YOUR RABBITS' HEALTH
Keeping your rabbits fit and healthy
You should check that your rabbits are eating correctly and passing droppings every day. Take your rabbits for a veterinary check-up at least once a year. Rabbits are prey animals so will hide signs of ill-health. This is why regular vet visits are really important to help avoid illness.
Many of the common problems seen in rabbits may develop from rabbits being fed an inappropriate diet. It is extremely important that you make sure your rabbit is fed correctly to help avoid health problems. Take a look at the Excel Feeding Plan for more information on the best food for your rabbits.
Common health problems
Dental disease is the most common health problem found in rabbits and is often associated with selective feeding. Dental disease can be caused by a lack of abrasive fibre in their diet which causes the rabbit’s teeth to become overgrown making it too painful for them to eat properly. If you notice one of your rabbits is eating less than usual you should take them to your vet as soon as possible. In order to help prevent dental disease you should feed your rabbit the appropriate diet with 85-90% feeding hay, supplemented by a small portion of nuggets. Hay is a fibre-rich food that helps to wear down the teeth.
Gut stasis is a condition where a rabbit’s digestive system slows down or stops. This can result in a build up of gas and toxins which can be fatal to the affected rabbit. Muesli style diets have been shown to reduce faecal output which may increase the risk of gut stasis.
Prevention is better than cure when it comes to keeping your rabbit healthy. Talk to your vet about your rabbits’ ideal weight and weigh them regularly. Make sure your rabbits are getting plenty of exercise and are on a good diet. Muesli style diets have been shown to increase the risk of obesity as rabbits are able to pick out easily digestible carbohydrates and fats. For more information, take a look at the PFMA’s Rabbit Size-O-Meter.
Flystrike occurs when flies lay their eggs in soiled fur. The eggs hatch into maggots and chew their way into the rabbits skin. Rabbits that are fed on muesli style diets may have a higher level of uneaten caecotrophs (sticky droppings) which can stick to their fur and make them more likely to get flystrike. It’s important to check your rabbits daily, especially in the summer as there is an increased risk of flystrike in hot weather. A good diet can help to prevent obesity, dental disease and diarrhoea and guard against fly strike. Check out the Excel Feeding Plan for more information.
Myxomatosis, RVHD1 & RVHD2
Myxomatosis and both strains of Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease are life-threatening diseases and your rabbits should be vaccinated at the earliest opportunity. They are spread by blood-sucking insects, like fleas and mosquitoes. Ask your vet for more details on these vaccinations and how to make sure they are kept up to date.
Pododermatitis, or sore hocks, is a condition where pressure sores form on the bottom of a rabbit’s feet. If left untreated, the sores can become infected. Overweight rabbits or those with long nails put more pressure on their feet and are at a greater risk of developing pododermatitis. Hard, abrasive flooring can also cause pododermatitis. To help prevent this, avoid wire flooring and remove soiled and wet bedding every day. If you have any concerns, seek the advice of your vet.
Rabbit health check
Being prey animals rabbits are good at hiding signs of weakness and ill-health. Therefore, it is important to get into the habit of completing some simple health checks on your rabbits weekly. Not only will this help you spot any potential problems early on, regular handling will help strengthen your bond. When checking your rabbit ensure that they are relaxed and willing to be handled.
Try to avoid washing your rabbits with water as the water makes them feel vulnerable. If you do need to, be very gentle when you bathe your rabbits. However, groom your rabbits daily if possible, to stop them grooming themselves and potentially swallowing fur. This daily grooming will also help get them used to being handled.
Here are some quick checks while grooming you can do at home:
Ears: Check that they are free from mites and fleas.
Eyes: Check that they are clear, shiny, not swollen and free from discharge. Damp, dull or swollen eyes can be symptoms of illness which may lead to blindness.
Teeth: Check their mouths to ensure that there is no excessive drooling. Just be careful! If they’re not comfortable with their mouths being examined, rabbits can bite.
Bottom: Make sure that it is clean, this is especially important in warm weather to prevent the risk of fly strike. Any sticky droppings should be washed off gently and the area dried thoroughly.
Feet: Check for any injuries and ensure that their nails aren’t over grown. If they need trimming seek veterinary advice.
Fur: Check that there are no bald patches and no signs of fleas, mites or injuries. Rabbits’ skin is very delicate and therefore you should use soft, delicate brushes, designed especially for rabbits.
Nails: Check your rabbits’ nails on a weekly basis and seek veterinary advice if they need trimming.
As well as completing regular checks at home, take your rabbits for a full veterinary check up at least once a year. If your rabbit’s behaviour or eating/drinking pattern changes you should seek the advice of a vet as soon as possible.
Neutering your rabbits
You should neuter your rabbits to avoid unwanted litters. Up to 80% of un-neutered female rabbits can develop cancer of the uterus by the age of 5. Neutering your female rabbit at an early age will stop these cancers from developing.
Un-neutered males can be aggressive to other rabbits, whereas neutered rabbits can live happily with male and female rabbits. A neutered female and a neutered male are usually the most successful pairing.
DO YOU NEED MORE ADVICE?
To help you find the right food for your rabbits have a look at our product range.
Alternatively you can call our free consumer care line on +44 1405 862241 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. Our dedicated team of experts will help you make the right choice.
If you should have any concerns about the health of your rabbits, always consult a vet.