every day. Make sure this is done by someone who understands rabbits, especially if you are away.
If a rabbit is not eating or is more quiet than usual, they are likely ill or in pain. Check that your rabbit every day to make sure they are eating and drinking enough. Also, make sure they are passing plenty of dry droppings. If your rabbit’s eating or drinking habits change, or the number of droppings gets less or stops altogether, your rabbit could be seriously ill and require vet intervention right away.
Stress Effects on Rabbits Health
Rabbits that are stressed are much more likely to become ill. Check their environment, make sure they are not being bullied by other rabbits or chased or stressed out for any reason, such as being chased by visiting teenagers while you make the dinner.
Overenthusiastic children can stress rabbits too by constantly chasing them or trying to pick them up incorrectly. Learn about correct handling here…
Rabbits tend to hide outward signs of pain so they may be suffering a great deal before you notice anything is wrong. A change in the way your rabbit normally behaves could indicate early illness or that they are in some sort of pain.
Grooming on a regular basis will ensure your rabbit’s health.
Ensure your rabbits’ coats are kept in good condition by grooming them with a good grooming brush at least weekly. Wool breeds such as Angoras will require extra grooming to avoid matting.
- Flystrike is still a concern in warm weather, even if your rabbits are inside most of the time. Flies can be bothersome. Check your rabbit’s fur and skin around their backside and their tail area daily. Urine and or droppings that get trapped in the fur become areas for the flies to lay their eggs. Maggots will burrow into the skin and this can be fatal if left untreated.
- Dental Check – Grooming should always involve doing a quick check of your rabbit’s teeth. Rabbits are susceptible to infections and illnesses, especially dental disease. You should check your rabbit’s mouth regularly while grooming.
Their front teeth never stop growing and they grow quickly too, so they need to be checked once a week. Only a vet should correct overgrown or misaligned teeth.
Rabbits Health Insurance Reviews
Consider taking out pet insurance to ensure your rabbits are covered if they need veterinary treatment.
By taking out rabbit insurance, your bunny could be covered for any necessary treatment it may need, without the added stress of worrying about how you will pay for it.
Rabbits are cute, playful and part of your family! Like all pets, rabbits can be susceptible to ailments and illnesses which can result in a trip to the vet. If your rabbit is involved in an accident or possibly attacked, there’s a good chance they’ll need treatment and possibly an operation to make them well again.
Importance Of Rabbits Health When Buying, Rescuing Or Adopting
Check a Rabbits Health History
Before deciding to buy, rescue or adopt a rabbit, make sure you find out how they have been bred.
Ensure you find out if they have had any illnesses or diseases or if they may be prone to particular health problems.
Find out what diet they have been given and how they have been cared for.
Also check on their background of behavior, if they are overly aggressive or if they are sullen or timid. It could be that they have been traumatized at some time in their past.
Rabbits can be rehabilitated but you will have to put in a little more effort, patience and lots and lots of love.
Most rescue and adoption centers are very meticulous about their rabbit’s health and they even have a questionnaire to check you understand how important rabbit care really is. When in doubt – seek help from a local rescue or vet.