Rabbits are becoming more popular as pets in the UK and we now have many devoted bunny owners visiting the practice each week. These small furries make wonderful pets in the right hands and come in many different sizes and colours, so there is something for everyone. Rabbits are social, intelligent and inquisitive creatures who need loving, devoted and patient owners who are prepared to spend plenty of time with them, provide plenty of space and lots of opportunities to play. Although rabbits are not generally expensive to buy, they are not cheap to look after properly and because they can live for 8–12 years they are definitely a long-term commitment.
At Castle Vets, we recommend rabbits have a health check with the vet at least twice a year to ensure they remain healthy and that parasite control particularly for E Cuniculi, and vaccinations against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease are up to date. Daily health checks can be done very easily at home and are a great way to check that your rabbit is in tip top condition.
The nose should be clean and dry with no discharge. Any snuffling, discharge or crustiness may indicate a respiratory infection.
Check that the upper and lower front teeth (incisors) meet properly in the middle and that they are not overgrown as this may prevent your rabbit from eating properly and could cause infections if the teeth are rubbing other areas of the mouth. Make sure there is no excess salivation or dribbling which may indicate that there is a problem with your rabbit’s teeth or gums.
The eyes should be clean, clear and bright. Any discharge could indicate an infection such as conjunctivitis or a blocked tear duct.
The ears should be clean and dry with no waxy or mucky discharge or crusting. Rabbit ears are very sensitive so if you think they need cleaning, it is a good idea to check with a veterinary nurse about what product to use and how to go about it. Never use cotton buds in rabbit ears.
The skin should look clean and healthy. Stroking your rabbit will help you feel for any lumps, bumps or wounds on the skin; if you find anything out of the ordinary make a note of exactly where it is before contacting your vet as small lumps can be difficult to find again! Flaky or dry skin could also indicate poor diet or a parasite problem,
Should look and feel clean and healthy. Most rabbits groom themselves really well so if you notice that your rabbit is not looking after him or herself this may indicate a health problem. Any mats that you find in the coat should be carefully groomed out because they will only become worse and very uncomfortable for your rabbit if they are left. Any signs of excessive moulting/shedding or any bald patches may indicate a parasite or health problem.
Rabbit feet should be clean and dry. Sore patches, urine staining or faecal matter on them may indicate a health problem (or that you need to clean out your rabbit’s toilet area more often!).
Make sure that your rabbit’s nails are not too long – nail clipping can be done at home if you have someone to help hold your rabbit for you. Your veterinary nurse can show you what to use and how to do it properly.
Bottom & Tail
Rabbits normally pass faecal pellets as well as the softer caecotrophs which they eat. Rabbits with consistently dirty bottoms may be suffering from an illness that causes loose faeces or diarrhoea, or they may be overweight and cannot groom themselves properly. Your rabbit’s bottom and tail area should be clean and dry with no mats or faecal matter stuck around it which could attract flies to lay their eggs on the rabbit leading to fly-strike. Dirty bottoms can be cleaned using cotton wool soaked in warm water and then thoroughly towel drying the area afterwards (do not use a hair dryer on your rabbit).
Look for any signs that your rabbit might be lame (limping) when moving about his or her hutch or exercise area, or that your rabbit is reluctant to exercise.
Rabbits breathe a lot faster than we humans do. Check for any signs that your rabbit may be having difficulty, such as wheezing noises or panting which may indicate a respiratory problem or infection.
Eating and Drinking
Make sure your rabbit is eating and drinking well every day. It is important to remember that hay should make up at least 80% of your rabbit’s daily food intake; there are many varieties of hay available, so it should be easy to find one that your rabbit really enjoys.
If you notice anything out of the ordinary, or you think that your rabbit may be unwell, please contact your veterinary practice for advice or to make an appointment as soon as possible.
Rabbit owners can join the Castle Vets Pet Health Club which includes annual vaccinations, year-round parasite control, free nail clipping and microchipping, as well as discounts on many of our services. We also recommend that you purchase pet insurance for your rabbit in case he or she becomes unwell.
If you would like more advice on rabbit care or information about out pet health club please contact us on 0118 9574488 or visit our website