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 rabbit's 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.
Below we have covered some of the main issues we get asked about, this is a very small list and if your rabbit is showing any signs of illness you should contact your vet straight away.
If you rabbit stops eating this is a medical emergency. GI stasis is when the gastrointestinal tract slows down or stops completely, if left untreated for just 72 hours it can be fatal. If you notice your rabbit is less active than usual, hasn't pooped, is sitting in a hunched position and is refusing to eat then contact your vet immediately. The longer this condition continues the harder the recovery. Your vet will need to examine your rabbit and prescribe the relevant medication. You will often need to continue this at home. For severe cases your rabbit will be admitted for hospital care.
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 prevalent 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 accommodation 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
An easy to pick up and easy to treat condition but one that can have severe consequences if not treated. 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.
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. Problems with front teeth can be caused by diet or can be genetic, the teeth can be 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.
Bunnies do sometimes sneeze for a variety of reasons and the odd one is nothing to worry about but if they sneeze continuously or have white discharge coming from their noses then a trip to the vet is in order for some antibiotics to fight the infection. Pasteurella (snuffles) is a common cause of respiratory disease in rabbits and with there being many different strains of the bacteria their symptoms will vary depending on the Pasteurella strain involved from sneezing, nasal discharge and watery eyes, from blocked tear ducts to invisible internal damage. Snuffles can also occur due to underlying disease, including dental problems so it is important to get your rabbit quick vet treatment if you suspect they may have snuffles to give them the best chance of fighting it off and avoiding more serious consequences.
There could be a few reasons for this, most often a middle or inner ear infection or a protozoan parasite infection known as Encephalitozoon cuniculi (E. cuniculi or EC for short). Either way home remedies are not the answer and a trip to the vet is vital to prevent the illness getting any worse. EC can also present without a tilted head, any signs of weakness, incontinence, staggering, circling or lethargy should be promptly addressed by a vet.