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Rabbits

Rabbits are very sociable animals and make good indoor and outdoor pets. House rabbits are becoming increasingly popular and as a result we are seeing them more at Beech House Veterinary Centre. Their increase in popularity has also led to more research into feeding, preventative medicine, common diseases, vaccinations, neutering, anaesthesia and surgery. Our vets and nurses at Beech House have a wealth of knowledge and experience with rabbits so if you have any questions please do not hesitate to give us a call.

Feeding and Digestive Health

Many problems that we see with rabbits are associated with their digestive systems. As herbivores, their diet is incredibly important in order to maintain the delicate bacterial biosystem in their intestines. In the wild, rabbits spend much of their time foraging and eating and digesting a variety of fresh grass and plants. Your pet rabbit should be encouraged to mimic this natural diet and foraging behaviour. We recommend that rabbits are fed a diet of mainly fresh grass, timothy hay, and other fresh plants and vegetables.

A complete rabbit feed such as Supa-rabbit should be used as a supplementary feed each day but only making up a small percentage of total diet. Complete, pelleted diets are preferable to mixed muselix diets as rabbits will preferentially eat some parts of the muselix and leave the pellets and can lead to dental disease. There many ways to encourage your rabbit to forage for food which helps encourage physical activity and mental stimulation. Any changes in a rabbit’s diet should be undertaken slowly and we would strongly recommend that you call us for advice before you change your rabbit’s feed.

A rabbit should pass soft partially-digested greenish-brown caecotroph pellets every day, which he or she will then ingest. This is normal behaviour and helps with digestion.

At the practice we have a range of recommended feeds, pro-biotics and treats. Our vets and nurses are knowledgeable and happy to give advice on this most important aspect of rabbit health.

Dental Health

Dental problems are very common but can usually be prevented or slowed with the correct diet. Rabbit teeth are continuously erupting. By feeding your rabbit the correct amount of fresh grass and hay you are encouraging the natural movement of the jaw to help grind their molars down. A complete pelleted diet is preferred to museilix style mixed diets as rabbits will preferentially eat certain parts and leave the pellets which contributes to dental disease.

An appropriate diet helps to prevent overgrowth of molars which in turn can lead to pain and reluctance to eat as well as affect incisor alignment. If you are concerned that your rabbit may be having difficulty eating or is not eating a normal amount then please make an appointment to see one of our nurses or vets. We recommend regular health checks, at least yearly, during which your rabbit will have his teeth examined to be aware of any problems.

Vaccinations and Routine Health Checks

We recommend that we see your rabbit once a year to give them a full health check up including their weight, teeth, eyes, ears and skin. It is also an opportunity for us to advise you on diet and feeding, parasite control and housing.

There are two prevalent and fatal diseases in this country that we can use vaccination to try and prevent.

Myxomatosis is a virus spread by biting insects (like fleas and mosquitos). The signs of infection can include swollen lips, swellings on the inside of the ear and puffy swellings around the anus and genitals. Eating and drinking becomes progressively more difficult and death usually follows within days.

All breeds and types of rabbit can be affected, including rabbits kept solely indoors as the virus is passed by flying insects. Regular vaccination can prevent your rabbit from getting this fatal disease. Myxomatosis vaccine needs to be given every 6 months. Please speak to a vet or nurse if you have any questions regarding rabbit vaccination.

Viral Haemorrhagic Diarrhoea is a very serious condition which causes internal bleeding and shut down of internal organs. It is spread by direct contact between rabbits (both wild and domesticated) but can also be passed via fleas brought into the house on people, clothing or shoes.

There is no cure for VHD and rabbits which contract the disease will die. VHD can be prevented with yearly vaccinations. Regular flea and fly control measures and avoiding pet rabbits coming into contact with areas wild rabbits have been, can help to minimise the risk of infection but vaccination is the best preventative. Please contact Beech House for information on rabbit vaccination.

We would recommend that all rabbits are vaccinated against Myxomatosis virus every 6 months and viral haemorrhagic disease annually. These vaccines need to be given 2 weeks apart. Both diseases are fatal so prevention is better than cure.

Neutering

We recommend that male and female rabbits are neutered at three months of age in order to prevent territorial and aggressive behaviour. Spaying females also prevents tumours of the uterus which are very common in older rabbits.

Flystrike

Flystricke is when flies lay their eggs on the perineum (bottom) of your rabbit. A fly’s maggots are flesh-eating and a rabbit can become very seriously injured by these. If left untreated this condition is often fatal. Make sure you check your rabbit daily during the Spring and Summer as rabbits which are soiled are much more likely to be affected.

Using a spray called “Rearguard” can help repel flies for several weeks or there is a spot on called “Xenex Ultra” which is applied every 2 weeks. There are many predisposing factors involved that contribute to the risk of fly strike. These include sudden changes in diet which can cause diarrhoea. Obesity or arthritis can also contribute, as these rabbits are unable to properly groom.

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