Health care

Annual or bi-annual trips to the vets are necessary not only for your rabbit's vaccinations but also for regular check ups. Rabbits are prey animals so they hide pain well. If you notice subtle changes to your rabbits behaviour or diet take them to the vet straight away. Regular checks at home help you to get to know your rabbit better and can help you to pick up on problems much sooner. Ensure their teeth look healthy and are not too long, their nails are trimmed back and that your rabbit isn't gaining or losing a significant amount of weight. It's very important that you groom long haired rabbits and check all buns' bottoms regularly for signs of soiling as this can lead to flystrike.

Neutering

There are many health and behavioural reasons for neutering. Females are particularly prone to uterine cancer and spaying them protects them from this. It also prevents accidents happening and the resultant litters plus it calms the hormones, they become less territorial and it also stops phantom pregnancies. Males tend to lose their aggression and their impulse to spray, destroy and dig. Neutering also allows the introduction of rabbits to each other as friends. We would not recommend introducing un-neutered rabbits as this has the potential to lead to the rabbits harming each other.

Flystrike

This is when flies lay eggs on a rabbit, the eggs then hatch into maggots which can mature very quickly and eat into the living flesh within 24 hours. It is often fatal for the rabbit.

Any rabbit can be at risk from flystrike but it is especially prevelant during the summer and is more likely to affect rabbits that cannot clean themselves, suffer from "dirty bottoms" or have wounds or wet fur. It is very important to keep the rabbits' living accomodation clean and dry, make sure the rabbit is eating a healthy diet, remove soiled bedding regularly, speak to your vet about "rear guarding" your rabbit and fly screens can also add additional protection.

If you find a rabbit has maggots telephone your vet immediately. Flystrike is a real emergency and treatment should not be delayed as flyblown rabbits are usually in pain and severe shock.

Fur Mites

An easy to pick up and easy to treat condition but one that can have severe consequences if not treated. This litter of kits came in almost bald due to mites and we have had other rabbits with such severe scabbing where they have scratched themselves because of the itching that it has taken almost two months for them to heal. Mites can usually be recognised by what looks like dirt in your rabbit's ears or by dandruff under their fur. The shop bought treatments can be a bit hit-and-miss so if you suspect your rabbit has mites take them along to your vet and they will recommend the best course of treatment.

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And these photos show Rupert who came in with a severe case of earmites; it took only two doses of treatment two weeks apart to see the results below:

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Teeth

A rabbit's teeth grow 24/7 and so they need to be constantly worn down. A diet high in pellets and calorific value is not going to encourage a rabbit to chew and as a result they can develop dental problems particularly with their back teeth. These are not impossible to correct but they do need initial treatment by a qualified vet to get them down to size and then a diet high in hay content will encourage them to chew and maintain the newly treated teeth. Prevention is always better than cure so make sure you have your rabbit on a good diet and keep an eye out for signs that their back teeth may need a look at. If they start eating very slowly, show signs of dribbling or watery eyes there is always the possibility they may need a dental, so make sure you pop them down to your vet for a check up.

A rabbit's front teeth are easy to check and yet so many people fail to do so. This rabbit is only 6 months old and her surrender form said she had no known health problems, yet when we came to assess her her front teeth were all over the place and she was in urgent need of vet treatment. The long term solution for this bun may be to have her teeth removed completely if the problem is genetic. Rabbits can manage really well without their front teeth, they may just need the harder veggies grated down to size. Arnold also has front tooth malocclusion and due to tooth root fusion he is unable to have his teeth removed and so he has regular dental burrs and lives with us at HQ.

                    Pippin                                         Pippin                                                  Arnold

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