More bunny info
With close ties to rabbit charities, we see so many fluffy friends visiting our practice. We deal with everything from the cutest bundles of joy, to some rabbits with a bit more of a ‘wild side’. With tips on everything from behavioural issues and training to medical conditions and minimising risk … everything you need to keep your rabbit bright eyed and bouncing.
Acupuncture is a system of healing which has evolved from the Chinese and other Eastern cultures over thousands of years. It is now a process of placing needles into special locations on the body to alleviate pain and increase the recovery rate.
As with humans, there is now a strong body of evidence to support the use of acupuncture in the treatment of animals.
Only veterinary surgeons can treat animals using acupuncture. Caroline trained as a veterinary acupuncturist a number of years ago and is an active member of the ABVA (Association of British Veterinary Acupuncturists).
There are two types of pet acupuncture therapists.
The traditional Chinese therapists use a combination of herbal medicines and acupuncture needling along meridians or energy channels and acupuncture points.
The Western Scientific approach uses fewer needles inserted directly into acupuncture and trigger points. Points selected for needling may be distant from the source of pain. This helps animals to accept the treatment.
Both approaches consider the overall well-being of the pet. Western veterinary acupuncture is used particularly in the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and chronic painful conditions as well as the promotion of skin healing. The Eastern approach is often applied to other disease states too.
Caroline practices the western scientific approach, to complement traditional veterinary medicine and surgery.
Acupuncture is the process of inserting very fine needles into trigger points or muscle bodies which we believe to inhibit the nerve pathways that cause pain; it also improves circulation near to the needles which helps promote healing.
Acupuncture is also thought to stimulate the release of pain relieving chemicals in the brain and spinal cord which result in good levels of pain relief.
Our acupuncture consultations usually last for 30 minutes, Caroline is able to assess the individual before performing acupuncture. Most pets accept this readily and often will become very sleepy and relaxed during the procedure, they are often keen to come in for repeat visits! We recommend an initial course of 4 treatments, usually given 1 week apart.
It’s important to remember that acupuncture is not a replacement for conventional medicine. We use acupuncture in conjunction with conventional medicine offered to maintain your pet’s health and well-being.
Acupuncture is routinely used to treat painful conditions, or slow healing wounds in Cats, Dogs and Rabbits here at My Pets Vets.
The following are examples of the conditions which acupuncture can be of benefit in:
- Arthritis (inflammation of a joint)
- Muscle and ligament sprains and strains (overstretch injuries and inflammation)
- Back Pain
- Lick granulomas and similar chronic skin conditions
- Hip dysplasia
To learn more visit: www.abva.co.uk. Acupuncture works well when combined with the use of our therapeutic light laser here at My Pets Vets.
Don’t forget your bunnies feel the cold too!
The weather has definitely taken a turn towards the wintery over the last few days and we wanted to take the opportunity to remind you that any rabbits (and other pets) kept outside will also be feeling the cold.
You need to ensure they are protected from our harsh winter weather as rabbits, in particular, do not cope well with extreme changes in temperature, remember in the wild they spend a large proportion of their time underground in warrens and tunnels where the temperature rarely alters as earth acts as an insulator.
So, if you are unable to move your rabbits, and other pets, inside during the winter months, you need to reduce the stress caused to them by extreme weather conditions.
There are a number of ways we can do that:
• Insulate the walls and ceiling of your pet’s accommodation with a layer of lagging and then a layer of ply over the top.
• Position their accommodation in the most sheltered area available.
• Don’t remove snow, as it acts as an insulating layer.
• Cover house are with old duvets and covers, use heat pads (but ensure your pet can move away for the pad to prevent the risk of burns), and fill their sleeping area (at the very least) with hay. Straw is also a good insulator, but place it underneath your pet’s hay as it does not have the nutritional value of hay when eaten.
It is also important to remember that your pet’s nutritional requirements will increase during the winter, as they use more energy to keep warm, so you will need to provide more food.
You will also need to check that their water bottle has not frozen, regularly throughout the day. It may be sensible to have more than one bottle available.
Rabbits do not hibernate, so if your bunny becomes sleepy, lethargic or limp then it is sick – please call us immediately
These are just a few tips – there are many more that we can offer you, so if you do require further advice please contact us on 01942 417800, or pop into the surgery during working hours, and we will be pleased to help you.
Creating Your Rabbits’ Perfect Home
Traditionally rabbits are kept in small hutches; unfortunately these can compromise rabbit welfare as they don’t allow bunnies to behave normally.
It’s better to think of the hutch as your rabbits’ bedroom, and to have it permanently attached to a much larger run or exercise area so your rabbits can decide when they want to go outside to play.
Any ramps should be nice and wide, and not too steep so your rabbits can get up and down safely and easily.
A hutch needs to provide shelter from extremes of weather and temperature; it needs to be draught free and a nice cosy place for your bunnies to sleep. It also needs to be a safe place for your rabbits to be – and must be predator proof (remember birds of prey are predators along with foxes, cats and dogs etc).
Your rabbits’ hutch needs to be big enough:
- That your bunnies can snuggle up together if they want to – but they can also sleep separately if they so desire.
- That your rabbits can lie down and have a good stretch – in all directions – comfortably.
- That they can sit, and stand up on their back legs without their ears touching the roof.
- That all the rabbits in one hutch can do all of the above at the same time.
We recommend that your rabbits’ hutch is lined with newspaper – for absorbency, and then filled with lovely dust free hay. Hay is not only an essential food source for bunnies but they also love snuggling up in it.
Remember to keep your rabbits clean:
- The toilet area needs to be cleaned out every day
- Clean out the rest of the hutch regularly, but make sure you use a small amount of the old bedding mixed in with the new to keep the hutch smelling familiar and reassuring to your bunnies.
- Keep your rabbits’ hutch well ventilated and free from flies.
In winter you need to make sure that your rabbits are kept extra warm. Please refer to our ‘how to keep your rabbits warm in winter’ blog for more information.
Really importantly you must remember A Hutch Is Not Enough.
Rabbits need space – to play and exercise, they also dig and forage and all of this behaviour is essential for a healthy happy bunny.
Runs need to:
- Allow your rabbit to hop across it AT LEAST 3 times, and stand up without their ears touching the top, and need to be permanently attached to your rabbits hutch.
- Be in a garden so your rabbits can eat grass as they would naturally.
- Be secure and escape-proof
- Be predator proof
- Have areas of shade as well as areas in the sun.
- Have areas which allow your rabbits to hide e.g. boxes or wide tubes. Remember rabbits are prey animals and allowing they to hide when frightened reduces stress.
- Have a digging area – if you do not want this to be your lawn then make an area which has a secure bottom and use earth or child safe play sand to fill it, otherwise you may find your bunnies digging their way of your run!
If you are lucky enough to have a big garden then you could consider making a rabbit paddock for your pets.
These are brilliant for mimicking the way your rabbits would live in the wild.
For more information on creating your own bunny paddock you could visit:
Fly strike (myiasis) is a major welfare problem that mainly occurs during warm weather. It can affect rabbits, guinea pigs, cats and dogs as well as farm animals. It can occur at any time of the year, but in the UK animals are particularly at risk between April and October when the weather is warmer.
Even clean, well-kept animals can get fly strike. It only takes one fly and one area of soiled fur/fleece or damaged skin. Fly strike occurs when certain species of fly lay their eggs on another animal.
These eggs hatch into maggots that then begin to eat the animal’s flesh.
Flies are attracted by soiled or wet fur/fleece, often around the animal’s rear end. However, any area of the body can be affected, as can any wound, cut or scratch.
If you see any maggots or fly eggs on your pet please contact the surgery immediately.
Flies are attracted to rabbits when the living conditions and hygiene are poor, e.g. dirty hutches. It is VERY IMPORTANT to keep the living area clean and disinfected and to regularly remove waste and soiled bedding, at least once daily. Even rabbits kept in clean conditions may develop soiled hindquarters and attract flies.
The damage caused by this condition is entirely preventable. A 10 week course of REARGUARD, (an insect growth regulator which prevents the maggots developing to the stage that causes damage) provides the protection your rabbit needs. A typical operation to try and repair the damage caused by ‘Fly Strike’ can cost in excess of £200, which doesn’t include post operative care. However, in severe cases, euthanasia may be the only option.
Is Vaccinating Your Rabbit Necessary?
The short answer is YES!
We routinely vaccinate rabbits against 2 widespread and deadly diseases found in the UK, Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD). A new vaccine has recently been launched which means we can offer protection from these diseases with one injection given yearly to your bunnies, from 5 weeks of age. The vaccine is easy and painless to administer.
Myxomatosis is caused by a virus spread by fleas, mites and biting flies such as mosquitoes. In some circumstances it can also spread by direct contact between infected rabbits too. The first signs of infection are usually puffy swellings around the head and face. Within a day or so, these swellings can become so severe that they can cause blindness. ‘Sleepy eyes’ are another classic sign, along with swelling around the mouth and ears, which then spreads around the anus and genitals.
A high fever occurs and eating and drinking becomes progressively more difficult. Death usually follows within around twelve day, after extreme suffering. Recovery from this disease is rare and euthanasia is often necessary to prevent suffering. Occasionally a longer and more protracted disease course occurs with multiple skin modules. All types of rabbits can be affected, including house rabbits.
We have seen a number of rabbits with Myxomatosis already this year, and would urge all rabbit owners to get their bunnies vaccinated ASAP. There was a large myxomatosis outbreak in our area last year, and we have to euthanase a large number of bunnies to prevent them suffering horribly.
Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD), also known as Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) is a very serious condition which causes a high fever, internal bleeding and liver disease. It is usually rapidly fatal and is spread by direct contact between rabbits (both wild and domesticated) and indirect contact, such as via insect transport or people, clothing, shoes and other objects. Regular flea and fly control measures and avoiding pet rabbits coming into contact with areas wild rabbits have been, can help to lower the risk of infection.
Both diseases are widespread and endemic in wild rabbits in the UK. Although myxomatosis is the most widely recognised in pet rabbits, cases of RHD are also reported sporadically in domestic rabbits. The devastating nature of these diseases means that vaccination against both diseases is recommended to protect pet rabbits.
Please call us on 01942 417800, or pop into the surgery to book an appointment to get your rabbit vaccinated. We have launched our ‘Rabbit Pack’ to coincide with Rabbit Awareness Week.
Some other infectious diseases of rabbits we see commonly are:
E. cuniculi This is a parasite of rabbits which can cause paralysis, tremors, kidney and eye diseases, and ultimately death. However not all rabbits show signs of illness; they can appear healthy whilst passing E. cuniculi spores on to other rabbits through contaminated urine, so it is important to prevent urine contamination of food and water. Medicinal treatment can be given to treat this disease.
Flystrike is a common, extremely distressing and often fatal disease which usually occurs in warm weather. It most commonly occurs when the rabbit’s rear end becomes soiled with faeces and/or urine. This attracts flies which lay eggs on damaged skin or on the soiled fur. These eggs then hatch into maggots that eat away at the tissues in the surrounding area and release toxins which make the rabbit extremely unwell, as well as extreme pain. The problem, if left untreated, can get so bad that the maggots reach the rabbit’s abdomen, causing so much suffering that the rabbit has to be put to sleep. If you spot any signs of flystrike on your pet, such as eggs or maggots, seek urgent veterinary advice. You can prevent flystrike by:
• Keeping housing clean and dry.
• Feeding the correct high fibre diet to make sure they eat all of their caecotrophs.
• Checking your pet thoroughly for signs of illness, injury or abnormal behaviour every day, and in warm weather checking the fur and skin around your pets’ rear end and tail area, at least twice a day.
• Removing any wet or soiled bedding every day.
• Keeping rabbits active and healthy – obese rabbits may be too big to clean themselves effectively or to eat their caecotrophs (which then build up around their rear end).
• Using suitable insecticides and insect repellents (please phone 01942 677979 or pop into the surgery and we can give you more information on which products to use, please do not just buy pet shop products as these can be ineffective)
Fleas – Rabbits can get fleas just like our dogs and cats, infact the fleas most commonly found on domestic rabbits are the same species of flea as will most likely be affecting all other pets, and you, in the household. Rabbits’ symptoms can be varied, from itching to severe scratching of the neck and biting of the area around the base of the tail and some show no signs at all. Treatment should focus on an animal and environmental approach so as to minimise the level and persistence of infestation. Only use treatments and medicines designed for rabbits, some treatments/medications designed for other animals can be harmful and in some cases fatal to rabbits. Again please phone us on 01942 677979, or pop in to the surgery and we can give you advice on which products are suitable for your pets and their environment.
Mites – Cheyletiella is a type of skin mite that can affect rabbits; it lives in the fur, and causes areas of thick crusting and dandruff type material to develop. It is often termed ‘Walking Dandruff’, with affected areas most commonly being at the back of the neck and at the base of the tail. These mites are easy to diagnose, we just look at some of the dandruff under our microscope, and will then be able treat your rabbit effectively. Rabbits can also be affected by ear mites that cause crusting and ulceration of the ear canals.
Remember – it’s your legal duty to protect your rabbits from pain, suffering, injury and disease. It is worth considering getting your rabbits insured – just in case they ever do need medical treatment – as the cost can soon add up!
We also recommend getting your rabbits micro-chipped – just in case they ever make an escape attempt!
Most potential health problems can be avoided or treated if caught early.
We offer a Rabbit Pack which includes vaccination against RHD and Myxomatosis, a health check, a microchip, 4 weeks free insurance with petplan (if your bunny is under a year old), a flea treatment, some food and 10% off full price neutering, all for just £47.
Here at My Pets Vets we strongly advise you consider insuring your pet against accident and illness, as well as having 3rd party insurance if you have a dog.
Pet insurance can provide you with a financial safety blanket if the worst should happen to your beloved pet, although we often find the biggest benefit owners report is that it takes away their concerns about finances if their pet gets sick – so they can just concentrate on getting them better.
We understand just how confusing pet insurance can be though, so I thought I would try to help answer some questions here.
Basically pet insurance is a contract between you and the insurance company.
Due to the Due to the law governing the selling of financial products, we cannot recommend specific insurance companies.
Different policy types
We recommend lifelong insurance for your pet – which covers your pet for an ongoing illness or injury throughout its life. Some insurance policies only cover your pet for a year before excluding that illness or injury for the rest of its life (which means they will no longer pay for any treatment for that condition). Some policies only cover your pet for certain conditions, and for a total sum of money throughout its life.
It is important to realise that pet insurance policies are not all similar, so you really need to read the small print carefully, and ask questions before taking out a policy.
If your pet has been seen for a problem before you take the insurance policy out, then this will be classed as a pre-existing condition, and will not be covered by your insurance policy. This is also true if you choose to change insurance company after your pet has received treatment for a condition – even if you have not made a claim on your pet insurance.
The majority of insurance policies ask you to pay an excess – the value of this excess varies from insurance company to insurance company, and sometimes policy to policy, so you really need to read the small print. Most policies ask you to pay one excess, per condition you claim for, per year. This means that if you have an insurance excess of £70, and your pet is unlucky enough to need treatment for a broken leg, a skin condition, and an eye injury in one year, which are all unrelated then you will have to pay 3 x £70 in excesses before your insurance company will start to make payments.
Some insurance companies ask you to pay an excess, and also a co-payment excess which is usually a percentage of the total bill. The insurance company will then pay the difference, depending on their terms and conditions.
Preventative health care
Insurance companies do not pay for routine preventative health care for your pets such as flea prevention and worming treatments, or neutering procedures unless they are done for medical reasons. The majority also require your pet to be fully vaccinated and up to date with its vaccinations, and to have had regular health checks with vets, which are documented.
3rd party pet insurance
Most owners worry about the cost of vets bills and look to pet insurance for this reason – but it is really important to remember 3rd party insurance too, this provides financial insurance should your dog cause damage to a vehicle, or injure a person or property etc, (but doesn’t protect you from the law). We strongly recommend that even if you choose not to insurance your pet to cover vets bills, you get 3rd party pet insurance. This can be obtained by joining the Dogs Trust – that way you can also help benefit a brilliant charity that do so much to help dogs in trouble in the UK.
How My Pets Vets work with Pet Insurance companies
If your pet is insured, and requires treatment above your policy excess then we will ask you to bring in your pet insurance documents, along with a completed and signed claims form at the time of treatment.
If you are able to provide these documents, with a stamped addressed envelope to your insurance company, and pay your policy excess then we will fill out and submit an insurance claim form on your behalf if you accept our terms and conditions which will be made available to you by our reception team. We reserve the right to charge an administration charge for the completion of all insurance claims forms.
It is important to remember that it is your responsibility to settle your account if your insurance company does not settle the account within 60 days, for any reason.
I hope this has helped answer your questions but if you have any others regarding pet insurance please feel free to ask any member of our team, who will do their best to answer them for you. Our phone number is 01942 417800, or you can pop into our surgery for a chat.
My Pets Vets is an Appointed Representative of Pet Plan Limited. Go here for frequently asked questions and to sign up for your 4 weeks free insurance cover!
Rabbits: Indoors vs Outdoors
Some people like to keep their rabbits as house pets, living life predominantly indoors. Others prefer to keep theirs in a hutch in the garden, perhaps moving them into a garage during the colder winter months – in other words, outdoor rabbits.
Rabbits can be perfectly happy living either lifestyle, so long as owners take certain precautions:
- Make sure your house is rabbit-proofed. Rabbits will chew through electrical wires and cables, so these must be protected to avoid damage and potential injury – not to mention large repair bills.
- Climate control – if a rabbit is too hot they are prone to gaining weight, as they do not need to burn off any calories to help regulate their temperature. Try and ensure your rabbit’s hutch is kept in a cool, but not cold, area.
- If your rabbit is free to run around the house, it is best not to have wooden or laminate floors. Rabbits cannot grip shiny surfaces, so are liable to slip, risking injury.
- You will need to provide opportunities for your rabbit to exercise in a large and interesting area daily which will keep your pet emotionally and physically fit.
- Rabbits can be easily toilet trained, and make lovely indoor pets.
- Even indoor rabbits should be able to go outside to play, forage and dig. It’s important to remember that they will not be used the temperature outside if it is very different from inside – so you will need to give them time, and shade to allow them to acclimatise.
- Make sure your garden is free of poisonous plants. Rabbits will have a nibble of anything, and eating a poisonous plant can affect your rabbit in a variety of ways. Some of the most common poisonous plants to watch out for are: anemone, autumn crocus, azalea, begonia, bluebell, busy Lizzie, buttercup, carnation, chrysanthemum, clematis, cowslip, daffodil, dahlia, deadly nightshade, foxglove, hemlock, iris, ivy, laburnum, laurel, lily of the valley, poppy, privet, ragwort, rhododendron, tulip, woody nightshade, yew, yucca (please note: this is not an exhaustive list of poisonous plants)
- Outdoor rabbits can become stressed through fear of predators, so try to minimise cases where this may be a problem. If your neighbour has a dog for example, you should keep your rabbit in an area of your own garden where it cannot see the other animal.
- A rabbits traditional hutch is really only its bedroom – they need a large and interesting area to exercise in daily, and remember rabbits dig – this is normal behaviour which keeps them physically and emotionally fit.
The choice of how to keep your rabbit is yours, but you do need to research it well before embarking on rabbit ownership, just as you would with any other pet.
Did you know that a wild rabbit’s territory is equivalent to about 30 tennis courts? Running around such large areas is what keeps wild rabbits healthy and fit, and it is important for us to remember this when looking after our own rabbits.
Imagine how you would feel if you were locked up in a tiny room all day where you couldn’t stretch or exercise? You would quickly become very bored, miserable and frustrated. It’s no different for rabbits either.
An alternative way to keep your rabbits (rather than indoors, or in a hutch and run), would be to create a rabbit paddock.
- Corner off an area using fencing and mesh (this needs to extend about half a metre underground and curve back into the enclosure by half a metre to make it escape proof – remember rabbits are expert diggers!)
- The area should be around 7m2 and covered with a roof or mesh to make it predator-proof.
- Lots of hiding places should be provided within this area.
- A Wendy house or a large hutch can also be placed inside this area to provide your rabbits with shelter.
Rabbits love rabbit paddocks as they have lots of hiding areas and space, allowing them to behave as they would in the wild.
Make sure you’re aware of what plants are poisonous to rabbits and ensure there are none in the Rabbit Paddock. You could even grow some rabbit-friendly herbs in the paddock for your bunnies to eat.
Rabbit Diet – Advice And Tips
Many common health problems in pet rabbits are caused by incorrect feeding. A healthy diet for a pet rabbit should mimic the diet of its wild counterparts.
Water – It’s essential rabbits have access to clean, fresh water daily. Some rabbits prefer to drink from bottles, some from bowls, allow your rabbit to choose which it prefers, or ideally provide water in both forms.
Grass – Rabbits are designed to eat grass. The most natural life for a pet rabbit would be to run loose in the garden, grazing on the lawn, eating a wide variety of plants, vegetables and bark from trees.
Hay – We know rabbits as ‘fibrevores’ because fibre is absolutely essential for their dental, digestive and emotional health. Good quality hay and/or grass should make up the majority of a rabbits’ diet and should be available at all times, in fact a rabbit should eat a pile of hay the size of its body every day!
We advise unlimited access to good quality hay which meets rabbits basic nutritonal requirements and has many other benefits. Hay should always be fed to rabbits eating ‘complete’ rabbit foods. Hay keeps your rabbits busy, reducing boredom and preventing behavioural problems, as well as strengthening teeth and jaws and maintaining healthy gut movement
Vegetables – We believe that rabbits should be allowed to eat vegetables daily, the following is a list of safe vegetables for your rabbit, (it is not exhaustive, for a further list visit the RWF website).
|Cabbage||Carrot tops||Cauliflower leaves and stalks||Celery|
|Mint||Oregano||Parlsey||Red Leaf Lettuce|
|Red Cabbage||Romaine Lettuce||Savoy Cabbage||Spinach|
|Turip Greens||Watergress||Spring Greens|
Healthy treats – we all love treats, and so do our rabbits. We recommend you avoid high calorie treats,(such as carrots and fruit), as they can lead to obesity and tooth decay as they do in us, but even more importantly they can cause serious problems with the natural bacteria found in a rabbits gut which can lead to fatal digestive upsets.
Healthy treats include:
- occasional small amounts of fruit such as apple
- occasional small amounts of vegetables such as carrots
Remember wild rabbits do not climb trees to eat fruit, or dig deep into the ground for food, so wild rabbits would only eat windfall fruit and the occassional carrot – although they do love carrot tops!
Complete foods – Complete foods provide your rabbit with all the nutrients they require, but they do not provide all the other benefits hay provides. Rabbit are notoriously bad at selective feeding, so we encourage the use of a pellet form of dry food rather than a muesli mix. Selective feeding leads to the consumption of an unbalanced diet – Rabbits tend to pick out the nice bits from the muesli, leaving the rest, typically the pellets and high fibre elements. A pellet food prevents this from happening and provides the most balanced feed possible.
How much to feed? – We recommend you allow unlimited access to good quality hay daily for your rabbit to graze on. Rabbits should be given a small amount of complete food a day (roughly the size of your rabbits head), along with dark green leafy vegetables.
Coprophagy – rabbits eat some of their own droppings, along with the food you provide. The hard dry rabbit raisins that you find in your rabbits environment are their waste products, but they also produce dark, shiny, smelly pellets called caecotrophs which are normally eaten directly from the anus, and you will only see them occassionally. If you sudddenly start seeing lots of these caecotrophs then we need to look for a reason, so please contact us for advice.
Poisonous Plants and Flowers – some plants and flowers are poisonous to rabbits, below is a list of the most common ones:
|Black Nightshade||Cowslips||Poppy Yucca|
|Busy Lizzie||Geranium||Potato and Potato Tops|
|Buttercups||Hemlock||Rhubarb and Leaves|
It is very important to be aware of what your rabbit is eating daily, and to ensure that they are producing pellets daily. If you notice a change in the amount of food your rabbit is consuming, or the pellets they are producing please contact the surgery on 01942 417800 as a matter of urgency, even if it is out of normal working hours, remember we provide our own out of hours, onsite emergency care to our patients.
Rabbits Needs Friends
Rabbits are incredibly social animals, that require company and things to do otherwise they can suffer emotionally. Many owners keep a rabbit alone in a hutch, but this leads to a miserable lifestyle for rabbits. Rabbits have complex social needs and are happiest when kept with another friendly rabbit – therefore, rabbits should ideally live in friendly pairs or groups. However, keeping the wrong pairings together can lead to unwanted kittens (baby rabbits) and/or fighting. Neutering is recommended to prevent unwanted kittens.
A neutered male and a neutered female often make a great pair. Neutering is important as it prevents unwanted pregnancies, can reduce fighting, and in females prevents uterine cancer.
If you are thinking of getting another rabbit, please talk to us first as it’s important we help you ensure you can meet the needs of a pair of rabbits. Unfamiliar rabbits need to be introduced to each other very carefully and gradually, under owner supervision, preferably in a space that is new to both rabbits. If you’ve never bonded rabbits before we will be more than happy to help you with advice. Remember, not all rabbits will get on, in much the same way as we don’t get on with every human we come into contact with!
We’d also recommend you talk to local rabbit charities and rescue centres as there are lots of rabbits looking for new forever homes, who could be your rabbit’s new best friend!
It’s incredibly beneficial for rabbits to start interacting with people and other rabbits from an early age. Familiarity with people will help your rabbits develop into friendly and confident adults. Exposing them to normal everyday sights and sounds from a young age is also important, so they’re relaxed and happy in the environments they will encounter as adults.
Contrary to popular belief, guinea pigs should not be kept as companions for rabbits. They have different dietary requirements and communicate differently too. Furthermore, rabbits can sometimes bully guinea pigs and can pass bacteria onto them, which can cause respiratory disease.
Whilst humans can provide welcome company, and you can have lots of fun playing, bonding and interacting together, it’s still important that rabbits have the companionship of another friendly, compatible rabbit (unless a vet or qualified animal behaviourist advises otherwise on welfare grounds).
When handling rabbits, you should remember that they’re ground-living creatures who can find being lifted and carried distressing, so whenever possible interact with your rabbits at ground level. Owners should also remember not to approach from above (as a predator would – remember birds of prey will take rabbits), but rather on the same level. When picking your rabbits up ensure that all four legs and the bottom are securely supported at all times. Rabbits should never be picked up by the ears or scruff of the neck.
Rabbits love to play, and by providing them with the right toys you can help encourage normal behaviour, reduce boredom, and help their dental health. We will go into this in more detail tomorrow. We stock some lovely rabbit toys and treats in our reception, so remember to pop into our cat waiting area when you are next in to have a look, we may even be able to order something in if you want a particular item.
We all need to take care of our teeth, but that is especially true in the case of pet rabbits.
The majority of all pet rabbits we treat have some degree of dental health problems, which can cause pain and distress, and can even prove fatal.
The most common complaint we see is overgrown molars and enamel spurs that grow from teeth. These can irritate and tear the delicate soft tissue in the mouth, causing agonising injuries. Just remember how painful we find ulcers in our mouths.
These spurs generally develop because rabbits aren’t eating enough forage and hay, as they would in the wild. These naturally-abrasive, fibre-rich foods are important because they wear down the teeth. And because rabbits’ teeth grow continuously by an astonishing 2mm every week, or 10-12cm every year, a lack of fibre in the diet means that problems can quickly develop.
Left untreated, uneven or insufficiently worn molars can lead to secondary complaints such as dental abscesses, and blocked tear ducts, (the tear duct passes close to the end of the incisor teeth, any problems with the teeth can cause the duct to block, which can lead to infections). These conditions are painful and can stop your rabbit eating, which can lead to gut stasis, chronic malnutrition, and unfortunately death.
Another common dental health problem is malocclusion, when front incisor teeth fail to meet properly and/or become overgrown. This condition can also make it difficult and painful for your rabbit to eat, again leading to malnutrition.
The key to preventing these problems is to feed a healthy diet that is rich in fibre.
Rabbits fed on a muesli-style mix will often pick out the bits they like and leave the rest, missing out on vital nutrients. This is commonly known as ‘selective feeding’, and is intrinsically linked to poor dental health. It is vital therefore to feed a good quality pelleted food, along with lots of hay and fibrous vegetables.
If your rabbit shows any signs of dental problems, then contact us immediately, on 01942 417800. Common symptoms include a quiet or subdued bunny, a reduction in appetite, irregular feeding and weight loss. We also frequently see runny eyes, a wet mouth or chin due to dribbling, and gnawing of teeth, along with a change in the type and amount of pellets produced (ranging from diarrhoea to small, dry infrequent pellets, or none at all).
Therapeutic Light Laser
We have a phase 4 therapeutic light laser which can be used to aid wound healing, reduce inflammation and provide pain relief. Our Veterinary surgeons will advise if they feel your pet would benefit from laser therapy, and our nurses are all trained and able to provide the therapy.
We offer a free light laser therapy session immediately after all routine surgical procedures as we know it speeds wound healing, and leaves our patients more comfortable.
We also offer post operative light laser therapy sessions at a much reduced rate if you would like your pet to benefit from these please ask any member of our team for more details.
You can also have a look at this video collection from the laser provider.
We recommend yearly vaccination against Rabbit Haemorrhagic disease, and Myxomatosis at My Pets Vets. These diseases are usually fatal in unvaccinated rabbits.
We recommend rabbits are vaccinated from 5 weeks of age, (they do not need to have 2 initial vaccines unlike dogs and cats), and that they receive annual vaccinations, this has changed from a few years ago when we recommended twice yearly myxomatosis vaccinations, and is due to improvements in the vaccine technology.
We have treated a rabbit, in the last month, for Myxomatosis, which he sadly succumbed to after his immunity waned – it had been over one year since his previous vaccine. We feel it is important to realise, as with dogs and cats, the diseases we vaccinate our pets against are still a real risk to their health.
We urge all owners who are concerned about vaccinating their pets to speak to any of the vets or nurses here at My Pets Vets.