Rabbits

Rabbits

Your Rabbits 5 Welfare Needs:

Diet:

Your rabbit should be fed a plant-based diet with lots of fibre, consisting of around 85% high quality hay which is then supplemented by fresh greens and nuggets. They should also always have access to fresh water.

Companionship:

Rabbits are sociable animals and as such should not be kept on their own. Ideally your rabbits should be kept in pairs/groups of the same sex or are neutered. It is important not to keep your rabbits with Guinea pigs as rabbits are territorial by nature and cohabitation can result in your guinea pigs being bullied.

Environment:

Rabbits need to be able to hop and stand up in their environment, this means the minimum requirements for their housing should be L3M X W2M X H1M. Their hutch should be in a sheltered position, out of direct sunlight, clean and protected from extreme weather conditions. They should also be allowed daily access to exercise, e.g. a large, secure run which they can hop and stand upright in. It is also important to provide your rabbit with entertainment, such as tunnels, as they are naturally playful and inquisitive creatures and would naturally spend a large proportion of their day foraging and investigating their territory in the wild. 

Health:

Your should regularly check your rabbits for any discharge or injury on their ears, eyes, nose, teeth, fur and skin (preferably twice daily), as well as regularly checking their weight. It is also important for their health to check their bedding twice daily to remove any wet and dirty bedding and replace it with fresh, to help keep your rabbits clean and help prevent flies. It is also vitally important to keep your rabbits up to date with their vaccinations and make sure they have been health checked by a vet.

Behaviour:

Rabbits are sociable animals and will naturally live in groups in the wild. As prey animals they will naturally hide if they feel threatened, so it is important to provide your rabbits with places they can do this in. Rabbits are also crepuscular, meaning they are most active during dawn and dusk.

Rabbits

Rabbits need vaccinating to protect them from harmful diseases. The main diseases that rabbits need protecting from are Myxomatosis and Rabbit (Viral) Haemorrhagic Disease (R(V)HD). There are two strains of R(V)HD in the UK, R(V)HD-1 and R(V)HD-2. Prevention is the best form of protection with these diseases, so vaccinations are vital for your rabbits health.

Rabbit (Viral) Haemorrhagic Disease

R(V)HD is a serious and infectious form of viral hepatitis in rabbits that damages internal organs, namely the liver and intestines, and causes internal bleeding which is usually fatal. The incubation period for this disease is very short and has an extremely high mortality rate, of over 90%.

This disease is highly contagious, spreading from rabbit to rabbit by direct contact through bodily fluids or inhalation. It is also able to remain in the environment for a long period of time, therefore protecting your rabbit from contracting this disease is vital. Symptoms of this disease normally result in a loss of appetite, lethargy, fever, spasms and death.

Vaccination against these two strains is the only way to ensure that your rabbit is safe from contracting this disease from other rabbits, both domestic and wild, or from the surrounding environment.

Myxomatosis

Myxomatosis is a highly contagious viral disease in rabbits, that is usually fatal, and can be seen in both wild and domestic rabbits. The disease is spread by biting insects such as fleas, mites, and mosquitoes. This means ensuring good control of external parasites will help to control the spread of the disease. Direct contact with infected rabbits or hutches or inhalation can also be a route of infection.

Rabbits suffering from the disease will have a sleepy puffy appearance with swelling around the face, especially eyes, lip and ears with a thick pussy ocular discharge. They may also get swelling around the anogenital area and develop subcutaneous skin nodules. It causes inflammation to the eyes and  blindness. The animals have a loss of appetite and will often starve to death. They will also be lethargic and often develop respiratory problems and will eventually affect the internal organs resulting in a possible long and painful death. There is no cure for myxomatosis only supportive care can be given, such as antibiotics to prevent secondary infection, so prevention is always the key.

Vaccination is the only way to protect your pet rabbit against myxomatosis. It is widespread around the UK with peak infection times in summer and autumn , this should be done at least annually but in some high-risk areas of the UK repeat vaccines are recommended every six months.

 

For more information about vaccinating you rabbits please call us at Langford vets to arrange an appointment. Our vets will be more than happy to give them a full health check at the same time to ensure your pet is in perfect condition.

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