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Rabbit Health Advice

Some helpful info about caring for your rabbits

Vaccinations

There are several highly infectious and potentially fatal diseases that affect rabbits. Fortunately, rabbits can be vaccinated against two of these. All rabbits, even those kept indoors, should be vaccinated against these diseases because they can still become infected.


Myxomatosis

Myxomatosis is a disease caused by the Myxoma virus. It only affects rabbits, but both wild and pet rabbits are susceptible. The virus causes severe swelling of the eyelids, lips and genitals. Rabbits can be vaccinated against Myxomatosis from 10 weeks of age and require an annual booster.


Viral Haemorrhagic Disease

This is a particularly nasty viral disease that reached the UK in 1992, and, like Myxomatosis, only affects rabbits. It is caused by a highly contagious virus, which can be transmitted directly between individual rabbits, or spread on contaminated equipment, clothing and footwear.

Neutering

Why should I neuter my rabbit?

Rabbits are social animals and naturally live in colonies. Neutering means that more than two or more rabbits can be kept together with no risks of breeding, and a drastically reduced incidence of fighting. 

Please speak to one of our staff for details on neutering.

After reaching puberty at 4-6 months of age, both males and females can become quite aggressive and territorial. They may fight and scratch each other, and even their owners! In addition, older female rabbits are at risk from uterine cancer and uterine infections.


At what age can it be done?

Neutering can be done from 4-6 months of age in both sexes. It is important to note that male rabbits may still be fertile up to 6 weeks after castration, so they should not be put straight back in with any females.

Feeding

REMEMBER: Grass, grass and more grass!

Rabbits need a high fibre diet – their digestive system has evolved to deal with such a diet and, indeed, too little fibre in the diet can give rise to digestive tract disturbances, often manifesting as diarrhoea. In addition, their teeth are continually growing: without lots of chewing they can become overgrown and misaligned, and without the proper nutrients in their diet the teeth can become brittle.

Grass and hay should be provided every day. Only good quality hay should be used and should be available at all times.

Rabbit foods are ‘complementary’, in that they are designed to be fed as part of the diet. In fact, concentrate rabbit foods are not essential if ad lib grass, hay and greens are available. Concentrate foods are fine to feed provided grass and hay make up the bulk of the diet.

Multiple Rabbits

Rabbits are social animals, and can live happily together provided consideration is given to their compatibility.

When introducing adult rabbits they should be given time to get used to each other before having direct physical contact, as serious fighting may occur. This is best done by putting them into individual pens separated only by a wire mesh for a few weeks to allow them to get used to each other.

They can then be put together (under supervision!), ideally in a new and different environment to reduce any territorial behaviour between them. 

After some initial chasing around they usually settle and can go back into their permanent home. Rabbits from the same litter can usually be kept together with no problems, although sometimes fighting will start once they reach sexual maturity.

To prevent rabbits fighting, or if fighting starts between littermates, then neutering is the best option to prevent this. Of course, if a male rabbit is to be kept with one or more females, then he should also be neutered to prevent an unwanted population explosion! It is possible to keep rabbits with guinea pigs as companions, but care should be taken as rabbits can harm guinea pigs quite easily if they don't get on.

Practice information

Boyce & Houston

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