This June we’re celebrating all things bunny in the form of Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW). Over the past 12 years since RAW first started, it’s become the biggest and best campaign promoting rabbit care and welfare in the UK.
If you haven’t heard of RAW before, you can request an information pack here
This year, the focus is on ‘Protect and Prevent’, which aims to raise awareness of the deadly Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RVHD2) and to ask all rabbit owners to make sure their pets are vaccinated against this and other fatal diseases. You can find out more about RVHD2 and why you need to take action here
DID YOU KNOW?
RAW is a coalition of experts, organisations and welfare charities who have come together with the mission to improve rabbit welfare. Along with Burgess Pet Care, the partners include RSPCA, PDSA, RWAF (Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund), Wood Green, Blue Cross and Ceva Animal Health.
As well as ensuring their pets have essential vaccinations, owners play a huge role in keeping their rabbits happy and healthy.
Keeping a close eye on your buns is the best way to ensure all is well. If something seems not quite right, always act promptly and consult your vet. Our handy checklist can help you keep tabs on your cottontails:
Checklist for healthy, happy bunnies
✔︎ Check that your rabbits are eating, drinking and toileting normally.
✔︎ Keep an eye out for any change in behaviour and any signs of ill health – are they moving/running normally?
✔︎ Run your hand all over them to feel for lumps, bumps, wounds or wetness or any signs of flystrike. This horrible condition occurs when flies lay eggs on a rabbit, usually around the rear, which hatch into maggots and eat the flesh. If you think your rabbits have flystrike then you should seek veterinary assistance immediately. The best way to prevent it is to ensure your rabbits are a healthy weight, keeping their accommodation clean and dry, and by checking them every day in the winter and twice a day in warm weather.
✔︎ Check your rabbits’ nails to make sure they are healthy and not too long.
✔︎ Check your rabbits’ teeth. If they look abnormal, or your pets have watery eyes, there is drool, partly-chewed food or weight loss, then you should consult your vet.
✔︎ Check you rabbits’ weight and body condition score.
✔︎ Take your rabbits for a vet health-check every 6-12 months, or as recommended by your vet.
DID YOU KNOW?
How can you tell you have happy bunnies? Gentle, soft grinding of the teeth communicates contentment. Ears are like a rabbit’s radar, used for tuning in to what’s going on around them. Both ears back is a relaxed rabbit’s way of saying: ‘It’s all good and I can give my radar a rest’. Two bonded rabbits will groom each other and licking is your rabbit’s way of saying: ‘I like you’. To communicate that they are feeling very happy and playful, rabbits use the ‘binky’. This is an amazing acrobatic bunny jump accompanied by twisting the body or kicking the legs. A rabbit that is sitting still or grooming may suddenly flop onto its side and lay still. This can look rather worrying, but it actually means: ‘I’m just so relaxed’.
Some of the most common health conditions in rabbits to be aware of include:
Gastro Intestinal Stasis or Gut Stasis
This is where the digestive system slows down or stops completely. When this happens, bacterial fermentation of food begins to build up and releases gas into the system causing extremely painful bloating, which usually results in the rabbit stopping eating and drinking, in effect starving itself. The best way to help prevent your rabbits from developing gut stasis is by:
• Feeding a high-fibre diet made up of 85-90% feeding hay/fresh grass
• Checking your rabbits’ weight and teeth regularly
• Avoiding muesli-style diets as these are linked to a reduced faecal output. Rabbit nuggets are a much better choice
DID YOU KNOW?
92% of UK vets recommended Burgess Excel
Rabbits in the wild eat huge amounts of fibrous material, spending 80% of their time foraging and eating a variety of grasses. The movement they need to perform to grind grass down also wears down their continuously growing teeth. Without the right amount of coarse fibrous materials in their diet their teeth can grow overlong, which is a form of dental disease.
The best way to prevent dental disease is to ensure that:
- Long-stem feeding hay and fresh grass makes up 85-90% of your rabbits’ diet.
- You don’t overfeed fresh greens, treats or nuggets as this is likely to reduce a rabbit’s hay/grass consumption, so always follow the feeding guidelines on pack.
- Avoiding muesli-style diets.
Rabbits are at risk from mites, fleas, ticks and mosquitos.
- Mites feed on skin and fur cells and irritate the rabbit’s skin. If your rabbit looks like it may have dandruff this can be mites. Your vet will most likely treat the mites with injections or advise on an on-the-spot treatment suitable for bunnies.
- Fleas will jump on and off the rabbit’s body, biting to get some blood. When treating fleas, you can use the same medication you would use for mites, but you need to make sure that their accommodation is treated too. Ensure you use a product specifically for rabbits as not all flea products are suitable and using the wrong ones can be fatal – so always check with your vet.
- Ticks will stay on your rabbit until they have had a full meal of blood and will then hide until they need more. If you find a tick on a rabbit you should contact the vet so they can advise the correct way to remove them (do not just take it off yourself, as this can cause them to burrow in the skin further).
- Mosquitos are very hard to stop in the environment, but if you remove any standing water this can help remove their place to breed. Mosquitos are a major cause of the spread of the deadly disease myxomatosis, so it’s vital that your rabbits are vaccinated.
Snuffles is a bacterial infection in rabbits. The condition can be caused by a few different bacteria and the symptoms look like a cold in humans, with mucus and pus from the nostrils, runny eyes and breathing problems with possibly some wheezing, coughing and sneezing.
- Unlike with humans, these symptoms are very serious for rabbits and you should take your rabbit to the vet as soon as possible, who will likely prescribe antibiotics. The illness is highly contagious, so you should keep an eye on your other rabbit(s), but don’t take them away from each other.
- You will need to treat the area your rabbit lives in with a rabbit friendly disinfectant and everything needs to be kept incredibly clean. Keep your rabbit warm, though if you are bringing them indoors raise the temperature slowly.
For lots more tips and expert advice on keeping your rabbits healthy, download RAW’s Rabbit Health Fact File >>
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