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Facts about your Rabbit

Published Friday 31 January 2014 by Heather Smith MVB, CertSAM, MRCVS

 Rabbits are sociable little animals and make great pets. They have a relatively long life span of 6-10 years and there are over 65 breeds. Rabbits do like to have a companion, however neutering of multiple groups is recommended to stop fighting or unwanted litters.

Rabbits can live outdoors- in a hutch raised from the ground to protect them from rodents and dampness. Also, they can be kept indoors and trained to use a litter tray. Diet is mainly complete pellet based, but rabbits should always have free access to hay or grass to prevent dental and digestive disorders.

Foods to avoid include potatoes, rhubarb or tomato leaves, bread, breakfast cereal. Rabbit handling should be relaxed and quiet. Start by stroking at floor level and lift with support under the hind legs, as rabbits can easily sustain spinal injuries during a struggle.

Common rabbit ailments that require a veterinary visit include:

  • Tooth problems- You may notice weight loss, a wet chin or dropping of food.
  • Fly strike- Common in outdoor rabbits during the summer. Fly eggs are laid in the tissue around the rabbit’s bottom and can hatch into maggots. Fly strips and a clean hutch can help discourage flies.
  • Pasteurella multocida- causes snuffles, sneezing and nasal discharge. This disease may progress into pneumonia which can be fatal.
  • Myxomatosis- causes puffy eyes and swellings around the face/ears/genitals. Virtually all rabbits die as a result so they should be vaccinated for the disease.
  • Viral haemorrhagic disease- again is deadly and infectious so vaccination is recommended. Symptoms are usually lack of appetite, bleeding and a high temperature. 

Rabbits should visit the vet at least once yearly for vaccination boosters and a routine health check.

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