Probably one of the most important aspects of Rabbit health and well-being is ensuring you have good pet insurance cover! Something sadly I overlooked when I was ‘new’ to Rabbit ownership and believe me, I regret not having it in place!
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Don’t believe how important Pet Insurance is? Read on!
Rabbits are a natural prey species and our domestic rabbits retain the same instincts so it is very important to keep a close eye on their health; it is imperative that rabbits do not exhibit signs of weakness in the wild due to ill health/pain, as this will easily put them at a much higher risk of becoming someone’s dinner, so as such, they tend to hide symptoms well.
The signs can range from the subtle to the obvious, therefore it is extremely important that you, not only have a good relationship with your rabbit(s) but tend to them frequently on a daily basis thus allowing you to spot the signs quicker and seek veterinary advice or assistance from the outset.
Rabbits do not have off days; their appetite, behaviours, routines, droppings etc. should all be pretty much similar from day to day, so if one day your bunny does not come rushing for it’s food then it is time to get concerned!
Hopefully it will simply be a case of bunny being fast asleep and enjoying a nice dream about frolicking in the meadows with their friends that has made them late for dinner, but if bunny IS off his/her food, or acting strangely/not his/her self, more often than not, you should take it as a warning that something is not right.
If you either suspect or know bunny is unwell, please ALWAYS seek medical advice/interaction from your Rabbit Savvy Vet in the first instance.
Rabbit health, should a problem occur, usually results in an emergency, especially when they are off their food and as such can not wait until the next available appointment or surgery opening times.
As an owners we should carry out weekly, if not daily checks on our Rabbits as part of their everyday care and interaction.
This information sheet, courtesy of RWAF highlights the basic health checks we as owners should carry out on a regular (weekly) basis to help pick up on potential health problems before they become serious and keep our Buns in tip top condition!
Routine Health Checks
It is always best to have your rabbits undergo an 6 monthly health check by your rabbit savvy vet to ensure no issues have occurred since their last visit; remember, rabbits are masters at hiding illness and as such your Vet can check areas that you at home can not see at home, e.g. teeth!
Vaccinations – Myxomatosis and VHD
Annual vaccinations are a must when it comes to our Rabbits, regardless of whether your rabbits live indoors or out they should be routinely vaccinated against disease! Rabbits are at risk of Myxi (Myxomatosis), all year round, as it is biting insects who spread the disease and the results are not pleasant and are, sadly fatal, in addition to VHD (Viral Haemorrhagic Disease).
So please, if you are fortunate enough to live in a country, like us here in the UK, where vaccinations are freely available, there really is no excuse for not ensuring they are protected from disease.
Be rabbit wise and always keep those vaccinations up to date!
Please insure your rabbits receive NOT only their annual combined Myxi and VHD vaccines but also the new RVHD2 vaccine too!
For more information on this new variant of the VHD virus in the UK and how to protect your Rabbits, please follow this link to a highly informative article as written by renowned rabbit savvy veterinary nurse, Jo Hinde.
Signs to look out for – reduced/no appetite, lethargic, cold, hiding away, rapid breathing, inability to sit still – stretching, recoiling, generally uncomfortable – smaller, misshapen or non production of poops.
Gut Stasis is commonly known as the silent killer – it is not an illness in it’s own right but a secondary condition due to another health issue.
It can be caused by for example, stress, gas, stomach/intestinal blockage (e.g. fur ingestion from moult), pain, from for example a dental issue, and so on.
The most common signs that your rabbit is suffering from this is a reluctance to eat or no appetite at all!
- Smaller / irregular shaped / hard /dry /dark droppings, or worst still no droppings at all! Check out this great link on what’s good and what’s not when it comes to all things poo!
- Lethargy, hiding away, particularity in an area you wouldn’t normally associate bunny with.
- Generally being / looking uncomfortable and restless, stretching, scrunching up their bodies, breathing rapidly, loud(er) teeth grinding, feeling cold to the touch and so on…
This is a serious health issue so should you suspect your rabbit is suffering from this, then it should always be viewed as an emergency and Veterinary treatment should be sought ASAP.
So please do not delay in contacting your Rabbit savvy vet regardless of the time of day or night!
Quite simply put, a rabbit can not survive without food in it’s stomach – they are natural grazers and if they cease to eat then it is not a good situation for bunny to be in and if not treated soon, this condition can and will be fatal.
This is quite possibly one of the most common health issues to affect rabbits, and as such, their teeth should be checked on a 6 monthly basis by your rabbit savvy vet. This is easily done via the insertion of an Otoscope into the mouth allowing the vet to check for tell tale problems such as, cuts to the tongue or cheeks caused by spurring of the teeth.
You can of course do basic checks on the front teeth (incisors) at home by simply parting their lips to show their front teeth.
They should be of equal length and smoothly aligned, if they are un-even, then it is very possible they have some level of dental issues and should be seen by your Vet ASAP for further investigation.
Abscesses, particularity around the ears, are a fairly common health complaint in rabbits, specifically the lop-eared breeds. Effectively, lop-eared rabbits are at higher risk as their ear canal is in effect, bent over double, thereby decreasing the normal flow of air to the inner ear, thus providing a warm, damp environment for bacteria to thrive.
Thankfully, checking their ears is possibly one of the more ‘easy’ checks to do at home; most Rabbits love a good ear rub, so do this on a regular, if not daily basis, and pay particular attention to the base of the ear for any lumps or bumps that may have appeared. Both ear bases should feel uniform. You can also smell the ear for any strange odours as this can be another give-away that something is perhaps, not quite right.
Always remember, should you encounter any suspicious, or indeed, obvious changes or smells, then always seek Veterinary advice or assistance in the first instance and seek treatment ASAP to ensure a happy outcome for both bunny and owner.
E.cuniculi ( E.C.) is a single celled protozoal parasite, which has to live inside a host cell in order to survive. E.cuniculi is spread via spores from an infected Rabbits’ urine and can easily spread to other rabbits.
Possibly the most common signs of a rabbit infected by E.C. is head tilt. But the disease can also affect others areas such as the brain, spinal cord and kidneys.
Treatment generally involves anti-inflammatory medication together with Panacur (anti-parasiticide) daily for 28 days.
It is always wise that when bringing a new bunny into the home they have either been treated with a preventative course of Panacur, or likewise you ask your Vet to prescribe a 28 day course.
This will also help prevent any possible spread to any other rabbits you may have.
Mites can be a fairly common problem in our rabbits so regular grooming will allow you to pick up on any possible infestations. Outdoor living rabbits are at higher risk than their indoor living friends, however, they are not immune either as mites can often be found in their Hay or bedding. So please, keep an eye on that coat and carry out regular grooming.
The most common type of mite that Rabbit are susceptible to is commonly known (and looks like) ‘walking dandruff’, which will often affect small areas to begin with.
As with everything else health wise, always seek Veterinary advice and assistance and do not purchase ‘off the shelf’ products.
NEVER use Frontline on Rabbits, or any other pet they may come into contact with as this product can be fatal!
The most effective flea product is Advantage, and will treat bunny, cat and dog will no ill effects to either. Please, as always, ask your Vet on the best means of treating fleas on bunny.
Again, this is not something you should routinely carry out on your rabbit(s) unless they are at risk or come into contact with other household pets/wild animals who are carriers.
Unlike cats and dogs, rabbits do not needed regular worming so this is not an issue that you should be routinely medicating bunny for.
However, you should keep an eye on their poops, or droppings, to ensure there is no infestation of worms.
Pin worms are perhaps the most common worm infestation, but it has been known for rabbits to become infected with tape worm particularity if they have eaten vegetation from an area contaminated by another tape-worm carrying animal e.g dog.
If you see, or suspect that your Rabbit(s) has worms, then Veterinary advice should be sought, and whenever possible, a sample of the infected droppings taken in for analysis or confirmation and appropriate medications will be prescribed.
However, it is always wise when acquiring a new bunny, or introducing a new bunny to a companion(s) that they be routinely treated to prevent not just any possible parasite infection from spreading but as a preventative measure against E.C.
Again if you are unsure of anything, please speak to your vet.
Rabbits in the domestic environment will need regular nail trimming it is through the act of digging tunnels/warrens etc. that keeps their nails worn down in the wild, so it may not always be possible for our domestic buns to do this in their home environment.
Ensuring your Rabbits’ nails maintain a good length is very important. Long nails may potentially curl into your rabbit’s foot, or they may snag on something, causing great discomfort to your pet and cause their hocks to become sore and inflamed.
Generally speaking, once their claws start to show from out under the fur on their feet it is a good indicator that they need to be trimmed back. Although, please do not follow this as a ‘golden rule’; pull the fur back during routine health checks/bunny interaction time, to have a look or feel and ensure the nails haven’t curled, broke or appear too long. This video provides you with some good info and tips on how best to clips Buns claws.
If you are nervous about clipping them yourself, then your Vet or nearest rescue center will be happy to provide this service for you, in addition to showing you the best way to handle Bun for future trims.
Sore hocks (feet) or Pododermatitis, is a pressure-related condition in which the soles or heels of the rabbits’ feet become raw and inflamed, particularly the back feet, and in severe cases, ulcerated.
Mild cases of sore hocks is not uncommon in our domestic rabbits, more so indoor living rabbits, as the ground is hard compared to what they were designed to live upon (grass).
We can limit it the best we can by providing soft mats, blankets and carpeted areas, in addition to ensuring those nails are kept at a good length and ensuring bunny maintains a good body weight as carrying too many extra pounds can put extra pressure on those delicate feet!
Again, this health issue should not be overlooked and your Vet will be happy to advise you on best treatments and management of this condition.
Rabbits love to eat, and as a natural grazing animal, they will spend large amounts of their awake time doing just that!
The mainstay of their diet should be hay/grasses and should make up around 80% of each rabbits daily food intake, followed by approx 10% rabbit friendly greens, 5% high extruded fibre complete pellet and additional 5% healthy treats (dried herbs, small portion of fruit or carrot)
If you get the balance right then obesity should not prove to be an issue; however, Rabbits do have an extremely sweet tooth and will eat (given half a chance) all sorts of things which are not good for them, or likewise, too much of a good thing.
As owners it is our responsibly to feed them correctly, although we do understand how hard it can be to say no to a (persistent) begging cute bunny! But, hard as it often is, please do try! 😉
Limit treats, even the ‘healthy’ recommended bunny friendly treats, such as a small piece of carrot, apple, strawberry, banana etc. Do not allow them to eat human food such as bread, cereals or biscuits. And stick to the golden rule, hay, hay and more hay for health teeth and tums!