Rabbits are the third most popular mammal that we see and there is a growing number who are kept inside – House Rabbits. These have particular requirements and need extra care compared to those kept outside because the environment is artificial. Nonetheless they can adapt very well, and toilet training is very easy.
All rabbits like to chew, so keep mains electric and telephone/audio wires out of reach!
We have provided this fact sheet to give you a brief outline of things you need to consider when dealing with rabbits.
There are two diseases that we can protect against:
This causes swollen eyelids leading to blindness, and breathing problems. It is passed on from rabbit to rabbit, and also via flies that can carry the virus from place to place. It is almost always fatal, so vaccination is essential to give protection.
This is a new disease that was first seen in the 1980’s. It is rare in pet rabbits but is always fatal. Often the rabbit will die very quickly without obvious clinical signs. Vaccinate!
Male rabbits are castrated; female rabbits are spayed. The big advantage of doing this is to allow rabbits to mix without fear of pregnancy or fighting. However it is also useful if your rabbit is grumpy or nest-builds a lot, even if they live alone. Spaying a female will also prevent womb diseases including cancer. The procedures are routine at this practice so if you want to know more then give us a call.
Rabbit teeth grow non-stop. Normally the grinding of fibrous food wears them down at the same rate at which they grow so everything remains stable. However for this to happen the rabbit must have enough fibre in the diet. The teeth must also be perfectly aligned, which in some pet rabbits doesn't happen.roblem is most often seen in House rabbits. Rabbit Mix foods have pellets in them containing this and other nutrients, but many rabbits leave this part of the meal, so become deficient.
Look out for a wet chin, watery eyes, and lots of broken bits of food around the bowl.
These are the teeth at the very front of the mouth and are easily seen. If they become mis-aligned then veterinary treatment is required because they will grow so long that the mouth won’t be able to close. Three options are available:
These are the cheek teeth. They are responsible for grinding the food. The do not go wrong so often but they can become so pointed that they can cut into the tongue. Treatment under a quick general anaesthetic is very successful, although it may need to be repeated 2-4 times a year.
More serious is the development of a tooth root abscess. Without prompt and radical treatment the problem is usually fatal, but with a lot of care by you, and work by your vet, then the problem can often be controlled. At this practice we have the facilities and experience to work on these cases and our success rate is improving all the time.
A mix of fresh greens and dried pellets is fine for most rabbits, particularly those kept outside as they will have exposure to sunlight, needed to produce vitamin D3. This vitamin is essential for calcium regulation, which is needed for healthy teeth growth and for normal bowel movement.
However be aware that the pellets in Rabbit Mix are often left as they are not tasty so nutrient deficiencies can still occur. If you do decide to use a Rabbit Mix then go for a quality product and avoid pet-shop produced varieties as they will have an unknown vitamin concentration. We recommend Russel Rabbit Mix® (Supreme Pet Foods Ltd).
An alternative is to use a complete diet called Supra Rabbit Excel® (Burgess Ltd) which is a high-fibre pellet with impregnated vitamins and minerals. Easy and safe, it is the one recommended by rabbit experts.
Don’t forget to provide lots of hay for fibre to help grinding.
NOTE: spring grass is very lush and has little fibre. It can cause diarrhoea very quickly so watch out for this and if it happens then remove the grass and just feed hay and carrot until the droppings have been stable for at least 3-4 days.
There are several causes for this so a correct diagnosis is essential. See your vet.
Usually seen as a yellow or green thick discharge. Treatment is easy with antibiotic ointments or drops. You may also find that the eyelids swell and turn inwards, rubbing against the eye itself. This is very painful so seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.
The roots of the molar teeth are very close to the eyeball so if they are a problem you will often get a watery discharge from the eyes, running down the side of the face and clumping the fur together.
Quite common. Easily sorted, but you have to look for the underlying cause, which may be toothache or an abscess.
This is a common problem in the spring and the autumn. That is, when there are hot days and cold nights – the air is heavy with moisture which makes breathing difficult for rabbits (and guinea pigs) who have very small airways. Sadly the course of the disease is very quick indeed so always call your vet immediately if you see any heavy breathing.
Treatment usually involves antibiotics and anti-inflammatory injections, and hospitalisation.
Prevention: keep an eye on the weather! Bring your rabbit indoors, to a garage or sideway, which is likely to be drier.
A good tip: remove a large lump of old straw from the cage each night and replace it with fresh. The new straw will soak up the moisture very effectively. Don'’t forget to do this daily though.
A good tip: damp straw can also result from urine. Obviously, regular cleaning out of the whole cage is required, but urine drainage can be improved by drilling large holes (1”) in each corner of the cage. Because rabbit use corners to urinate then the urine will drain out of the cage more easily.
This impossible-to-pronounce organism is a protozoon, a small single-celled organism. It is quite common in rabbits and can cause a number of diseases the most noticeable of which is a head tilt and paralysis. It can also cause kidney and liver problems and muscle wastage.
It is a serious problem indeed.
If your rabbit is lifeless or lame, or falls over then get to a veterinary surgeon quickly!
Treatment consists of using an anti-parasitic drug (Panacur® - Intervet Ltd) and supportive care over several weeks.