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Rabbit Care

 

Rabbits make the perfect low-maintenance pet but there are still important considerations if your bunny is to remain in the best of health.

Hutches

Traditionally our bunny friends were kept outside, in a small hutch at the bottom of the garden. Plenty were probably well looked after, but many were sadly forgotten. Now, rabbits are enjoying a new lease of life as house pets. They are relatively easy to house train and using a litter box, just like cats. Outside hutches need to be as big as possible with a separate bed and living area. Rabbits will use a latrine and generally go to the toilet in the same place. Hay and straw make good bedding material and sawdust or shredded paper can be used to cover the floor. Whether inside or outside, your rabbit will need a pen or an area where he or she can be shut in whilst you are out and about and unable to supervise. Bunnies love to chew, so you will need to bunny proof the house, making sure television and light cables are out of reach! Out side exercise or exercise in the home is vital to maintain healthy teeth, bones and muscles.

Fleas and Lice

There are several lice and mites that like to live on bunnies and cat and dog fleas are not fussy often infecting rabbits. There are now various medications that are licensed for flea and louse activity in rabbits such as Advantage and Ivermectin spot on.

Worms

Worms are not common in rabbits as they are hind gut fermenters and herbivores. There is one parasite that you should be aware of when owning a rabbit. Encephalacitizoon cunicul is a protozoan parasite that lives in the brain, muscle and kidneys of rabbits. Often there are no signs, but any rabbits swaying or weaving, or rabbits with urinary tract problems need to be treated quickly using Panacur. Fly strike- know about this and be warned! All rabbits from March to september, particularly if they are living outside should have their bottoms checked daily for any soiling or fly eggs. Prevent this by using Rearguard or F10 spray. Please ask the nurse for more details.

Vaccines

There are 2 very important diseases that your rabbit will need protecting against. It is sensible to vaccinate your rabbit even if they live indoors. Contact from cats carrying rabbit fleas can still infect and kill your rabbit from Myxamatosis. Viral Haemorrhagic Disease is another vaccine that is given from 8 weeks of age and then both are boosted annually. There is now a combined vaccine.

Neutering

80% of female rabbits develop womb cancer by the time they are 5 years old. A shocking fact and one that can be stopped by early neutering of your female rabbit. Rabbits and other small furries traditionally have a bad track record with anaesthetics. However, with the advent of Sevoflurane and balanced anaesthesia the risks are now greatly reduced. The principles of neutering and castration are much the same as for any other species. Rabbits are fastidious groomers and so often skin stitches can be irresistible. In this case, don't be surprised if the male bunny has no stitches and the female rabbit has buried stitches under the skin. Rabbits are hind gut fermenters. This means that the appendix is huge like a large vat compared to our tiny appendix. Anaesthetics can change the composition of the vat so at The Veterinary Health Centre we always keep rabbits in over night after having had an anaesthetic. This is to make sure that normal gut movement has occurred and returned.

Tooth Care and Diet

Tooth care and diet Bunnies have elodont teeth. This means that there is no true root. It is not fixed and it grows constantly. This is because they have developed to survive on some of the toughest and most fibrous vegetation. Even boiling it for hours still means that grass cannot be processed in our omnivorous digestive system! Rabbits need to eat grass. Grass. Grass . Grass. Now it may seem that the point is being laboured here, but the worst diet in the world for a rabbit is an open mixed corn and seed diet. It is high in fat, low in indigestible fibre and doesn't wear down the teeth. If the teeth do not wear down properly they overgrow, growing into the eye sockets, affecting the tear ducts, damaging the soft tissue in the mouth and the tongue. It can be very expensive having repeated dental treatment and it is not covered by insurance. It is best to prevent it. Feed small amounts of pelleted high fibre food and lots if high quality hay and where possible grass. Cut grass needs to be fresh and fed immediately as this can make them very I'll and is probably best avoided. Vegetables can be provided as treats in very small quantities but watch out as your bunny will gorge given the chance and this could make him very poorly.

 

Like all animals, rabbits need a fresh clean supply of water daily. Some rabbits prefer to drink from a bowl and others from a bottle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Veterinary Health Centre Ltd, 4 Greenways, Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, FY8 3LY. Tel: 01253 729 309 | Company Reg. Number 5507480 | VAT number 636464523
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