Daily / Weekly CheckList
Rabbits are very good at hiding signs of illness or injury so you should get up close and personal every day to check they are well and happy.
Eyes should be bright and colorful with no sign of discharge or dullness. Discharge may be down to a scratched or damaged eye. Cloudy eyes could be a symptom of a problem with their teeth. Both cases would require vet advice and treatment.
This should twitch a lot. If it isn’t, there could be a problem. Also, if it is runny or they are sneezing a lot it could be down to Rhinitis or Sinusitis.
- Rear End
Check your bunny’s bum is clean of dirt and poo. If it is it could be a sign that their diet is too rich and they don’t need to eat their cecotropes. An unsuitable diet also causes obesity which prevents self-grooming as they can’t reach! Check twice daily in the Summer months as soiling will attract flies, whose eggs will turn into maggots within a matter of hours. This is called Flystrike and it can be very dangerous, even fatal.
Monthly Rabbit Health Check
There are some things that will take a little more time to check but are still very necessary to the health and happiness of your rabbits.
Check your rabbit’s teeth are still growing straight, that they are not overgrown, broken, loose or discolored and that they’re not drooling. Gums should be a nice pink color.
Check for signs of flakes, fleas, and lumps under the skin. Make sure their coat is clean and well-groomed.
Make sure they are clean inside with no wax build-up or flakiness. If they are you will need vet advice as the cause could be a number of factors, each requiring deeper examination.
Nails should be kept short as they may tear off, bleed and become infected. Use good quality nail clippers designed for rabbits.
Make sure all toes are present and correct and there are no signs of sores or abrasions.
Check the bottom of the feet are still covered with fur and that there is no bare patches or skin that is red and infected. Keep an eye out for limping, leg weakness (front and back), bad balance and any abnormal stance or movements. (in their hopping, running, sitting up on back legs, etc.)
- Scent Glands
If the scent glands are dirty, clean gently with a cotton bud dipped in mineral oil.
Make sure there isn’t discharge from the eyes. Lift up the lid and check for a healthy pink color. Check for any discoloration in the eye, redness or swelling.
Look for a dry clean nose. Check for any discoloration on the outside of the nose.
Listen for clear, regular breathing. Learn normal respiration rates for your bunny.
If you have a stethoscope, listen to your rabbit’s heart. Make sure the beat sounds regular. Learn normal heart rates for your bunny.
Take their temperature. This video shows you how.
- These should be large and moist. Small, malformed or dry dropping could be signs of a problem.
Watch when your rabbit does this if they are having trouble peeing you may need vet advice. Check the urine is a normal color. This can vary and is sometimes red, but red spots or flakes are not normal so you will need to get this professionally checked.
Has your rabbit’s personality changed? Not as active? Not as playful? Do they have difficulty moving around? Are they not eating as much? Any changes in behavior can be signs of disease or discomfort. Further evaluation and vet advice will be needed.
Additional Health Check Advice
- Log It!
Keep up-to-date information on your rabbits.
- Understand and know what they eat (favorite foods) and drink (usual quantities).
The vet may need this information later!
- Behavior Monitoring –
Monitor their general activity levels and habits. Any changes to normal behavior can alert you to a potential medical problem.
- If you keep an eye on your rabbit like this, you can prevent any possible disease from progressing and in turn possibly saving their lives by getting them to the vet in time to receive the appropriate treatment.
Quick action can save your rabbit’s life.
Veterinarian Annual Check
Then there’s a professional annual check with qualified vet advice at your local veterinarian center. This is a rundown of what you can expect to happen when you take your rabbit for their annual health-check…
- Rabbit Overview With You
A vet will assess the rabbit’s recent history. (This is when written information on diet and past medical problems will be helpful.) Then they will discuss any new problems, concerns or questions.
- Physical Exam
- Teeth are checked for malocclusion and the lips checked for sores, abrasions, signs of drooling or swelling.
- Eyes are a reflection of overall health and are given a thorough check. They check for any tearing or discharge. Sometimes the conjunctiva gets swollen and infected and sometimes the tear ducts become obstructed.
- Ears should be clean and not irritated. The vet will check that any debris within the ear does not have mites, yeast or bacteria. The ear is swabbed, and the material examined under a microscope.
- Skin and Fur is examined for parasites, shedding, any evidence if the rabbit has been scratching or biting at him/herself, actual hair loss and lesions. The doctor (vet) checks the back of the neck and under the tail for fur mites.
- Legs and Toes are palpated for any abnormal lumps. The doctor will listen to the heart and lungs and will palpate the abdomen to evaluate the size and shape of internal organs.
- Tail is lifted to ensure the sex of the rabbit is what you think it is. Surprisingly many a rabbit pregnancy has occurred because the sex has been mistakenly identified. If you have not had your rabbit spayed or neutered, you will receive some vet advice about the benefits of this procedure.
- Laboratory Testing
Any necessary blood tests, urinalysis, and bacterial cultures are carried out that may be necessary to diagnose a problem.
- Check Out
The average cost-per-procedure depends upon where you live, lab work done and additional services performed. However, some rabbit insurance services offer checks as additional coverage.
How Often Should We Go For Vet Advice & Checks?
- Rabbit examinations by a qualified vet should be done annually
- Twice a year for rabbits over 5 years of age
- Stool samples will be evaluated at the first three visits if the rabbit is housed inside.
- If your rabbit is kept outside, a stool sample would be checked at every visit.
- Letting your vet examine your rabbit when they are healthy is good practice and prepares you and your vet for when your bunny is poorly.
The following information is aimed at UK rabbit owners. Unfortunately, vaccinations are not yet available in all countries, including the USA. Myxomatosis is a problem on the West Coast of the US; however, importing the vaccine from the UK is not currently allowed because of the vaccine containing a live virus. To see whether vaccines are available in your county, contact your local exotic vet.
There are always questions when it comes to vaccinations for pet rabbits, hopefully, the following will answer the main ones:
How do vaccines work?
The vaccination works by stimulating the antibodies to set up a protective screen against the disease. This protective response is remembered and triggered whenever the rabbit encounters the disease. This protects them from contracting these diseases.
Why Vaccinate my Rabbit?
There are lots of reasons but the main ones are as follows;
- Vaccination allows your rabbit to develop immunity to dangerous diseases.
- Vaccination is usually required to get pet insurance
- Vaccination is often a requirement of rabbit/pet vacation boarding houses
- Vaccination is a strict requirement of your rabbit being allowed to take part in shows and events.
How do I get my Rabbit Vaccinated?
“Your vet will examine your rabbit to check that it is healthy prior to vaccination. They will also advise you on which vaccinations are appropriate for your rabbit depending on its age, lifestyle, and history.” – www.vethelpdirect.com
When Should I Vaccinate my Rabbit?
In young rabbits, maternal antibodies are said to start to disappear progressively between the 4th and 7th week of life. A rabbit’s first vaccination should be given at about six to eight weeks. They have immunity from their mother for the weeks preceding this.
How Often Does my Rabbit need Vaccinating?
Rabbits need vaccinating every year in most areas. Traditionally the vaccinations for these diseases have been required to be given at separate times but there is now a combined annual vaccine available.
What Should my Rabbit be Vaccinated Against?
In the UK all rabbits should be vaccinated against Myxomatosis and Viral Hemorrhagic Disease.
There are three vaccines licensed for rabbits in the UK:
- two for Viral Hemorrhagic Disease (VHD):
Cylap® (Fort Dodge Animal Health) and Lapinject VHD® (Ceva Animal Health Limited)
- one for myxomatosis:
NobivacTM Myxo (Intervet UK Ltd)
Which rabbits should be vaccinated?
All rabbits, even rabbits kept indoors most of the time can be bitten by a mosquito or flea carrying this disease.
Will it work?
No vaccine can be guaranteed to provide 100% protection. This is because the vaccine works by stimulating your rabbit’s immune system. For the vast majority of rabbits, vaccination will provide excellent protection against Myxomatosis and Viral Hemorrhagic Disease.
How much do rabbit vaccinations cost?
Most vets offer a discount for two rabbits done at the same time, sometimes up to 10-20% off.
Generally, the cost for each rabbit can vary from $15 to $45 each. There is quite a large price difference between one vet and another so if you are lucky enough to live in an area with lots of vets practices, it may pay off to shop around. This would only be advisable if you don’t already have a registered vet, as if you do, your own vet will know your rabbit (hopefully), and your rabbit’s medical history will be on file.
Microchipping is only effective if you keep your details up to date. If you move or get a different telephone number, you must make sure that you inform the database you are registered with so that they have your up-to-date contact details.
Microchipping your rabbit gives them the best chance of being identified and returned to you if they become lost or stolen.
Rabbits can be microchipped very easily, but it depends on their species, size, and condition.
Check with your local vet on microchipping your particular rabbit. The cost can be as little as $15 per rabbit.
How Microchipping Works
A tiny microchip is inserted in the fold of skin behind the head. This gives your rabbit their own permanent, unique code.
The microchip can be scanned and checked against a huge pet database. The database contains your name, address, and phone numbers.
If your rabbit is found away from home, most vets, animal shelters and local authorities will have a scanner to read the microchip and retrieve your details.
Your rabbit can then be returned to you safe and sound.
Why is microchipping Important?
You may think to yourself;
- my rabbits are safe indoors, I never let them out.
- my rabbits are very secure in the garden, they can’t possibly get out.
- I don’t need the extra hassle and the expense of microchipping
But rabbits are expert escape artists and a very high percentage of rabbits found are not chipped and are moved to rescue centers or re-homed.
However, all microchipped rabbits are reunited with their owners within a few hours.
- A microchip is slightly larger than a grain of rice. Implanting the chip is a straightforward procedure, just like an injection.
- The vet puts the microchip in a standard position, behind the head using a sterile pre-loaded implanter.
- The needle is larger than normal so it can be a little painful for a short while.
- Some rabbit owners have their bunnies chipped when they are already under a general anesthetic for a routine operation.
- It’s a good idea to give your brave bunny a nice treat when they get home to take their mind off the stingy feeling they will have for a few hours afterward. A small piece of apple or carrot is OK.