Make sure your rabbit is protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
Things you should do
- Get your rabbits neutered, unless they are intended for breeding and provisions have been made to care for both parents and offspring. Before allowing rabbits to breed, seek the advice of your vet to ensure they are suitable for breeding in terms of their health and personalities.
- Before deciding to buy/acquire a rabbit, make sure you find out how he/she has been bred, what he/she has been fed and how he/she has been cared for. Make sure you know if he/she has had (or may be prone to) any health or behaviour problems before you buy him/her, and always check with a vet if you are unsure about anything.
- Feeding your rabbit the correct diet of mainly hay and/or grass will help prevent a lot of common diseases such as dental and gut disease. Check that your rabbit is eating every day and that he/she is passing plenty of dry droppings. If your rabbit’s eating or drinking habits change or the number of droppings gets less or stops, talk to your vet straight away as he/she could be seriously ill.
- Check your rabbit for signs of illness or injury every day, and make sure this is done by someone else if you are away. In warm weather you should check the fur and skin around your rabbit’s rear end and tail area twice a day, as urine staining or droppings that are stuck will attract flies, which can lay eggs and cause flystrike, which is often fatal.
- Consult a vet immediately if you suspect that your rabbit is in pain, ill or injured.
- Front teeth and nails should be checked at least once a week as these can grow quickly. Only a vet should correct overgrown or misaligned teeth.
- Take your rabbits for a routine health check at your vets at least once each year.
- Get your rabbits vaccinated regularly against myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD), as advised by your vet.
- Prevent your rabbits from having contact with wild rabbits or areas where wild rabbits have been.
- Give your rabbits treatment for external and internal parasites (e.g. fleas and worms) as necessary, as advised by your vet.
- Only use medicines that have been specifically recommended for your individual rabbit by a vet. Some medicines used for other animals can be very dangerous to rabbits.
- Ensure your rabbits' coats are kept in good condition by grooming them regularly. If you are unsure how to groom your rabbits properly seek advice from a pet care specialist.
- Make sure your rabbits can be identified, ideally via a microchip (ask your vet for advice), so they can be treated quickly if injured or returned to you if lost.
- Consider taking out pet insurance to ensure your rabbits are covered if they need veterinary treatment.
Watch our videos on health checks and handling.
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- Rabbits feel pain in the same way as other mammals, including people.
- Rabbits are not good at showing outward signs of pain so may be suffering a great deal before anything is noticed. A change in the way a rabbit normally behaves can be an early sign he/she is ill or in pain. If a rabbit is not eating or is more quiet than usual, he/she is highly likely to be ill or in pain. Read more about rabbits' behaviour.
- Rabbits are vulnerable to many infectious diseases and other illnesses, especially dental disease. They can catch deadly infectious diseases from wild rabbits.
- Rabbits that are stressed are much more likely to become ill.
- Un-neutered female rabbits are at a high risk of developing cancer of the womb, and un-neutered rabbits are more likely to fight if kept together.
- Some breeds of rabbit have been selected for exaggerated physical features which can cause them to suffer and reduce their quality of life.
- Certain breeds are particularly prone to inherited disorders and diseases.
- Rabbits which can be easily identified (e.g. via a microchip) are more likely to be reunited with their owner if lost and to receive prompt veterinary care if injured.