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Rabbits

Advice for looking after your rabbit

Behaviour and Housing

Companionship and behaviour

Rabbits are very social animals and ideally should not be kept alone (apart from possibly indoor rabbits which get lots of attention and interaction from the owner). Rabbits should not be kept with guinea pigs as they may fight; plus the different species have different feeding requirements. The best combination is a neutered male and a neutered female rabbit. Un-neutered rabbits are likely to fight. Rabbits are intelligent pets and require a lot of stimulation. They love toys such as tubes and pipes to run through, small boxes to climb onto and so on.
Willow toys can be useful as they are safe to chew. They enjoy digging, running and jumping and it is important to allow them to express these normal behaviours. We recommend regular, careful handling of rabbits to allow them to get used to people. Care should be taken to support their rear end when picking them up. Never pick a rabbit up by their ears. Take care not to lift them too far from the ground as they can jump and injure themselves.

Housing

Rabbits need space and room to exercise. Many are kept in outdoor hutches, although keeping them indoors is becoming increasingly popular. Hutch size should allow the rabbit to stand up on its hind limbs and make at least three or four hops in any direction - the bigger the hutch the better! Eating and toileting areas should be separate, but both cleaned out regularly. The hutch should be secured against predators, sited away from direct sunlight and raised off the ground to avoid damp. Rabbits like to chew and dig, so if kept indoors, the house should be ‘rabbit-proofed’. Particular care should be taken to conceal any electrical wires! All rabbits should have access to a secure, predator-proof outdoor run, minimum size 8ft x 4ft x 2ft.

Diet

This is probably the most important thing to consider when looking after pet rabbits. A large proportion of the veterinary problems we see in rabbits are related to improper feeding which leads to dental disease, gut disorders, and obesity.

Rabbits have a very high requirement for dietary fibre, and have a ‘double digestion’ system, whereby food material goes through the digestive system twice. Therefore, it is very important to feed your rabbit a balanced healthy diet. It is important to adhere to the correct diet, as a rabbit’s teeth continually grow, so their teeth need to be worn down by a fibrous diet.

As a rough guide, about 70% of the diet should be hay/grass, 28% vegetables and only 2% pellets or nuggets, which is about 1-2 tablespoons a day for an average rabbit. They should be given a pellet diet to prevent selective feeding, which should contain a high percentage of fibre and greens such as spinach, kale, broccoli and cabbage leaves are good. IDEALLY NOT LETTUCE OR SWEET TREATS! Instead treats such as carrots, apples and strawberries are perfect.
 
They pass two different sorts of droppings: caecotrophs (sticky faeces), which are usually eaten directly from the anus, and hard, pelleted droppings. If the rabbits do not eat the first faeces (e.g. due to obesity, dental problems, arthritis etc..) then dietary issues can occur.

Neutering

Female rabbits can be neutered from 6 months of age, if you have new male and female rabbits please ensure you keep them separated from 4 months old, as this when they become sexually mature. Unneutered females can develop life threatening uterine tumours or infections as they get older, so it very important that female rabbits are neutered.

Male rabbits can be neutered from 6 months of age, it is important they have a pre op check beforehand to check the rabbit is ready for the anaesthetic, and that both testicles have fully descended.
It is important to have male rabbits castrated, as they can have behavioural changes including aggression or spraying due to sexual maturity. An important point to note, male rabbits can remain fertile up to 8 weeks post-surgery! Therefore, please keep male and entire female rabbits separate during this time to prevent any accidents.

Parasite Protection

Fleas

If your pet rabbit unfortunately becomes infested with fleas, it can be treated with a spot on solution, it important to treat all other pets in the house if this occurs, as fleas can jump! Fleas can spread Myxomatosis, you should regularly check your rabbits coat for fleas, this can be carried at home or in the practice by one of the veterinary nurses if you prefer.

Ear Mites

Signs of a rabbit with an ear mite infestation include:

  • Constant shaking of head
  • Scratching ears
  • Excessive build-up of wax

Ear mites can be viewed with the naked eye. If your concerned that your rabbit has ear mites, either phone the surgery or pop along to see the vet at consultation times, by booking an appointment today.

Cheyletiella

These mites are white in colour that live on the skin surface. They can cause itchiness, hair loss and scurfy skin. There are products available, to treat against this mite.

Flystrike

Flystrike is when flies lay eggs on a rabbit, which hatch into maggots. These maggots then begin to eat flesh within a few hours. It is a very distressing condition for rabbits which can be painful. They can appear restless, uncomfortable or quieter than usual.

Flystrike can occur at any time of year but is more common from spring to autumn. Any rabbit can get flystrike but some factors can increase the risk. These include:

  • Long hair
  • Diarrhoea
  • Obesity
  • Dirty bottoms
  • Damp or dirty living conditions

If you think your rabbit has flystrike please contact the practice immediately, and depending on the severity of its condition it can be seen immediately. Your rabbit may be treated during a consultation or have to be admitted, if it is a severe case.

They will have the affected area clipped and the maggots removed. Then your rabbit will be started on a course of antibiotics & pain relief, along with a supportive nursing care.

Vaccinations

Rabbits receive one yearly vaccine that vaccinates & protects against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease. Rabbits can be vaccinated from 5 weeks of age.

Myxomatosis is a deadly disease found in pet & wild rabbits. Symptoms include becoming very weak, conjunctivitis, swelling and eventually death. Myxomatosis is spread by coming in direct contact with infected rabbits or by fleas that have been in contact with infected rabbits.

Viral Haemorrhagic Disease, unfortunately this disease is fatal and can cause death in 48 hours. Signs include major internal bleeding and bleeding from either nose or bottom. This disease is easily transmitted via infected animals directly or indirectly via fleas. This disease can survive in the environment for several months.

We would also advise for your pet rabbit to be microchipped, in case they decide to go missing when they are outside. The microchip used is the same type that is used in cats & dogs, and is inserted under the skin at the scruff.

If you require any further information or advice, please do not hesitate to contact the practice and speak to one of our staff. Alternatively, you can now book an appointment online.

Practice information

Kilbarchan Veterinary Practice

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  • Mon
    8:30am - 6:00pm
  • Tue
    8:30am - 6:50pm
  • Wed
    8:30am - 5:50pm
  • Thu
    8:30am - 6:50pm
  • Fri
    8:30am - 5:50pm
  • Sat
    9:00am - 11:00am
  • Sun
    Emergencies only

Emergency Details

Please call:

07831 173282
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Find us here:

11 Steeple Street, Kilbarchan, Renfreshire, PA10 2JF
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Please call this number for emergencies:

07831 173282