There’s nothing more important than doing your best to make sure your rabbits stay healthy. Find out below about how to care for your rabbits and common conditions to look out for.
You should take your rabbits for a veterinary check-up at least once a year and check that they are eating correctly and passing plenty of droppings every day. Rabbits are prey animals so will hide signs of ill-health which makes regular vet visits really important in order to help avoid illness.
If one of your rabbits shows a change in behaviour or in their eating or drinking patterns you should seek the advice of a vet as soon as possible.
You should insure your rabbits to help manage costs to ensure they receive the veterinary care that they need.
You should never wash your rabbits with water as the water makes them feel vulnerable. You should however, groom your rabbits daily if possible, which will help get them used to being handled and is a good opportunity to check for signs of ill-health.
Rabbits’ skin is very delicate and therefore you should use soft, delicate brushes, where possible designed especially for rabbits: http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk has lots of detailed information about how to groom your rabbits and which tools to use. A daily check of your rabbits’ bottoms is recommended to make sure that they are clean. This is especially important in warm weather due to the risk of fly strike. If you do find sticky droppings on your rabbits’ bottom, gently wash them off the affected area and ensure that it is dried thoroughly.
You should also check your rabbits’ nails on a weekly basis and seek veterinary advice if they need trimming.
Dental disease is one of the most common health problems found in rabbits and is associated with feeding a muesli based diet. Dental disease is caused by a lack abrasive foods in a rabbit’s diet, the affected rabbit’s teeth 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. You should also check your rabbits’ teeth regularly.
You should neuter your rabbits to avoid unwanted litters. Additionally, up to 80% of un-neutered female rabbits can develop cancer of the uterus by 5 years, neutering at an early age will stop these cancers developing. Un-neutered males can be aggressive to other rabbits, whereas neutered rabbits can live happily with male and female rabbits.
Many of the common problems seen in rabbits 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. A list of the key problems often seen in rabbits include, Dental Disease, Gut Stasis, Fly Strike, Obesity, Myxomatosis, RVHD & RVHD2.
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. An increased risk of gut stasis is linked to selective feeding.
Flystrike occurs when flies lay their eggs in soiled fur, the eggs hatch into maggots and chew their way into the affected rabbit’s skin. Rabbits fed on muesli style diets have a higher level of uneaten caecotrophs (sticky droppings) which can stick to their fur and predispose them to flystrike. You should check your rabbits daily for urine or sticky poo stained fur to help prevent fly strike.
Rabbits need plenty of exercise or they can quickly become obese. Therefore it is important that you feed your rabbits according to the feeding guides able to avoid them overeating. Again, muesli style diets have been shown to increase the risk of obesity as rabbits are able to pick out easily digestible carbohydrates.
These are both life-threatening diseases and you should vaccinate your rabbits against them as soon as possible. You should also speak to your vet about RVHD2.
Rabbits have complex digestive systems. Food is passed through their gut and this is how caecotrophs are produced, rabbits then eat the caecotrophs and the food is re-ingested.