How to keep a rabbit healthy and happy

Health logo © RSPCA publications and brand 2010

To keep your rabbit protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease, there’s a number of actions you can take. Before adopting or buying rabbits, carefully consider how they have been cared for and bred as this can affect their quality of life. It’s then important that your rabbits are neutered unless intended specifically for breeding. Day to day, your rabbits will need to be monitored to ensure that they are eating daily, and passing plenty of dry dropping. Also, check for signs of illness, injury or changes in behaviour to keep on top of your rabbit’s health.

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.

    - Many vets, including Medivet, CVS UK Ltd veterinary group practices, Companion Care/Vets4Pets, provide health care packages. These can help to manage costs and ensure pets receive regular veterinary check-ups and preventative treatments. Talk to your vet and see if they offer a health care scheme.

    - 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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