Raising Healthy Rabbits
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 ensure your rabbit is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
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.
Fundamentals Of Rabbit Health
Vet Rabbit Health Check
Take your rabbits for a routine health check at your vets at least 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 for signs of illness or injury every day, and ensure your rabbit has fresh water daily and access to hay & grass as this will help prevent a lot of common diseases such as dental and gut disease.
Check that your rabbit is eating every day and that 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, talk to your vet straight away as they could be seriously ill.
This is a vital part of rabbit health and vaccinations against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) should be given to all bunnies whether indoors or outdoors.
Vaccinations stimulate the rabbits body to produce antibodies to particular diseases so that they become immune.
Most pet insurance companies require the above vaccinations as part of the policy agreement.
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.
Microchipping is always a good idea, especially for rabbits kept outdoors as they are masters of escape. With a microchip they can be easily identified and treated quickly if they are injured and returned to you if they are lost.
Neutering for Rabbit Health
Unless your rabbits are intended for breeding you should get them 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 behaviour including less attacks on other rabbits and less growling, biting and scratching done to you! Plus the elimination of urine spraying in bucks.
- 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 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 with exaggerated physical features which can cause them to suffer and reduce their quality of 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.
Unfortunately rabbits can succumb to many different diseases, illnesses and problems.
I have written an overview on most of the illnesses and diseases that rabbits get including symptoms & treatments for many including:
- Bladder stones / sludge (calculi)
- Dental disease (malocclusion)
- E. Cuniculi (Encephalitozoon Cuniculi)
- Ear mites (canker)
- Eye infections (runny eyes)
- GI (gastro intestinal) stasis
- Heat exhaustion (heat stroke)
- Skin mites (mange)
- Sore hocks
- VHD (Viral Haemorrhagic 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 a 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 rabbit health and prevent many of the above problems.
Here’s a quick symptom check chart to help you decide the best course of action if you think you may have 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 your rabbits, if you are away).
If a rabbit is not eating or is more quiet than usual, they are highly likely to be ill or in pain. Check that your rabbit is eating every day and that 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.
Stress Effects Rabbit 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 stressed out for any reason, such as being chased by the neighbours cat every time you pop to the local shops.
Over enthusiastic children can stress rabbits too by constantly chasing them or trying to pick them up incorrectly.
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 can be an early sign that they are ill or in pain.
Symptom Checker Chart – A strange behaviour quick reference chart for determining the possible cause and with links to advice and treatment.
Ensure your rabbits’ coats are kept in good condition by grooming them regularly.
Wool breeds such as Angoras will require extra grooming to avoid matting.
In warm weather you should check your rabbit’s fur and skin around their rear end and tail area twice a day, as urine staining or droppings that are stuck will attract flies, which can lay eggs and cause flystrike, which is often fatal.
Grooming should always involve doing a quick check of your rabbit’s teeth. Rabbits are vulnerable to many infectious diseases and other 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.)
Rabbit 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 Rabbit Health When Buying, Rescuing Or Adopting
Check a Rabbit’s 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 behaviour, 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.
You are Checked Too!
Most rescue and adoption centres are very meticulous about rabbit health and they even have a questionnaire to check you understand how important rabbit care really is.