Make sure you health check your rabbits weekly and look out for any changes in their behaviour every day – rabbits can be very good at hiding any health issues until they are really suffering.
Sometimes, even the smallest thing, such as their poo looking a little smaller than normal or not rushing out to receive fresh food straight away, can be a clue to a poorly rabbit. If you have any concerns, act quickly and contact your vet.
Rabbits tend to live for between 8 and 12 years, though many survive into their teens.
Ideally, bring your rabbits indoors and sit them on a towel so they are comfy.
Neutering your rabbits is extremely important. It:
Male rabbits can be neutered as soon as their testicles have appeared – around four to five months. Females can be neutered from five to six months. Although the procedure is now very straightforward and considered safe, it’s extremely important you take your rabbits to a recommended, experienced rabbit vet to avoid complications.
Rabbits can be prone to mites, which can affect them on the body or around the ears. Signs to look out for include:
If you spot any of these conditions, take your rabbits along to a rabbit-friendly vet.
Your rabbits will need vaccinating against both once a year. Both are fatal and easily contracted. Myxomatosis is spread by mosquitos and fleas, so even indoor rabbits are at risk.
VHD is very much a silent killer with little or no symptoms. Spores from the virus can be brought to your rabbits on your clothes if you’ve unknowingly been in contact with it, or if your rabbit comes into contact with a rabbit in the early stages.
If your rabbit passes away suddenly with no obvious reason, have a post-mortem carried out so that positive results can be documented and aid the tracking of the virus’s movements.
Poor dental health is one of the most common killers in rabbits, often because of an incorrect diet. Rabbits should eat a diet of at least 85% hay – if they don’t their teeth may elongate and begin to wear unevenly causing sharp ‘spurs’. These may cause ulceration to the tongue or cheeks. The tooth roots can also break through the jaw bone or grow up into the eye sockets of the rabbit causing pain and abscesses.
Feeding your rabbits the right diet will dramatically reduce the risk and in some cases resolve very early symptoms. Signs to look for include:
A rabbit with perfect teeth can still develop dental issues in later life. Monitor your rabbit closely for signs of problems and visit the vet at least twice a year for regular dental checks.
Unfortunately, dental disease is rarely treatable, only manageable – it can be a very slow and painful end for your rabbit. It may be kinder to euthanize sooner rather than later, with the support of your rabbit-friendly vet.
Fly strike is very preventable, yet it can come on suddenly and cause your rabbit a lot of pain, and even death. Fly strike happens when a fly lays its eggs around the rump or tail area of the rabbit. These look like small grains of white rice. Maggots quickly hatch out and start to feed on your rabbits’ flesh and move up through the genital area. Rabbits commonly at risk include:
If your rabbit is at risk, they will need daily checks to monitor for any signs of eggs or maggots. If you suspect your rabbit has fly strike, get to a vet immediately as time is very limited.
Although not everyone’s favourite subject, it’s important to monitor your rabbits’ poo regularly for any change in size, shape, consistency, smell or amount. Healthy poo should be around the size and shape of a pea or larger in big breeds. It should be light brown and be made up of lots of hay.
Poo is one of the biggest clues to a poorly rabbit, so if you spot anything unusual, contact your vet. Look out for:
Obesity can cause many health problems in rabbits. Signs of an obese rabbit include:
If you suspect your rabbit is obese, contact your rabbit vet for advice about a change of diet and weight management.