Rabbits

Rabit Welfare Association & Fund

Like every responsible pet owner, you want your bunnies to live a happy, healthy life.

Rabbits are prey species designed to mask signs of diseases, so any signs of illness must be acted upon quickly. Regular veterinary health checks are important to identify any subtle signs of disease. You will also want to make sure you pet is vaccinated, regularly treated against parasites and probably neutered.

Six months after your bunny has had a vaccination with us, we will send you an invitation to a free check up with one of our qualified nurses.

Vaccinations

There are two killer disease that we vaccinate rabbits against- myxomatosis & viral hemorrhagic disease (VHD). Both of these diseases can be transmitted by insect bites so it is recommended that all rabbits are vaccinated, including those kept indoors

Protection is achieved by an injection from 5 weeks of age and annual boosters are important to keep up their immunity. Because twelve months is such a long time in a bunnies life, we will send you an invitation to a free nurse health check 6 months after each vaccination.

Neutering

Neutered rabbits live longer, are easier to litter train and are much happier and more relaxed. Up to 80% of unspayed females develop uterine cancer by 5 years of age. Having your bunnies neutered also means they can be kept together without fighting or breeding. Rabbits are sociable and need the company of other bunnies.

Neutering a rabbit is now a routine operation and the risks of anaesthesia have fallen significant in the last few years. Surgery on any animal can have unexpected complications. But for most rabbits the benefits of neutering far outweigh the very small risk.

Rabbits can be neutered from 5 months of age. They must not have food withheld prior to surgery. Most rabbits can go home the same day, although we sometimes need to keep them in overnight to make sure they are eating ok.

For more information on rabbit neutering have a look at this leaflet by the Rabbit Welfare Association (RWAF) [PDF 259KB]

Diet

A lot of health problems in pet rabbits are caused by incorrect feeding. Rabbits are designed to eat grass. In the wild they would spend most of their time eating grass and a selection of wild plants. This is impractical for most pet rabbits.

The ideal diet for pet rabbits is to provide lots of hay and grass, a large selection of green leafy vegetables and a very small amount of dry food which are used mainly as a supplement. Hay and grass provide the long fibre their guts need to work properly and nibbling helps to reduce boredom and behaviour problems. It also helps to keep their teeth healthy. Rabbit teeth grow constantly and so need to be continuously worn down by eating.

Rabbits have very sensitive digestions so any changes must be made gradually over 1-2 weeks and any new food stuffs should be given in small quantities initially.

Click here for the RWF guide to feeding your pet rabbit.

Click here for more information on plants rabbits can and can't eat.

Flystrike

Flystrike is a horrible condition. It occurs when flies lay eggs on your rabbit, usually around their rear end. The eggs hatch out within hours and maggots start to eat into flesh.

The flies are attracted to damp, dirty or smelly areas. Healthy bunnies can be affected, but rabbits with diarrhoea or difficulty grooming, eg with obesity or arthritis, are most at risk.

Soiled bedding and litter need to be removed often and rabbits must have their bottoms checked at least twice a day in the summer. If their bottom is dirty, wash and dry them thoroughly. Reargaurd or similar products can give some protection, but are not a substitute for regular checks and maintaining hygiene.

An affected rabbit needs emergency treatment, so if you see maggots on your bunny please phone us as soon as possible. If it is out of normal working hours you will be directed to our emergency number.

Sometimes maggots are found too late for us to be able to help and euthanasia will be necessary to prevent further suffering. If they get to us soon enough, your rabbit will need hospitalisation for pain relief, antibiotics, maggot removal and nursing.