RABBIT INFO
 
 
The first thing to consider is that rabbits have a long life span, so be prepared to care for your pet rabbit through the long term. They are also unique creatures, who form tight bonds with their families, though they have some quirks you should know about. They also require some routine vet care from a good rabbit vet. If you are prepared for all the unique qualities and needs of rabbits, you will best be able to fully enjoy the wonderful companionship they can offer.
 
A fairly quick look at a potential pet rabbit will help you figure out if there are any obvious signs of illness or other issues. Whilst there are no guarantees, avoiding rabbits that have common signs of health problems can save you a lot of heartache in the future. By having a close look at a rabbit you are considering, you also get a chance to see the personality of the rabbit.
A note on where to find rabbits: if you have decided to add a rabbit to the family, we highly recommend you start out by looking at your local shelter or rabbit rescues. There are lots of rabbits who need a second chance at a forever home.
 
If you are not already a Chantry Vets client we would love to welcome You and Your Pet to one of our surgeries, please CLICK HERE to register your pet online.
 
 
VETERINARY ADVICE FOR YOUR RABBIT
 
 
VACCINATION
We now use a combination vaccine called Nobivac Myxo-RHD.
Only one vaccination/one appointment is required.
This is the most up to date vaccine available, provides 12 months protection and can be given from 5 weeks of age.
 
FEEDING
The correct diet for your rabbit is essential. Rabbits need to feed on high fibre, low energy roughage to ensure correct gut motility and even wear of teeth. Serious health problems such as obesity, flystrike and dental disease are common consequences of the wrong diet. A healthy diet consists mainly of hay and grass, plus small quantities of a good quality rabbit food. The pellet food is strongly recommended rather than the ‘muesli style’ rabbit mix as it prevents selective feeding.   To supplement the hay, grass and pellets feed dark leafy greens. Never change your rabbit’s diet suddenly - switch foods over a 1-2 week period.
 
lf your rabbit stops eating for more than 12 hours, or changes his favourite foods, bring him in to see vet, even if he appears otherwise okay. There could be a serious health problem developing.
 
Obviously rabbits must also have access to fresh water at all times. If using a water bottle check that the bottle is working properly every day – a common dangerous situation for pet rabbits is the spout becoming blocked and therefore an absence of water flow.

 

NEUTERING

We recommend having all pet rabbits neutered - male and female. Neutered rabbits are happier, healthier, much easier to litter train, and can live with another bunny without fighting or breeding. It is also important to have female rabbits spayed to prevent uterine cancer.

 

If you have two rabbits of the same sex living together, have them neutered at the same time and keep them together. If you have a male and a female, you need to be a bit more careful as male rabbits remain fertile for up to 4 weeks after castration and may need to be housed separately for a week or two while the doe recovers from the surgery. If separating a bonded pair for this recovery period then it is essential the rabbits can still see and smell each other during this time.

 

Castration in your male bunny is a relatively minor operation which can be performed as soon as the testicles descend (10-12 weeks) although we usually recommend waiting until the rabbit is 4 or 5 months old to make the procedure as safe as possible. Castration will require a general anaesthethic and the rabbit will need to stay at the surgery for the day.

 

Spaying your doe is even more important. Most females become territorial and aggressive from sexual maturity onwards (4-6 months). They have repeated false pregnancies, and may growl at, scratch and bite their owners as well as attacking other rabbits. Keeping two females together - even if they are sisters - can make things worse. Spaying reduces and often eliminates these behavioural problems. Spayed females are likely to live longer then their unspayed sisters. The Rabbit Welfare Fund quotes that up to 80% of unspayed female rabbits develop uterine cancer by 5 years of age. Spaying is a bigger operation than castration but most does only need to stay in the vet surgery for the day. As with the males, surgery is usually performed around 4 months old but can also be done later in life.

 

HUSBANDRY
· The length of the hutch should enable the rabbit to hop three times in that direction.
· There needs to be an area for the rabbit to run and jump for at least 20 minutes twice a day.
· Provide a dark ‘hidey’ hole for it to feel safe.
· The hutch should be at least 6ft x 2ft x 2ft.
· The hutch should be tall enough for the rabbit to be able to stand on their back feet.
· Provide safety from predators.
 
WORMING
An easy to administer wormer is available from us for your pet rabbits. It is not essential to worm your rabbit unless they are grazing in areas frequented by wild rabbits or regularly come into contact with other pet rabbits e.g rabbit shows or have stayed in bunny hotels when you are away. Some owners do find ‘sticky bottom sydrome’ i.e. mucky, soiled rear ends that attract flies, improves after using the worming treatment.
 
INSURANCE
It is now easy to insure your rabbit to give you peace of mind about unexpected vet bills. We recommend Petplan, please ask us for an application form. 
 
GENERAL ADVICE
Rabbits are experts in concealing their illnesses. This is typical of a creature at the bottom of the food chain: in the wild a rabbit showing weakness and signs of illness becomes an easy target for a predator. Swift veterinary treatment is vital if your rabbit is to have a good chance of surviving a serious illness. Unfortunately delaying 24 hours to see what happens can prove fatal. These are examples of danger signs your rabbit may show that indicate you need to contact us immediately:
· flystrike (maggot infestation)
· has stopped eating
· has difficulty breathing, perhaps lips being blueish in colour
· has severe diarrhoea (watery faeces)
· is bleeding from wounds
· may have a broken back or limb e.g. following a fall
· limp, floppy, cold or showing any evidence of pain
 
 
 

Your questions answered

  

Feeding your pet rabbit

The phrase 'you are what you eat' has never been truer for the rabbit. Recent research by veterinary surgeons and rabbit food companies has shown that most of the common illnesses that rabbits suffer from could be prevented by feeding them a healthy diet. Unfortunately, many pet rabbits are being fed a diet that is the rabbit equivalent of 'junk food'. Feeding your rabbit the correct diet is not difficult - simply follow our guidelines.

 

Why is my rabbit's diet so important?

Your rabbit's health almost entirely depends on the food you feed it. An incorrect diet can be a contributing factor in all of these common problems in pet rabbits: 

· Dental disease (maloccluded/overgrown teeth)

· Obesity

· Diarrhoea

· Fly strike

· Gut stasis

· Snuffles

It may be surprising, but some of these conditions can be fatal. It's hard to believe that you can significantly reduce the risk of your rabbit developing these conditions just by feeding it the right diet.

 

What is the correct diet for a rabbit?

Pet rabbits are the same species as wild rabbits but their diets are very different. Most pet rabbits are fed a diet consisting of commercial rabbit mix and greenfood: this can be high in carbohydrate and protein but low in fibre. Wild rabbits, however, eat mainly grass and hay (dried grass): this is high in fibre with moderate levels of protein. Wild rabbits are much less likely to suffer from the conditions listed above because of the fibre content in their diet. Therefore, the correct diet for a pet rabbit is one that is high in fibre. 

Grass and hay should be the major components of your rabbit's diet as they are high in fibre. Vegetables and greenfoods are also important. There are also some commercial rabbit mixes that have been developed to provide pet rabbits with a high-fibre diet.

 

Hay and grass 

Provide your rabbit with unlimited hay and grass. Ensure that the hay is good quality. Generally, hay that is sold in bales to feed horses is generally better quality than that available ready-bagged from pet shops. If you do buy large quantities of hay, store it carefully to prevent it becoming damp or mouldy - do not store it in plastic bags. Provide the hay in a hay rack to prevent it from being contaminated by droppings.

Allow the grass in your garden to grow long and pick it daily to give to your rabbit, or allow your rabbit to graze directly by placing it in a secure run on your lawn. (NB Never feed your rabbit lawn-mower clippings.) You can also grow small tubs of grass especially for rabbits from packs now sold in pet shops. Freeze-dried grass is also newly available for rabbits (called 'Supa forage' from Burgess, 'Dried grass' from Friendship Estates or 'Readigrass' from Spillers).

 

Vegetables and greenfoods 

Provide your rabbit with these on a daily basis. Carrots, baby sweetcorn, celery, broccoli, chickweed, clover and sow thistle can be given daily. Dark green leafy vegetables, eg kale and spring greens, and dandelions contain high levels of calcium and should be fed in moderation. They should not be given to a rabbits with urinary or bladder problems.

Never pick weeds from the side of a busy road, or from places where dogs are exercised. Always wash vegetables and greenfoods before you give them to your rabbit. Only give your rabbit fresh vegetables and greens - if they have started to wilt or 'go-off' throw them away!

 

Commercial rabbit mix

Rabbits will thrive on a diet of grass, hay and vegetables alone. However, many owners also wish to feed a commercial mix. There are two excellent rabbit mixes with a high fibre content: Supreme's Russel Rabbit and Burgess Supa Rabbit Excel.

Supa Rabbit Excel is an extruded feed and the pieces of mix all look the same. Russel Rabbit mixes are made up of lots of different cereals and dried vegetables. Some rabbits will pick out only the pieces they like (called 'selective feeding') - this means they may not be getting a properly balanced diet. It is important to feed only small quantities of mix and to leave the food in the bowl until most of the pieces have been eaten.

Check on the packet for the recommended amount to feed your rabbit per day. Weigh this amount out carefully - do not try to estimate it! No more than one teaspoon of pellets a day should be given to ensure your rabbit eats enough hay. Overfeeding commercial food to your rabbit will lead to obesity and may also result in crystals forming in its bladder. Remember that your rabbit does not have to have any commercial mix, and in fact many vets will argue that rabbits will be healthier if fed on hay, grass and vegetables alone.

 

How should I change my rabbit's diet?

It is very important not to change or alter your rabbit's diet suddenly. Make gradual changes over a period of at least 2 weeks so that your rabbit's digestive system has time to adjust. Give your rabbit a healthier diet by introducing hay, grass and greens as discussed above and change it's rabbit mix to one of the high-fiber ones. Introduce grass and greens gradually to reduce the likelihood of diarrhoea.

Mix the new mix in the same feeding bowl with your rabbit's normal food in a ratio of 20:80 or 25:75. Feed this for 3-4 days to ensure that your rabbit is eating all of it (and accepting the new food). Watch carefully for signs such as loss of appetite, bloating, abnormally runny droppings and changes in behaviour or demeanour, as these may indicate that your rabbit is not adapting well to the new diet. If your rabbit is normal, increase the quantity of new mix to give a ratio of 40:60 or 50:50 and again feed this for 3-4 days, watching for problem signs as before. Increase the mix to 60:40 or 75:25 for another 3-4 day period, then to 80:20, and finally to 100% new mix.

 

For further advice Chantry Vets recommend joining the Rabbit Welfare Association  www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk

 

 

"A Passion for Pets and their People"