Rabbits NEED Vets, and just not any old Vet either.
Rabbits have complex and specific health problems; they are treated under the “exotic” category of Veterinary health.
Whilst we have every respect for the Veterinary profession, they do a wonderful job helping our sick and injured pets: however, numerous general practice Veterinary surgeries are fine for basic treatments such as vaccinations, but sadly more often than not they don’t always have a good up to date working knowledge of the complexities of rabbit health, best treatments, medicines, experience or equipment, particularly when faced with an emergency situation.
Rabbit health and treatments is still considered a fairly new and growing field within the profession and as such many medicines are not even licensed for use in rabbits. Depending on which University our Veterinary students studied at, commonly they can only receive around two weeks in total of practical teaching of rabbit health and treatments within the curriculum.
Additionally, in order to maintain their licence to practice, Veterinary professionals must undertake periods of CPD (Continual Professional Development). This enables them to keep up to date with new findings, methods, medicines etc. in addition to brushing up in an area of personal/professional interest. Sadly, this does not always include Rabbits and most Vets will maintain their CPD to include everyday animal interactions; which when it comes to General Practice, will be largely based around cats and dogs.
Therefore, it is important that you choose your Rabbit Vet carefully and ensure they are ‘Rabbit Savvy’, so please do your research 1st!
If your unsure of your nearest vet or how to go about finding your nearest practise, RWAF will gladly put you in touch with one near to you.
3 common killers of Rabbits are:
Diet and Genetic issues related to breeding are the two most common causes of dental disease causing overgrown/ spurred teeth.
Left untreated overgrown/spurred teeth will cause lacerations and ulcers to the palate and tongue causing the animal pain thus leaving it with the inability to eat.
A rabbit, as a natural grazer must have food in it’s gut and is in real danger of fatalities if unable to eat for 12 hours therefore maintaining good dental health is a must.
Left untreated the teeth will grow up into the skull / eye socket or downwards through the jaw line.
During routine annual / 6 monthly (the regularity of your rabbit health check can varies depending on either Vet advice &/or previous health problems found in individual animals) your Vet will examine the mouth area with an Otoscope which enables the vet to perform a cursory oral examination, however this does not always enable them to see fully the teeth at the back of the mouth, but can provide a good indication of further problems, which if suspected will need to be examined further under sedation or anesthesia.
As an owner you can carry out some basic health-checks through normal everyday interactions with your rabbit(s).
Rabbits love a good cheek rub; this can provide the owner with an early warning sign of possible dental problems. Any outward growing spurs or inflammation of the cheeks can often be picked simply by your pet not wanting to partake in these blissful moments of owner/pet interactions.
Another quick & easy way to check your rabbits teeth regularly is just to gently pull the lips back & look at the front incisors. They should be straight & even (pictured left) but should there be any unevenness (pictured right) then it is a good indication that the teeth are not being worn down properly and should be checked further by your Vet ASAP
Ear abscesses are possibly the most common area for an absecess to occur in rabbits, more so in Lop Eared breeds as the ear is ultimately folded over in half, thus preventing a continuous flow of air to the ear canal making it an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.
Abscesses can also be found anywhere on the body via bites, old wounds or other infections and by dental issues which force overgrown teeth into the areas surrounding the palate.
Abscesses in rabbits are not easy to treat; the pus is thick, toothpaste like in consistency and whenever possible will require an operation to remove the pus from the affected area.
The sad fact is they cannot always be cured nor in some cases even treated, although swift veterinary interactions and treatments will always ensure bunny has the best possible chance to overcome these issues.
The RWAF guide to Bunny MOT provides you a basic list of routine health checks that you the owner should be carrying out on a weekly basis, if not more often for outdoor Buns, especially in the warmer weather, specifically the tail and bottom checks as this is the time rabbit could be more prone to Flystrike.
RWAF have a full and extensive range of leaflets on all things rabbit that you as an owner should know whether your a new owner, looking to adopt a pair of rabbits in need or already have rabbits & looking for further information to improve on & enrich both yours and bunny’s life.
A serious condition that affects Rabbits and, if it makes things easier for those unfamiliar with the condition, it can also be loosely compared to Colic in Horses.
This is a secondary condition which causes the digestive tract to shut down and can be due to various reasons such as; stress, improper diet, gassy foods, ingesting excess fur, or can be brought on by other underlying health issues and pain; if this condition is not treated ASAP it is ultimately fatal to the rabbit sadly, he/she will die in excruciating pain.
Rabbits DO NOT have off days – they are creatures of routine and should eat the same amount of foods every day. Their Poops should retain a normal size, shape, consistency and frequency on a daily basis; if for any reason your rabbit displays symptoms or behaviours which cause you concern, even the subtlest of change, you should immediately speak to your Vet for further advice and if necessary, treatment.
This condition, should it occur, CAN NOT wait until tomorrow and should be treated as an emergency no matter the time of day or night! So please if bunny is off it’s food and acting out of character, please seek Veterinary assistance as a matter of urgency!