Tel : 01737 210011

Rabbits

Our staff know that a healthy rabbit is a happy rabbit and we have devised the following plan to try and keep your pet as healthy and happy as possible.

1. Vaccination against:

Myxomatosis

Viral Haemorrhagic Disease

Both these diseases are invariably fatal! Vaccines should be administered annually, especially for those rabbits that have access to the outdoors.

2. Feeding

Rabbits have a unique digestive system, one that is designed for a high fibre but low protein and low energy diet. The trouble is that in captivity we like to think we are doing the best for our rabbits and thus all too easily give them too rich a diet with insufficient roughage. The major component of any rabbit’s diet should be roughage (good quality hay, alfalfa hay, or grass grazed directly from the lawn). A selection of fresh food (weeds are best, such as dandelion leaves and groundsel) as well as a little commercial rabbit concentrate (such as supa rabbit excel, or timothy oxbow) is also beneficial. The key thing is not to over feed your rabbit. If you give a huge mound of mixed (muesli-type) rabbit food, your rabbit will pick and choose, eating what he or she likes and leaving important (but not very tasty!) nutritional elements behind. In this way many captive rabbits have too low a calcium intake with subsequent teeth problems. Giving a small amount of an all-in-one pellet food morning and evening, which is completely finished by your rabbit before its next helping is very important. Feeding high-energy sugar rich treats such as cake or chocolate is definitely to be avoided as it can lead to the build-up of harmful bacteria in the rabbit gut which can kill.

3. Dental Disease

This is the most common problem we see in pet rabbits, almost always due to a poor diet. Rabbits’ teeth grow continually by as much as 1 - 2 mm a week, and if unable to wear down evenly (due to inadequate diet) they can develop sharp spikes causing painful ulcers and abscesses. To prevent this, a properly balanced diet should be fed as discussed above.

4. Neutering

This helps to prevent diseases, unwanted litters and aggression. Un-neutered males are more likely to fight and show signs of aggression. Un-neutered females can have litters every 30 days and become aggressive. The incidence of uterine cancer is also very high in un-neutered female rabbits (does). One study suggests up to 80% of un-neutered does get this life threatening cancer! Neutering is generally performed at 12 weeks for males and 16 weeks for females.

5. Parasitic Prevention

Blowflies - Flystrike is a common, extremely distressing and often fatal disease occurring most commonly during warm summer months. Flies lay their eggs on the soiled coat of the rabbit and the emerging maggots burrow their way into the rabbit’s skin. Rabbits at highest risk are those suffering from obesity, dental disease, diarrhoea, arthritis and skin wounds. The flies are also attracted to rabbits when the environmental conditions are poor, e.g. dirty hutches. Flystrike is easily prevented with good diet and hygiene. Keeping hutches clean and dry is of utmost importance as is feeding the correct diet to avoid diarrhoea. Rabbits should be checked at least once daily (twice or more in hot conditions) for any soiled areas (especially under their tail) to ensure they are clean and dry. In addition to general care and hygiene, we can recommend products to prevent flystrike by killing maggots and repelling flies.

Encephalitozoon Cuniculi – E.cuniculi is an intracellular protozoa which can cause a range of clinical signs including hind limb paresis, head tilt, collapse, urinary incontinence, cataract formation, lens-induced uveitis and death. Transmission is primarily via ingestion of spores shed in the urine contaminating food and/or water. We recommend a course of Panacur Rabbit once or twice yearly or if there is an introduction of a new rabbit.

Mites - Rabbits commonly get a skin mite called Cheylettiella which causes severe dandruff. We can recommend products to prevent this.

Fleas - Just like cats and dogs, rabbits can also get fleas. These fleas can transmit myxomatosis - a life threatening viral disease. We can recommend an appropriate preventative treatment.

6. Insurance

Unexpected bills can be heartbreaking for both owners and vets if costs of treatment are prohibitive and the animal has to have less than optimal treatment or worse. Insurance represents a regular, worthwhile contribution to the health of your pet. Policies that provide lifelong cover are preferred over those which only offer 12 months of cover and then exclude the disease/condition in question from any further cover. We recommend Pet Plan pet insurance.

7. Housing

Outdoors - Rabbits that live outside must receive daily contact with the owner. The hutch should be large enough for the rabbit to stand up on their back legs and make 4 hops in any direction. The rabbits should also be exercised in an outdoor run or the home as often as possible. Both hutch and run should be placed in a location where the rabbits are safe but protected from the sun, wet weather or frost. If the hutch is raised a few feet off the ground this will protect the rabbit from potential predators and makes the owner appear smaller when trying to handle them. Rabbits should have hay/straw/wood shavings as bedding.

Indoors - Rabbits can be litter trained easily and can happily live indoors. However it is important to “bunny-proof” the home, as electrical cables, plants etc. will be eaten! The rabbit should also have an indoor cage he/she can live in.

8. Socialisation

Rabbits are very sociable animals, and require contact with other individuals daily. Rabbits should be handled regularly from an early age so they are well socialised and used to being handled.

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Our team

Jason Hadley

Jason Hadley
Veterinary Surgeon Jason qualified from the Royal Veterinary College in 2000 with merit in small animal medicine. He spent three and a half years working in a large small animal practice in Wiltshire…

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