Why Training Is Important & How To Do It

Why Should We Train Our Pets?

We all know that basic training for dogs is a necessity, but did you know that training is great for all types of pets? Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, rodents, birds and horses and more can all be trained in some way. Not only can it be lots of fun, but it is also mentally stimulating, a great form of exercise and it can strengthen the bond between you and your pet. New tricks are a great way of showing off how clever your pet is to other people and also a brilliant way for children to be involved with pet care.
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Troublesome Ticks & Harvest Mites

Ticks and Harvest Mites are small parasites that survive by feeding on different animal hosts, including mammals, birds and even humans if they get the opportunity. They can be a real nuisance for affected pets, often causing irritation, inflammation and sometimes infection and disease.

Ticks

There are many tick species in the UK but the ones that commonly cause problems by feeding off our pets are the sheep tick (Ixodes ricinus) and the hedgehog tick (Ixodes hexagonus).

Ticks are mostly found in areas with long grasses, in woodlands or in heathland but they can be found in gardens if they have been transported by wild animals during their larval or nymph stages. They can attach anywhere on the animal’s body but are usually found around the head, neck and ears. Owners often mistake ticks for wart-like growths on their pets because of their size and colour. Continue reading

Pet Law – Your responsibilities as a pet owner

law

Owning and caring for a pet can be a source of great enjoyment, but being a pet owner is also a huge responsibility and part of being a responsible owner includes knowing about and understanding the law surrounding pet ownership.  A surprising number of pet owners in the UK are not aware of the law, or of what they are required to provide for their pets to ensure their physical and mental well being. The PDSA’s Annual PAW Report 2016 showed that only 39% of pet owners surveyed were familiar with the Animal Welfare Act (this is an improvement on 35% from 2016) .

Although not all owners are familiar with the ins and outs of the actual Animal Welfare Act, the majority are providing everything their pet needs already. Sadly though, the RSPCA investigated a total of 149,604 complaints of animal abuse last year,  successfully prosecuted 744 people (down by 6.53%) and secured 628 disqualification orders following prosecution (down 4.46%)

The Animal Welfare Act

This came into force on April 6th 2007. It increased and introduced new penalties for acts of cruelty, neglect, mutilation, tail docking and animal fighting but importantly, it also introduced a duty of care for all pet owners. There is no particularly perfect way to care for pets because each pet will have it’s own individual needs, so it is up to you as the owner to find out what your particular pet’s needs are and ensure that you can meet them.

The Animal Welfare Act applies to anyone who is responsible for an animal whether permanently or temporarily and includes fines of up to £20,000, a maximum jail term of 51 weeks and a lifetime ban on some owners keeping pets.

Under Section 9  of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 you must  take all reasonable steps to ensure that you meet  the needs of your pet. I have listed the Welfare points in bold and added suggestions of how this can be achieved.

1. Provide a suitable environment and living space 

  • You pet will need a safe, clean environment with protection from hazards. If your pet is kept outside you need to check it frequently to ensure he or she is safe and well.
  • A comfortable, clean, dry, quiet, draught-free rest area.
  • Somewhere to hide in order to avoid things that frighten it.
  • Access to an appropriate place, away from its resting area, which it can use as a toilet area.
  • The living area should be large enough to be comfortable and provide sufficient space to move around in. Minimum cage sizes for small animals such as rabbitsguinea pigsrats and other rodents should be taken into consideration – the bigger the better!
  • The living area should be properly ventilated and at the correct temperature so that the pet does not get too hot or cold.
  • You should never leave your pet unattended in any situation, or for any period of time, that is likely to cause it distress or harm.
  • When transporting your pet, make sure it is comfortable, safe and secure at all times. The transport must be well ventilated and at the correct temperature. Your pet should have access to water if the journey is longer than a few hours (small furries and birds should have access to food and water all of the time). Bedding or flooring must be adequate and absorb any moisture if the pet goes to the toilet during transport. Dogs should be given toilet breaks on longer journeys, but ensure they cannot escape in an unfamiliar place! 

    This hutch is far too small

2. Provide a diet suitable for your pet’s needs

  • Your pet will need clean fresh drinking water at all times. If  you own a dog, this may mean taking water with you on walks where clean water is unlikely  to be available.
  • You must provide your pet with a balanced diet that is suited to its individual needs including its age, level of activity and health.
  • You must ensure that you feed the correct amount of food and that your pet is maintained at the correct weight and does not become underweight or overweight/obese.
  •  Your pet must be able to reach it’s food and water easily.
  • If you are uncertain what diet is best for your pet you should seek advice from a veterinary practice or suitably qualified pet care specialist.

3. Allow your pet to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns

  • Make sure your pet has enough things to do in it’s environment so that it does not become distressed or bored. This may mean adding toys, hiding places, climbing places, scratching posts, ladders, digging places, activity toys and feeders etc to suit your pet’s individual requirements. For example giving cats access to high places and scratching places.
  • Make sure your pet has access to safe toys and suitable objects to play with and, in the cases of some pets, chew on.
  • Ensure that your pet can rest undisturbed when it needs to – this may mean giving them a bed, crate or separate part in their living space where they will not be disturbed by people or other animals when they are resting.
  • Provide your pet with regular opportunities for exercise and play with people or other pets, depending on the species and needs of your pet.
  • Make sure that your pet has the opportunity to exercise properly every day. It is important to keep your pet fit, active and mentally stimulated. If you are unsure how much or what type of exercise to provide, seek advice from a veterinary nurse or suitably qualified pet care specialist.
  • Ensure that where appropriate you train your pet. Use only positive reward based training and avoid harsh, painful or frightening training methods. Training is not only necessary for a well behaved pet, it is great for mental stimulation and bonding. Although most people associate training with dogs, almost any pet can be trained including cats, rabbits, rodents and birds. (View our training article)

4. To house your pet with, or apart from, other animals 

  • Make sure that your pet is never left alone long enough for it to become distressed.
  • Some pets are solitary and do not need to live with other animals, for example some dogs, cats and certain types of rodents prefer to be live as a sole pet, but others such as rabbits, guinea pigs and rats are very social and should be housed with one or more companions of the same species.
  • If your pet lives on it’s own make sure that it has opportunities to spend enough time with people so that it does not become lonely or bored.
  • In the case of dogs, you should  ensure that your dog has plenty of opportunity to meet, socialise and play with other friendly dogs. Encourage your dog to be friendly towards other dogs from an early age. There are some dogs that just don’t like other dogs, so in this case you will need to ensure they have plenty of contact from you.
  • Animals should be given regular opportunities to socialise with people and, where appropriate for the species of pet, other animals from an early age.
  • It is important that if you keep more than one pet of the same or different species, that they get on well together and do not fight. They must have plenty of space to move away or hide from each other if necessary.
  • When pets live together adequate extra resources must be provided for some species, for example separate water bowls, food bowls, litter trays and toys. This will help avoid any conflict and tension over valuable resources. With dogs you may need to make an effort to provide them with 1-1 time with you and without the other dog.
  • If your dog is fearful of, or aggressive towards other dogs or people, or if certain social  interactions distress or frighten your dog we advise you seek appropriate advice from a qualified canine behaviourist.

Some animals need the company of others of their own species

5. To protect your pet from pain, suffering, injury, illness and disease

  • You need to take precautions to keep your pet safe from injury.
  • If you notice any changes in your pet’s behaviour or normal routine you should contact a veterinary practice and follow the advice you are given.
  • Check your pet regularly for signs of injury, disease or illness.
  • Maintain your pet’s condition, for example grooming and removing any knots in the coat (or get a groomer to do this for you) , making sure there is no faecal matter and urine on the the coat and making sure that your pet is fit and well.
  • If you recognise signs and symptoms of disease, suspect that your pet is in pain, ill or injured or if you have any concerns about its health or welfare contact a veterinary practice and follow the advice regarding treatment.
  • Ensure that your pet has regular veterinary health checks and that you provide preventative health care, where appropriate to the species of pet, for example vaccinations, booster vaccinations, worming, flea treatment and neutering.
  • Clean up after your pet including cleaning the toileting area and cage or enclosure regularly and with the appropriate, safe cleaning products to avoid disease and illness.
  • Protect your pets from ingesting or coming in to contact with harmful household items and substances such as medicines and foods intended for humans or other animals, cleaning products or antifreeze.  You should always seek veterinary advice if you suspect that your pet has eaten anything harmful.
  • Collars on cats and dogs should be of the correct size and fit, and should not cause any pain or discomfort; dogs are required to wear a collar and identity tag when in a public place by law.
  • If your pet is microchipped remember to keep the microchip database up to date with any changes in your contact details.
  • You should seek the advice of your veterinary practice before breeding your pet and take all reasonable steps to ensure that both the male and female pets are fit and healthy, with no inheritable diseases or conditions and that you will be able to find suitable homes for the offspring.

Every person that owns and/or looks after an animal must take this act into consideration so that they can be sure they are providing the right care for that animal at all times.  

Dog-specific Laws

As a responsible dog owner, there are several laws regarding dog ownership that you should be aware of and we have put the most important ones into this article.

Microchipping of Dogs (Control of Dogs Order)

All dogs in England must be microchipped and registered on an approved database by the time they are 8 weeks old. Breeders will need to microchip their puppies before they are transferred to a new owner. and new owners will be responsible for updating the microchip with their details. The owners/keepers of the dog must ensure that their details are kept up to date on the microchip database for their dog.

More information on Microchipping

Identification (Control of Dogs Order)

Your dog must wear an identity disk or tag on his or her collar (or harness) while in a public place i.e. anywhere outside your property. The tag must have, at the very least, your surname and address on it; a contact telephone number is optional. This law applies even if your dog is microchipped and there is a fine of up to £5000 that may be given if your dog is in a public place and not wearing some form of ID. This applies regardless of whether you are with your dog or not.

Dog Law ID Tag

Many dog owners are unaware that this is a legal requirement!

Public Spaces Protection Orders (Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act
and the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime & Policing Act)

Some public areas in England and Wales are covered by Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) – previously called Dog Control Orders (DCOs). There should be signs up designating these controlled areas

In public areas with PSPOs, you may have to:

  • Keep your dog on a lead – this may be all of the time or during certain hours and times of the year.
  • Put your dog on a lead if told to by a police officer, police community support officer or someone from the council.
  • Stop your dog going to certain places – like farmland or parts of a park
  • Limit the number of dogs you have with you (this applies to professional dog walkers too)

If you ignore a PSPO, you can be fined a £100 on the spot fixed penalty notice or up to £1,000 if it goes to court (You can’t be fined if you’re a registered blind dog owner).

Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act – Cleaning Up After Your Dog (Poop Scooping)

It is illegal to let your dog foul in a public place and not clean it up. Claiming that you are unaware that your dog had defecated or not having the correct equipment with you (i.e. poop bags), is not an acceptable excuse. Dog poo on pavements and in playing/green areas is not only unpleasant for other people and animals, but it also carries health hazards.

You can face an on the spot fixed penalty fine of £50 -£80 if you do not clean up after your dog. If you refuse to pay the fine you can be prosecuted and face a court appearance with a fine of up to £1000

Clean up after your dog. Not only is it against the law to let your dog foul in public places, it's unpleasant for other people too.

Clean up after your dog. Not only is it against the law to let your dog foul in public places, it’s unpleasant for other people too.

Stray Dogs (Environmental Protection Act)

If the owner fails to come forward and pay the Council’s fees within 7 days from date of seizure or service of a notice, the Council may rehome the dog or may have it put to sleep.

Yet another reason why your dog should wear an id tag and be microchipped.

Control Of Your Dog – Dangerous Dogs Act and the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime & Policing Act

It is against the law to let a dog be dangerously out of control. This now applies to both private property and public places.

  • You must be able to control your dog at all times, this means being able to call your dog back to you and making sure that he or she responds to you.
  • Your dog must not jump up at or chase other members of the public. Even the friendliest or smallest of dogs can cause damage by jumping up at someone, especially a child or an elderly person.
  • If there is any possibility that your dog is might attack another dog or a person he or she must be muzzled in public places.
  • You must not train or encourage your dog to attack/threaten people or other dogs.

Your dog is considered dangerously out of control if it:

1. Injures someone

2. Makes someone worried that it might injure them

3. It attacks a Guide Dog

A court may also consider your dog dangerously out of control if

1. It injures someone’s animal

2. If the owner of the animal thinks they could be injured if they tried to stop your dog attacking their animal

Depending on the severity of the offence you could be faced with a prison sentence of  between 6 months and 14 years and/or an unlimited fine. Your dog may be destroyed and you may not be able to own dogs in the future.

If your dog is likely to bite someone then you must take every precaution to prevent this from happening

If you think your dog might bite or attack someone then you must take every precaution to prevent this from happening

Walking and Travelling With your Dog (The Road Traffic Act)

It is an offence to have a dog on a designated road without it being held on a lead.

Dogs (or indeed any animal) travelling in vehicles should not be a nuisance or in any way distract the driver during a journey. When travelling in a vehicle, you must ensure that your dog is suitably restrained, either in a crate/carrier, behind a dog guard or by using a seatbelt harness. A dog that is loose in a car can cause an accident very easily.

If you are involved in a collision between your vehicle and a dog, you must stop, and the police must be informed. The driver of a car involved in a collision with a dog MUST stop and stay on the scene until the police have given the driver permission to leave, which usually happens after they have attended the scene (If you see someone hit a dog with a car and drive off, inform the police and give them as much detail as possible).

If the dog was loose at the time of the incident, the owner of the dog may be liable for any damage caused to the car or any injury caused to the driver (see third party liability below), which is another great reason to insure your pet.

Noise Nuisance (Environmental Protection Act)

A barking dog can be classed as a statutory nuisance if it is intrusive and irritating and is affecting someone’s quiet enjoyment of their property. If a complaint is made to the local authority, they may serve a Noise Abatement Notice.  For more information read our barking dogs article.

Causing Distress to Farm Animals (Protection of Livestock Act)

You must never let your dog off the lead anywhere near livestock (farm animals/horses) unless you can be absolutely sure that he or she won’t go anywhere near them. You are responsible for what your dog does, and if your dog is worrying livestock -“Worrying” means attacking, chasing in a way that could cause injury, suffering, abortion or loss of produce, or simply being loose (not on lead or otherwise under close control) in a field or enclosure containing livestock -,  you can be fined up to £1,000 plus compensation to the farmer.

You could also be prosecuted under the Dangerous Dogs Act, meaning a much harsher sentence for you and possibly also your dog, if he or she was deemed to be dangerously out of control.

farm

Farm animals get worried by dogs very easily

Third Party Liability (Animals Act and Dangerous Dogs Act)

The keeper of a dog is strictly liable for any damage caused by the dog in certain circumstances. This can include destruction of property and personal injury, illness or death (including the damage done to a person or their car if they hit your dog in the road!) It is recommended that you take out third party insurance liability cover as a precaution.

Please note

The above information is only a guideline of the laws involved in pet ownership, for further and more in-depth information on dog law we recommend that you visit www.legislation.gov.uk

The law surrounding dog ownership can be very complicated especially if a dog has injured someone. If you are concerned or you are involved in a case about your own dog, we recommend that you contact a dog law specialist as soon as possible for advice.

Tooth Problems Of Rabbits and Small Pets

rabbits and rodents

At Castle Vets we see many rabbits and rodents with a variety of different dental problems. The teeth of most animals (including humans) stop growing after the initial development period, but rabbits, chinchillas, guinea pigs and rodents have teeth that grow continuously throughout their lives, which means dental problems will develop if these pets are unable to grind their teeth down through feeding and chewing.

Symptoms of a dental problem

  • Decreased appetite, your pet may stop eating completely or only manage very small amounts at a time.
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at or rubbing their face on things
  • Swellings around the jaw area or under the eye
  • Weight loss
  • Runny eyes (one or both eyes may be involved)
  • Discharge from the cheek or jaw area
  • Overgrown teeth may be visible

If your pet is showing any of these symptoms, please book an appointment with your vet straight away.

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Pet Insurance Explained

Owning a pet is a very rewarding experience but it is also a lifelong financial responsibility. Every year many pets become ill or are injured and there is no National Health Service for pets, so an emergency visit to a veterinary practice with a sick or injured pet could be quite expensive and for this reason vets and nurses recommend pet insurance.

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Summertime Pet Care

summer

With summer in full swing most of us are spending more time outdoors enjoying the warm weather (when it occurs!) Your pets will hopefully be enjoying the weather too but there are a few things you can do to ensure they stay comfortable and safe in the summer months.

How To Keep Your Pet Cool On Warm Days

  • Provide fresh drinking water at all times. Of course you are doing this already, but it is really important to check water bowls and bottles frequently and freshen the water as necessary as your pets will likely be drinking more in the warmer weather. If you are taking your dog out in hot weather it is a good idea to take water and a bowl with you.
  • Provide access to a shaded area and make sure your pet can get out of the sun. Watch out for pets who may be sun-worshipers and try to encourage them into the shade if possible. Make sure hutches and runs are moved to shaded areas too. If it is too hot outside bring your pets inside.
  • Use pet-safe sunscreen to prevent sunburn. This is especially important for pets with white ears, pink noses and/or hairless tummies.
  • Think about ventilation and air cooling. Make sure hutches and cages are well ventilated. You can use a fan to cool and move the air in a room (placing a bottle of frozen water directly behind it, will help even more) but make sure your pet can get out of the air flow, cannot touch the fan and cannot chew the electrical cable.
  • Think about the best times for exercising dogs. Early in the morning and later in the evening will often be slightly cooler. A good rule of thumb is if the pavement is too hot for you to touch your wrist to for more than a half a minute, it is too hot for your dog’s paws.
  • Move cages containing indoor pets away from windows and/or direct sunlight, these can soon heat up to unbearable temperatures.
  • Avoid long journeys in cars if possible and definitely do not leave your pet in a parked car, caravan or conservatory (see our heatstroke article)
  • Use water to help your pet cool down. Some pets will really appreciate some water to cool off in, dogs especially like to play in paddling pools, but they should always be supervised.  Some pets may like a gentle spray with some water to help keep them cool but if your pet does not like it, don’t do it.

  • Provide cooling places and objects such as a wet towel on the ground for pets to lie on or access to nice cool kitchen tiles. You can freeze water in plastic bottles or ice packs and wrap these in a towel then place near to your pet – rabbits and dogs love lying on or against these in the hot weather (just make sure the icy surface is not directly next to their skin. (Make sure your pet is not going to chew these objects though – especially ice packs as they may contain chemicals) You can also use ceramic tiles that have been chilled for small animals to lie on.
  • Check Habitat Temperatures Carefully for tropical fish tanks and reptile vivariums as these may get too hot if the external temperature rises.
  • Watch your pet for signs of heatstroke. This can happen to any species of pet, but is more common in animals that are overweight, senior, hyperactive even in hot weather, short nosed breeds, or animals that have existing health problems with their heart or lungs. Symptoms of heatstroke can include Rapid or frantic panting, Excessive thirst, Anxious behaviour, Rapid heart/pulse rate, Dizziness and/or disorientation, Collapse. See our article on Heatstroke for more information
  • Don’t forget the wildlife. Small, shallow bowls of water dotted around your garden will help out greatly.

Summertime Hazards

Barbecues and Parties

These will be on the agenda for a lot of households but, while they are fun for us, they are a scavenging hazard for ourpets! In the summer months veterinary practices often see a lot of pets with tummy upsets or burns after scavenging food, as well as pets that need operations to remove things like corn cobs, bones and wooden meat skewers that have been eaten and got stuck in the stomach or intestines.

If you have a nervous pet who becomes distressed when you have lots of visitors, make sure he or she has a room they can retreat to where they will be undisturbed.

Flystrike

This is another common summer problem. It occurs when a fly lays its eggs on an animal and the maggots that hatch eat the flesh of the animal. Flystrike mainly affects rabbits, but other pets including dogs and cats can and do get affected. The flies are attracted to soiled bottoms, poo and wounds, so make sure you check your pet daily and keep hutches, cages and bottoms clean. Flystrike is a veterinary emergency, so if you suspect your pet has flystrike contact your vet quickly.

Grass Seeds and Plant Awns

These can be a real nuisance at this time of year and we see a lot of patients (particularly dogs), with grass seeds and plant awns embedded in various parts of their bodies. Check your pet’s coat daily and remove any seeds or awns that you find. (You can read more in our Grass Seed article)

If you have any questions regarding your pet’s care or would like any advice then please contact the practice on 01189 574488 or through our website

Rabbit Nutrition – Rabbit Awareness Week 2017

Rabbit_eating_carrot

Nutrition plays an enormous part in rabbit health and at Castle Vets we find that a poor diet can be responsible for many problems in pet rabbits including bad teeth, weight gain, poor gut motility, tummy upsets and bad skin.

Rabbits have cleverly evolved over thousands of years to extract all the nourishment they need from the poor quality vegetation available to them in the wild. This means that our pet rabbits require a diet that is low in calories and very high in fibre. If a rabbit is fed on a diet that is high in calories and low in fibre it can lead to problems with obesity, soft stools or diarrhoea, bone and tooth problems.

In order to look after your rabbits nutritional health you will need to provide the following things

Water

Fresh, clean water should be available at all times. Even if your rabbits eat a lot of greens and may appear not to drink much, water must always be available. It can be provided in gravity bottles or in bowls (although bowls tend to become soiled very quickly). Bowls and bottles should be cleaned regularly and bottles should be checked for leakage.

Food

The following three foods are listed in order of importance:

FEEDING HAY/DRIED GRASS – low in calories, high in fibre.
FRESH VEG – medium calories, medium fibre.
DRIED FOOD – high in calories, low in fibre.

1. Hay/Dried Grass

Hay (feeding hay) is the staple diet of your rabbits and should be fed AD LIB (as much as your rabbits will eat) and should make up at least 85-90% of a rabbit’s daily food intake. The fibre that is in hay is extremely important as it helps keep the food moving through the gut. It also contains other essential proteins and nutrients. Rabbits eat small amounts of food several times throughout the day and good quality grass hay must be available in unlimited amounts at all times. Alfalfa hay should be avoided, as this can contain excessive calcium.

You can use the good quality feeding hay that is sold in bales to feed horses or you can buy dried grass and hay from pet shops which will come in a variety of different types and ‘flavours’. Nice long strands of hay and dried grass are preferable because rabbits have to spend more time chewing the long fibres and this is better for their teeth and digestion. If you do buy large quantities of hay, make sure you store it carefully to prevent it becoming damp or mouldy – we find it lasts longer and stays fresher when stored in a plastic bin or box rather than in plastic bags.

The best way to offer fresh hay to your rabbits is by using a hayrack. This keeps the hay clean and eliminates much of the waste through hay getting trampled or soiled. As a rule there should be a small amount of hay left over each morning, then you know that you have made enough available for your rabbits.

2. Fresh Foods

Vegetables – Vegetables should be given to your rabbits daily. The hay can lose some of its vitamins when the grass is dried, therefore it is important to supplement the hay diet with fresh greens. A minimum of 3 types of fresh vegetables should be given daily alongside the hay. Variety is the key so try and offer small amounts of several items. Young rabbits should be introduced to new foods gradually, a small piece at a time.

A carrot or other root vegetable can be suspended from the hutch roof; this helps to increase feeding time and also enriches the rabbit’s environment and creates an interesting feeder toy.

The following are some examples of vegetables that can be given, but care should be taken not to feed large quantities of leafy greens or calorific veggies such as carrots and sweet potato.

  • Artichoke leaves
  • Asparagus 1 or 2 spears
  • Beetroot (small amounts)
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts 1 or 2
  • Cabbage (Pak Choi / Spring Greens) 1 or 2 leaves
  • Carrot (only give leaves occasionally)
  • Cauliflower
  • Celeriac (peeled)
  • Celery (including leaves)
  • Chard
  • Chicory
  • Courgette & flowers
  • Cress
  • Cucumber (few slices)
  • Fennel
  • Kale (small amounts ½ a leaf)
  • Lettuce (small amounts only)
  • Parsley (few sprigs)
  • Parsnip
  • Pepper (bell) (Not seeds or stalks)
  • Pumpkin
  • Radishes
  • Rocket
  • Runner beans
  • Spinach (1/2 leaf only)
  • Squash (peeled)
  • Swede
  • Sweet potato (small amounts peel 1st)
  • Sweetcorn (baby) 1 or 2
  • Turnip (peeled) small amount occasionally

Fruit – Fresh fruit should only be given in small quantities due to the increased sugar content. Too much can lead to tooth decay and obesity problems.

  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Banana
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Mango
  • Melon
  • Nectarines
  • Papaya
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes cherry or vine (NOT the leaves or stalks)

3. Dried Food

If a dried food is to be offered then a nutritionally balanced food, presented in a pellet or nugget form, can be offered every day. We don’t recommend a muesli or mixed flake diet because rabbits fed on these diets can become picky about which bits they eat and therefore may not receive a balanced diet. A pellet or nugget diet prevents picky eating and will ensure your rabbits are getting the right amount of nutrients.

A maximum of 20g per day is enough to feed a pair of adult rabbits of approximately 2.5kg bodyweight and it is important to accurately weigh the amount of food to be fed. The aim is to keep adults at a constant weight so regular weighing of your rabbit is essential. Do not estimate the amount you should be feeding – overfeeding of dried food is one of the main causes of health problems in rabbits seen by veterinary surgeons. If your rabbit starts to put on too much weight, the amount of dried food he or she is receiving should be reduced. Vitamin supplements should not be necessary if your rabbits are getting a balanced diet and an indiscriminate usage of vitamins may lead to overdose and serious disease.

Nugget-type food may look unappetising to us, but it is much better for your rabbits than the muesli-type food

Food and Enrichment Toys

There are many food and boredom breaker toys available for rabbits. Some of these are made of tightly packed grass or hay and others are made from fruit wood. You can also by little ‘cages’ or containers to put fruit and vegetables in so that they hang from the top of the cage. Food toys will ensure your rabbit has lots of variety and provide mental stimulation.

Natural Food and Grazing Opportunities

A run or grazing ark is essential to provide exercise and grazing for a few hours each day, weather permitting, preferably at dawn and dusk when rabbits are more naturally active. If a garden is enclosed and rabbit proofed then your rabbits can be allowed free run of the garden. However, it is important to ensure protection from predators, either wild animals or other domestic pets. Safe plants for rabbits such as Clovers and vetches can be planted for your rabbits to nibble on and can help provide variety to the diet. Please also be aware that some plants can be poisonous to rabbits, so make sure they do not have access to these.

Plants that are safe for rabbits and toxic to rabbits (PDF)

  • Basil
  • Borage
  • Calendula
  • Camomile
  • Chickweed
  • Clover (leaves and flowers)
  • Coltsfoot
  • Coriander
  • Comfrey
  • Dandelion
  • Dill
  • Goose grass
  • Lavender (not while pregnant)
  • Mallow
  • Mint (peppermint)
  • Nasturtium
  • Nettle
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Plantain
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Shepherd’s purse
  • Sow Thistle
  • Thyme
  • Yarrow

rabbits

How To Change Your Rabbits Diet

It is extremely important never to change your rabbit’s diet suddenly. Gradual changes should be made over a period of at least 2 weeks. This is to allow the rabbit’s digestive system time to adjust to the changes being made. Give your rabbit a healthier diet by introducing hay, grass and greens and change the dried food to a high fibre one as discussed above. Grass and greens should be introduced gradually to reduce the likelihood of diarrhoea.

Mix the new dried food in the same feeding bowl with the original food in a ratio of 1 measure of the new food to 3 measures of the original food. Feed this for 3-4 days to ensure your rabbits are eating all of it. Watch carefully for signs of loss of appetite, abnormally runny droppings, bloating and any changes in behaviour and demeanour as these may indicate that your rabbits are not adapting well to the new diet. If everything is normal, increase the quantity of the new dried food and decrease the quantity of the original food to give a ratio of half of the new food and half of the original food, again feeding this for 3-4 days and watching for any problems as before. If all is ok then increase the ratio to 3 measures of the new food to 1 measure of the original food for another 3-4 days, and finally 100% of the new dried food.

Useful links for rabbit care

Action For Rabbits

Rabbit Awareness Week

RSPCA Information Sheet

House Rabbit Society

Best4Bunny

Free Rabbit Advice Clinics

Copyright Castle Vets Pet Healthcare Ltd

Rabbit & VN

The veterinary nursing team at Castle Vets offer FREE rabbit clinics for advice on rabbit care and welfare for any rabbits that need it all year round (by appointment only). During the month of June we will also be offering Free rabbit nail clips to those that need it as part of our Rabbit Awareness Month.

Our veterinary nurses are happy to chat to anyone who is thinking about getting some rabbits about how to look after them and the costs that may be involved.

If you would like any information on rabbit health or have any questions, please contact us and we will be happy to help.