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Rabbit health and welfare

Health logo © RSPCA publications and brand 2010

Ensure your rabbit is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

 

Rabbits need:

  • Neutering, unless intending for breeding and provisions made for parents/offspring. Before breeding, seek veterinary advice to ensure health and personality suitability.  
    - Un-neutered females are at high risk of developing womb cancer. 
    - Un-neutered rabbits are more likely to fight.
     
  • Careful consideration. Before owning rabbits, investigate breeding/how they’ve been cared for. See if they’ve had/prone to, health/behavioural problems. Some breeds have exaggerated physical features/prone to inherited disorders/diseases which can cause suffering, reducing quality of life. Ask a vet if unsure. 
     
  • Correct diets, mainly hay and/or grass help prevent dental/gut disease. Check rabbits eat daily, passing plenty of dry droppings. If eating/drinking habits change/quantity of droppings reduce/stop, ask your vet immediately - they could be seriously ill. 
     
  • Checking for signs of illness/injury daily. Ensure this happens when you’re away. 
    - In warm weather check fur/skin around bottom/tail areas twice daily. Urine staining/droppings stuck attract flies, causing flystrike (often fatal). 
    - Rabbits feel pain but don’t show any outward signs so may suffer before being noticed. 
    - Changes in normal behaviour can indicate illness/pain. 
    - Stressed rabbits are more likely to become ill. 
    - Seek veterinary advice immediately if you suspect they’re in pain/ill/injured. See: behaviour.
     
  • Their front teeth/nails checked at least weekly - these grow quickly. Only vets should correct overgrown/misaligned teeth. Rabbits are vulnerable to infectious diseases/illnesses, especially dental disease.
     
  • Veterinary check-ups at least annually. 
    - Treatment for external/internal parasites (e.g. fleas/worms), as advised by vets. 
    - Vaccinating against myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD), as advised by your vet. 
    - Consider pet insurance to cover veterinary treatment. 
    - See: health checks/handling.
     
  • Keeping away from wild rabbits/areas where they frequent – they can carry diseases.
     
  • To be treated with only the medicines recommended for your rabbit by a vet. Other animals’ medicines are dangerous to rabbits.
     
  • Well-maintained coats - groomed regularly. If unsure about grooming seek specialist advice.
     
  • To be identifiable, ideally microchipped (seek veterinary advice), so they can get quickly treated if injured/returned if lost.

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