Rabbits

Pet owner advice sheets

Keeping your bunny amused

Does your rabbit have toys and objects to play with to keep him amused? Or have you never really thought about giving him something to play with? Why do rabbits need toys? Its readily accepted that cats and dogs need toys to keep themselves amused, but most people never think of giving their rabbits toys... Read more »

Chewing

The fact that rabbits chew is obvious. On walks in the country you can see the evidence of rabbits having chewed the bark of young saplings, or the crop in the field. At home your pet rabbit may have nibbled his hutch, or worse your furniture, books or electric wiring. What is less obvious is... Read more »

Aggressive rabbits

Rabbits have a reputation for being cute and cuddly, and certainly don't give an outward impression of being capable of aggression. However, aggressive behaviour towards people can be a common problem amongst domestic rabbits, and has many possible causes, with treatment aimed at improving the trust between an owner and the rabbit. Understanding aggression In... Read more »

Hyperthermia – overheating

With their dense fur, healthy rabbits in a sheltered environment are tolerant of low temperatures, but cannot tolerate damp or draughty conditions. On the other hand, they cannot pant effectively and don't sweat, therefore are susceptible to overheating. Unfortunately, even with treatment, the prognosis for rabbits with hyperthermia is guarded to poor. What is hyperthermia?... Read more »

How to give eye medication to your rabbit

Eye problems in rabbits are quite common. Tears quickly wash out any treatment put in the eye so eye drops need to be given several times a day. This means you will have to learn how to give the treatment at home. How often do I need to put drops in? Some drops only need... Read more »

How to clip your rabbit’s claws

Clipping your own rabbit's claws may be something that you feel you would like to do instead of taking your rabbit to the vets and asking your vet or nurse to do it for you. If your rabbit is known to be nervous or flighty, then it is safer to get someone to help restrain... Read more »

How to check your rabbit’s teeth

Small dental problems often go undetected in the early stages but as rabbit's teeth grow continuously (2-3 mm per week), small problems can quickly become major problems. It is therefore important to check your rabbit's teeth frequently - perhaps on a weekly basis. The weekly dental check Head and face With your rabbit between your... Read more »

Grooming your rabbit

Grooming your rabbit is important to avoid matting of the fur and maintain a healthy shiny coat. It also helps to build a relationship with your pet and provides an opportunity for you to examine your rabbit to check for any signs of illness. The grooming routine Start a regular grooming routine when your pet... Read more »

Grass and hay

To help promote normal dental wear and provide the high-fibre diet which is essential, rabbits should have access to 'graze' for 4-6 hours a day - this should include hay, grass and wild plants. This is the best way to help ensure that your pet stays healthy and happy. Grass What's in grass? Grass provides... Read more »

Giving your rabbit a health check

It is important to give your rabbit a thorough health check every so often to ensure they are healthy and so any problems can be detected early and treatment commenced as soon as possible. Problems that are treated early stand a much better chance of being resolved, are generally cheaper to treat and mean that... Read more »

Giving medicines to your rabbit

Effective administration of medicine is a key part of most veterinary treatments. In many cases Veterinary Nurses are responsible for administration of medicines to hospitalised patients. It is also important to ensure that you are able to continue medicine administration once your rabbit has been discharged from hospital. Veterinary Nurses may be able to demonstrate... Read more »

Feeding your rabbit

The phrase 'you are what you eat' has never been truer for the rabbit. Recent research by veterinary surgeons and rabbit food companies has shown that most of the common illnesses that rabbits suffer from could be prevented by feeding them a healthy diet. Unfortunately, many pet rabbits are being fed a diet that is... Read more »

Exercise – for a healthy, happy rabbit

Exercise is vital for the health of the rabbit. Well meaning but poorly informed people may describe rabbits as easy to keep because they can be caged and don't take up much space. This idea has led to many rabbits being caged most of their lives resulting in both physical and behavioural disorders. Rabbit ancestors... Read more »

Overgrown teeth

The incisors, premolars, and molars of rabbits grow throughout life. Rabbits do not possess any canine teeth, but do have peg teeth which sit just behind the upper incisors. The normal length is maintained by the wearing action of opposing teeth. Malocclusion (mandibular prognathism, brachygnathism) probably is the most common inherited disease in rabbits and... Read more »

Dental disease in your rabbit

Rabbit's teeth are open-rooted, meaning that they continuously erupt and grow throughout its life. If a rabbit has congenital or acquired dental disease, then the teeth may overgrow or grow distorted, which can cause life-long problems. This factsheet aims to discuss the common causes and treatments for dental disease in rabbits. How many teeth do... Read more »

Dental disease in your rabbit

Rabbit's teeth are open-rooted, meaning that they continuously erupt and grow throughout its life. If a rabbit has congenital or acquired dental disease, then the teeth may overgrow or grow distorted, which can cause life-long problems. This factsheet aims to discuss the common causes and treatments for dental disease in rabbits. How many teeth do... Read more »

Peritonitis

Peritonitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the peritoneum, the membrane that lines the inner wall of the abdomen and covers most of the abdominal organs. Peritonitis can be very severe in rabbits and life threatening in many cases. For this reason it is essential to identify and treat the cause as soon... Read more »

Mucoid enteropathy

Enteropathy refers to any condition affecting the intestines. There are several types of enteropathy, but the most common type that seems to affect rabbits is referred to as mucoid enteropathy. Despite having been around for decades, the condition remains confusing and is still not fully understood. What is mucoid enteropathy? Mucoid enteropathy is a disease... Read more »

Intestinal obstructions in rabbits

Rabbits are frequently diagnosed with gastrointestinal (GI) stasis. However, some of these rabbits may be suffering from an intestinal obstruction, which has an acute onset and requires rapid and very different treatment to GI stasis in order to have a chance of a successful outcome. Although intestinal obstruction is rare in pet rabbits, it is... Read more »

Hairballs in rabbits

Rabbits are very clean animals and groom themselves constantly, which means the stomach contents always contain hair. This hair is normally passed through the digestive system and excreted with the faecal pellets. Why do rabbits get hairballs? True hairballs are very rare in rabbits since it is a normal finding for a rabbit to have... Read more »

Gastrointestinal stasis

When a rabbit's digestive system is compromised, because of illness, pain or stress, then their hydration and food intake is likely to be reduced. This can lead to a reduction in gut motility – known as gastrointestinal (GI) stasis. What is GI stasis? Rabbits are unable to go any significant amount of time without food in their... Read more »

Dirty bottom syndrome

There are a variety of reasons why rabbits may suffer with a dirty bottom, either with faeces or urine, both of which are potential attractions for flies, especially in warmer months of the year when flystrike is a common occurrence. What causes dirty bottom syndrome? If your rabbit is suffering from a dirty bottom it... Read more »

Diarrhoea

In adult rabbits, diarrhoea is quite uncommon. Several conditions can cause diarrhoea, with infections more common in young rabbits (kits/kittens). It is important to check your rabbit daily for diarrhoea as it could be due to a rapidly-progressing disease that requires early treatment or could lead to other problems such as flystrike. What is diarrhoea?... Read more »

Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is a dysfunction of the pancreas. The pancreas is an endocrine organ that possesses clusters of cells known as islets of Langerhans. These secrete insulin into the blood circulatory system in order to control the glucose level in the blood, and stimulate absorption of glucose into cells. Diabetes mellitus is an entirely different... Read more »

Cerebrospinal nematodiasis

Cerebrospinal nematodiasis is an invasion of the central nervous system by nematode (roundworm) larvae and a cause of neurological disease in rabbits that have access to the outdoors. Infected rabbits may show a variety of clinical signs. These can also be attributed to many other disease processes. How is cerebrospinal nematodiasis contracted? Cerebrospinal nematodiasis occurs... Read more »

Muscular dystrophy and other muscular conditions

Generalised muscle weakness in rabbits has numerous causes, many of which are extremely rare or have never been conclusively diagnosed in rabbits, but are important to discuss. By its definition, muscular dystrophy is defined as a degeneration of muscular tissue sometimes caused by faulty nutrition. This has been seen to occur in rabbits as well... Read more »

Hip luxation

Luxation (dislocation) is defined as 'dislocation of a joint so that there is no contact between the articular surfaces'. Rabbits have very delicate skeletons, and as their muscle mass is large relative to their skeleton injuries to joints can easily be caused through trauma or abnormal or excessive sudden movements. In addition, congenital abnormalities are... Read more »

Eye abscesses

Abscesses develop when bacteria enter a part of the body. It is the body's natural defences to try and 'wall off' infection to stop it spreading elsewhere within the body. This can lead to problems when the abscess is located within the region of the eye, since the location is hard to successfully operate on,... Read more »

Arthritis

Arthritis is a well-known, documented condition affecting humans, cats and dogs. R rabbits can often be affected too, especially as they get older, and sometimes this can go un-noticed. What is arthritis? Arthritis is a general term given to the inflammation of a joint or joints, and any joint within the body can be affected.... Read more »

Rabbit proofing your home

Living with a house rabbit isn't something that happens with little or no preparation, and one of the most important things you need to do before moving a bunny into your home is to make the environment safe for them. Remember that chewing and digging are natural behaviours for rabbits and they generally aren't fussy... Read more »

Rabbit companions

Rabbits are social animals; in the wild large groups will live happily together, providing company, security and physical grooming to each other. Company of their own kind is just as important for pet rabbits too. However, to ensure that the bonding process is as trouble-free as possible, there are some simple, but important guidelines that... Read more »

Is a rabbit right for me?

Rabbits are now the third most popular pet animal in the UK. TV programmes like Pet Rescue and Animal Hospital and organisations like the British House Rabbit Association are educating people about responsible rabbit ownership. This is resulting in a change in attitude from the rabbit as pet confined to a hutch at the bottom... Read more »

Housing your rabbit

Whether your rabbit lives indoors or outdoors it needs somewhere to call home. Hutches and runs come in lots of different shapes and sizes. Choosing the right one is important to ensure that you have a happy rabbit. Hutches Dimensions No hutch can be too large. The days when it was thought acceptable to keep... Read more »

Choosing a rabbit

Choosing a new pet is a very exciting time but you should take care not to make decisions about a new rabbit on impulse! Where should I get a rabbit from? Pet shops are the traditional places to buy pet rabbits but, unfortunately, they are not always the best places. Rabbits in pet shops are... Read more »

Choosing a rabbit

Choosing a new pet is a very exciting time but you should take care not to make decisions about a new rabbit on impulse! Where should I get a rabbit from? Pet shops are the traditional places to buy pet rabbits but, unfortunately, they are not always the best places. Rabbits in pet shops are... Read more »

Viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD)

There are several highly infectious and potentially fatal diseases that can affect your rabbit. Viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD or HVD) is one of the most common. There are two strains of VHD (VHD1 and 'new variant' VHD2). VHD1 was first discovered in China in 1984 in rabbits that had been imported from Germany, and it... Read more »

Myxomatosis (‘myxy’)

Italian microbiologist Sanarelli first reported myxomatosis in 1896, when a laboratory rabbit colony he had imported into Uruguay for public health research suddenly died of an extremely infectious disease. The virus was identified in the 1930s and has subsequently been used in the biological control of rabbit populations in Australia and France in the 1950s.... Read more »

Herpes virus infection

The order of herpes viruses is known as Herpesvirales; it is a large group of viruses that includes various strains that infect humans and many types of animals through direct contact with body fluids. The herpes virus is highly contagious and is characterised by latent and recurring infections. It inhabits the cells of the body... Read more »

Encephalitozoon cuniculi

Encephalitozoon cuniculi was virtually unrecognised as a cause of disease in pet rabbits until a few years ago. Nowadays it is much more widely diagnosed amongst pet rabbits, with owners of affected rabbits wanting to learn as much as possible in order to give their rabbits the best care possible. However, the disease isn't a... Read more »

Encephalitozoon cuniculi

Encephalitozoon cuniculi was virtually unrecognised as a cause of disease in pet rabbits until a few years ago. Nowadays it is much more widely diagnosed amongst pet rabbits, with owners of affected rabbits wanting to learn as much as possible in order to give their rabbits the best care possible. However, the disease isn't a... Read more »

Snuffles – the facts

Snuffles is a condition in rabbits that every owner dreads. Once a rabbit develops snuffles it is usually a life-long problem. Fortunately, recent research suggests that it can be prevented just by providing your rabbit with a healthy, balanced diet. Here are some guidelines on how to look after a rabbit with snuffles and also... Read more »

Snoring

Rabbits cannot breathe through their mouth if their nose is blocked. Attempted mouth breathing is a sign of respiratory distress and is often accompanied by a blue tinge to the lips and nose. This is a serious and life-threatening condition that needs emergency attention by your vet. However, anything that obstructs the rabbit's nasal passages... Read more »

Nasal discharge

Discharges from the nose can be clear fluid, mucus, pus, blood or a mixture of substances. The discharge can originate from the nasal area or from deeper in the respiratory tract, e.g. the lungs. There are several causes of nasal discharge, not all of them are infections. The prognosis varies depending on the cause the... Read more »

Nasal discharge

Discharges from the nose can be clear fluid, mucus, pus, blood or a mixture of substances. The discharge can originate from the nasal area or from deeper in the respiratory tract, e.g. the lungs. There are several causes of nasal discharge, not all of them are infections. The prognosis varies depending on the cause the... Read more »

Pododermatitis in rabbits – sore hocks

Disruption of the normal stance or locomotion in rabbits may lead to pressure sores on the base of the feet, known as pododermatitis. Starting as a skin problem, this condition progresses over time to affect deeper tissues and can be extremely debilitating. What is pododermatitis? Pododermatitis is basically a pressure sore, with inflammation occurring where... Read more »

Lice infestation

Rabbits can host a variety of parasites on their fur and skin. These are termed as ectoparasites, since they live on the outside of the rabbit. Lice fall into this classification and can be a problem for pet rabbits. What are the signs of a lice infestation? Clinical signs of a lice infestation may include... Read more »

Flystrike in rabbits

Vets know that with the arrival of the warmer months, comes the common problem of rabbits affected by flystrike being presented to them. This is a deeply distressing condition for owners, the veterinary team and especially the rabbit, which is literally being eaten alive. However, with some simple preventative measures, hopefully your bunny will never... Read more »

Ear canker in rabbits

Ear canker can be a painful and irritating condition for your rabbit. Signs of this condition tend to appear 2-3 weeks after the animal is first infested with mites, therefore early detection of the mites that cause ear canker is important when trying to prevent this condition from taking hold. What is ear canker? Ear... Read more »

Biting and nuisance flies

The most common flies that affect rabbits include green bottles, house flies, face flies, stable flies, horn flies, horse flies and blow fly species. Some species, like blow flies, are attracted to moist decaying environments in which to lay their eggs. Other fly species such as face flies, flesh flies, screw worm flies and bot... Read more »

Alopecia – hair loss

Alopecia is also known as hair loss, and it typically means partial or complete hair loss on areas of the body where hair is normally found. Alopecia can occur in virtually all animals with hair and is normal in some situations (such as baldness in human males). In most animals, however, it is usually an... Read more »

Alopecia – hair loss

Alopecia is also known as hair loss, and it typically means partial or complete hair loss on areas of the body where hair is normally found. Alopecia can occur in virtually all animals with hair and is normal in some situations (such as baldness in human males). In most animals, however, it is usually an... Read more »

Uterine problems

The female rabbit's reproductive tract varies greatly compared to dogs and cats. Although there is a difference in the anatomical make-up of rabbits, they can still experience some of the diseases that affect dogs and cats. How is the rabbit's reproductive tract different to dogs and cats? Rabbits have two uterine horns which open into... Read more »

Urolithiasis

Urolithiasis is the formation of calculi in the urinary tract, also called kidney and bladder calculi or stones, or urinary tract stones. The stones are rock hard crystal aggregations of all shapes and sizes. Sludge is the name given to the thick, almost toothpaste consistency deposit that can build up in the rabbits bladder or... Read more »

Red urine

Bloody urine is rare in rabbits and rodents. Cases of bloody urine in rabbits often turn out to be normal rabbit urine which is simply a deep red colour due to the extretion of plant pigments within the diet. True cases of blood in the urine (haematuria) are often due to stones/sludge within the urinary... Read more »

Rearing orphan rabbit kittens

Handrearing a rabbit kitten or kittens can be an extremely rewarding experience but is not a job to be taken on lightly. The task ahead is difficult, exhausting and there is no guarantee of success. However hard you try, you are a poor substitute for a kitten's natural mother and despite the best efforts of... Read more »

Kidney problems

Like other mammals, rabbits possess two kidneys. The kidneys are essential for filtering out toxins from the body and excreting them via the urinary system. There are many potential problems which can affect the kidneys, with varying degrees of severity. What are the kidneys for? Rabbits produce alkaline urine and rely heavily on renal excretion... Read more »

Excessive drinking and urination

Drinking and urinating more than normal is medically called polydipsia (poly = many; dipsia = drinking) and polyuria (poly = many; uria = urine). Thirst and urine production are a delicate balance controlled by interactions between the brain and the kidneys. Increased urination stimulates thirst, as the body's overall hydration decreases and stimulates thirst mechanisms... Read more »

Excessive drinking and urination

Drinking and urinating more than normal is medically called polydipsia (poly = many; dipsia = drinking) and polyuria (poly = many; uria = urine). Thirst and urine production are a delicate balance controlled by interactions between the brain and the kidneys. Increased urination stimulates thirst, as the body's overall hydration decreases and stimulates thirst mechanisms... Read more »

X-rays and ultrasound

Veterinary medicine has made many advances in the last 10 years and many local veterinary practices are now able to perform x-ray and ultrasound examinations. Why does my vet need to do tests? Your vet can get a lot of information about what might be wrong with your rabbit from talking to you and examining your rabbit. Sometimes your... Read more »

Scanning – the inside picture

Until a few years ago, diagnostic imaging was limited to radiography (x-rays), ultrasound and endoscopy. Although these are still very useful diagnostic tools, there are now far more advanced diagnostic imaging methods, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT), that are being more commonly used in rabbit medicine. What is MRI? MRI... Read more »

Scanning – the inside picture

Until a few years ago, diagnostic imaging was limited to radiography (x-rays), ultrasound and endoscopy. Although these are still very useful diagnostic tools, there are now far more advanced diagnostic imaging methods, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT), that are being more commonly used in rabbit medicine. What is MRI? MRI... Read more »

Samples and tests – how they help your vet

Laboratory tests are used by vets to help them diagnose disease in animals that are ill. Increasingly, they are also used as part of a routine health check to detect hidden disease before the development of obvious symptoms. This allows your rabbit to be treated earlier and more effectively. Tests may be used to show... Read more »

Samples and tests – how they help your vet

Laboratory tests are used by vets to help them diagnose disease in animals that are ill. Increasingly, they are also used as part of a routine health check to detect hidden disease before the development of obvious symptoms. This allows your rabbit to be treated earlier and more effectively. Tests may be used to show... Read more »