Getting into the habit of carrying out regular health checks can make all the difference to the health and happiness of your beautiful bunnies, advises our in-house vet Dr Suzanne Moyes
Posted: 31 May 2019
This June we’re celebrating all things bunny in the form of Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW). Over the past 12 years since RAW first started, it’s become the biggest and best campaign promoting rabbit care and welfare in the UK.
If you haven’t heard of RAW before, you can request an information pack here >>
This year, the focus is on ‘Protect and Prevent’, which aims to raise awareness of the deadly Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RVHD2) and to ask all rabbit owners to make sure their pets are vaccinated against this and other fatal diseases. You can find out more about RVHD2 and why you need to take action here >>
DID YOU KNOW?
As well as ensuring their pets have essential vaccinations, owners play a huge role in keeping their rabbits happy and healthy.
Keeping a close eye on your buns is the best way to ensure all is well. If something seems not quite right, always act promptly and consult your vet. Our handy checklist can help you keep tabs on your cottontails:
✔︎ Check that your rabbits are eating, drinking and toileting normally.
✔︎ Keep an eye out for any change in behaviour and any signs of ill health – are they moving/running normally?
✔︎ Run your hand all over them to feel for lumps, bumps, wounds or wetness or any signs of flystrike. This horrible condition occurs when flies lay eggs on a rabbit, usually around the rear, which hatch into maggots and eat the flesh. If you think your rabbits have flystrike then you should seek veterinary assistance immediately. The best way to prevent it is to ensure your rabbits are a healthy weight, keeping their accommodation clean and dry, and by checking them every day in the winter and twice a day in warm weather.
✔︎ Check your rabbits’ nails to make sure they are healthy and not too long.
✔︎ Check your rabbits’ teeth. If they look abnormal, or your pets have watery eyes, there is drool, partly-chewed food or weight loss, then you should consult your vet.
✔︎ Check you rabbits’ weight and body condition score.
✔︎ Take your rabbits for a vet health-check every 6-12 months, or as recommended by your vet.
DID YOU KNOW?
Some of the most common health conditions in rabbits to be aware of include:
This is where the digestive system slows down or stops completely. When this happens, bacterial fermentation of food begins to build up and releases gas into the system causing extremely painful bloating, which usually results in the rabbit stopping eating and drinking, in effect starving itself. The best way to help prevent your rabbits from developing gut stasis is by:
• Feeding a high-fibre diet made up of 85-90% feeding hay/fresh grass
• Checking your rabbits’ weight and teeth regularly
• Avoiding muesli-style diets as these are linked to a reduced faecal output. Rabbit nuggets are a much better choice
DID YOU KNOW?
Rabbits in the wild eat huge amounts of fibrous material, spending 80% of their time foraging and eating a variety of grasses. The movement they need to perform to grind grass down also wears down their continuously growing teeth. Without the right amount of coarse fibrous materials in their diet their teeth can grow overlong, which is a form of dental disease.
The best way to prevent dental disease is to ensure that:
Rabbits are at risk from mites, fleas, ticks and mosquitos.
Snuffles is a bacterial infection in rabbits. The condition can be caused by a few different bacteria and the symptoms look like a cold in humans, with mucus and pus from the nostrils, runny eyes and breathing problems with possibly some wheezing, coughing and sneezing.
For lots more tips and expert advice on keeping your rabbits healthy, download RAW’s Rabbit Health Fact File >>
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Sources: rabbitawarenessweek.co.uk, rspca.org.uk, pdsa.org.uk, bluecross.org.uk