This fact sheet provides some information which will help to keep your rabbit healthy. Prevention is far better than cure!
We vaccinate annually against two major diseases in rabbits
- Myxomatosis is a viral disease which is transmitted by insects from infected wild rabbits. It is usually fatal after a period of suffering from sore, swollen eyes and respiratory distress.
- Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (HVD) is a viral disease which kills very quickly by causing severe bleeding disorders.
Surprisingly, rabbits behave like many children, often preferring junk food to the healthier option. They are selective eaters and will choose the cereal component, instead of the pellets, in a standard rabbit mix. Unfortunately this leads to a deficiency of calcium and other minerals which causes weakening of the jawbones and subsequent dental problems.
Rabbits can live happily on grass, some weeds and hay; they do not need anything else. Grass provides the optimum levels of minerals for healthy bone development. Allowing your rabbit to graze in the garden is ideal as this also allows him to exercise at the same time as obtaining a proper diet. This is important as caged rabbits eating high cereal diets easily become obese and are deprived of essential sunlight. Sunlight is necessary for the production of Vitamin D, which is essential in calcium metabolism. For owners who cannot give their rabbits access to fresh grass all year round, good quality hay and small quantities of fresh greens should be made available on a daily basis. Complete pelleted diets may be given in addition to hay, but they should only make up a small proportion of the daily diet.
Neutering of rabbits is considered to be a routine procedure and has much to commend it. In addition to the obvious need to prevent a population explosion in a household, there are a number of other good reasons for neutering.
- Aggression and urine spraying
- The unmated female suffers from a number of hormonal problems, since ovulation only occurs upon mating. False pregnancies can lead to mastitis and aggression. A high proportion of unspayed females develop cancer or infection of the womb, both of which can be fatal.
Every summer we see a number of rabbits that are literally being eaten alive by maggots. This is due to flies laying their eggs around the back passage if the rabbit has had diarrhoea, or is unable to groom properly (e.g. because of mouth problems or obesity). It is therefore very important to keep the hutch as clean as possible (daily cleaning is essential), to feed a suitable diet to prevent obesity and to seek veterinary advice if diarrhoea is seen or if the rabbit is showing signs of oral pain and is unable to groom. Handle your rabbit at least twice a day and check carefully for fly eggs stuck to the fur, before they can hatch into maggots. If eggs or maggots are found, telephone for an appointment as soon as possible, because they develop very quickly. If left untreated the condition is fatal. It can be prevented by the use of Rearguard, a product available from us that is applied every 10 weeks during the blowfly season, beginning in April.