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Rabbit Info

Diet

The most important part of owning a rabbit is providing it with the best diet possible. Failure to do so results in various diseases including dental disease, intestinal disease and obesity. Rabbits need a diet based on fibre to have good dental and gastrointestinal health.

Ad lib hay or grass should ensure enough fibre is in your bunny’s diet providing he is not overwhelmed by other more tasty treats on offer. This MUST be the major part of your rabbit’s diet.

To supplement the high fibre hay/ grass your rabbit should have access to a small amount of concentrate diet daily. The pellet forms are much better than the mixes as it eliminates selective eating and ensures a more balanced intake. Overfeeding of concentrate diet can lead to obesity and various related problems as well as dental disease.

Green leafy plants eg broccoli, cabbage, parsley, watercress, dandelion can also be given but only in small amounts as they are very low in fibre and also must be introduced slowly to let the gut’s bacteria adapt.

Signs that your rabbit may have dental disease include reduced appetite, a wet coat under the chin due to drooling and reduced faecal output. Intestinal disease may present with anorexia (being off food) and reduced faeces present in hutch due to the guts not moving the contents through. It may also present with soft faeces collecting around the back end due to lack of caecotrophy (ingesting and recycling their faeces which normally produces the hard pellets).

If you see any of these signs then please contact us immediately as early intervention is essential.

Housing

Rabbits can be kept indoor or outdoor.

Outdoor rabbits must be protected against extremes of weather. The hutch should be raised off the ground and placed within an enclosure or run to allow sufficient exercise. Care must be taken to provide areas for your bunny to hide in case of alarm and the area must be secure in terms both of escape and also to protect against predators.

Indoor rabbits should also have a secure area to reduce risk of injury when you are not with them. They must be allowed and encouraged to exercise as much as possible to prevent obesity and all its related problems.

Vaccinations

There are two diseases affecting rabbits that we can prevent through vaccination. The first is Myxomatosis. Myxomatosis is a viral infection which is spread through biting insects. Initial signs of infection include swelling of the eyelids and genital area but response to treatment even at this stage is invariably unsuccessful and euthanasia is the only humane option. These are both prevented by annual vaccination with a combined vaccine.

E. Cuniculi infection in rabbits

Encephalitozoon Cuniculi is a parasite which is becoming widespread in the domestic rabbit population. The parasite is usually spread through urine contaminated food or water. Clinical signs may not occur for several years after infection and most commonly include head tilt, ataxia, weakness of the hind limbs but some may present for urinary incontinence or eye disease.

Treatment is difficult and often unrewarding and many affected animals have to be put to sleep. It is also a zoonosis – this means that it can also infect humans particularly those who have poor immune systems.

So with this parasite prevention really is better than cure. Because most rabbits will have been exposed to the parasite at the time of purchase it is best to treat your new rabbit straight away with a 28 day course of wormer called fenbendazole which is given by mouth at home. The reason that it is such a long course of treatment is that the parasite spores can survive in the environment for four weeks and hence reinfect your bunny, Providing your rabbit has no further contact with any other domestic rabbits this treatment would not need to be repeated. (This is the same for outdoor bunnies as wild rabbits are not thought to be a source of infection). Should you wish to introduce another rabbit then the same regime would apply to the new rabbit.

Should you have any further queries regarding this please speak to one of our vets.

Neutering

Neutering prevents unwanted pregnancy or false pregnancies and will modify behaviour in both male and female rabbits. It is also recommended in female rabbits to prevent against uterine tumours or uterine infection.

Generally we prefer to neuter at 4 months of age but can be done at a later age if necessary.