Expert tips on caring for your bunnies
Rabbits are the third most popular pet in the UK and can be very rewarding to own.
They are highly social and prefer to live in groups or pairs. Guinea pigs can transmit infections to rabbits so keeping the two together should be avoided.
It is best to neuter rabbits when they are young, from four to six months, to avoid unwanted babies and prevent health problems. It is thought that 90 per cent of females will develop uterine tumours if they are not spayed, and behaviour such as spraying or dominance is avoided by castrating bucks.
Most bunny health problems relate to diet and teeth.
Rabbits have teeth that grow throughout their lives, perfect for chewing. The first faecal pellets in the morning are softer than those later in the day and are called caecotrophs. It is normal for rabbits to ingest these, and they are a very important part of their diet, a form of probiotic.
Concentrate or pellet diets are available, but should only constitute a small amount of your rabbit’s food as they don’t contain enough fibre. If rabbits eat too many pellets, they get full and spend less time chewing. This has a direct effect on their teeth. Normally it is the back teeth (molars) which overgrow first, but as these get longer the jaw cannot close properly and you may notice problems with the long incisor teeth at the front.
If a rabbit has dental disease, they may struggle to chew and there can be wet fur or slobber around the mouth, weight loss, or the production of less faecal pellets.
Feeding the wrong diet can lead to obesity. An overweight rabbit is less active and less happy. They may be more prone to joint problems like arthritis, and will struggle to groom themselves, especially around the bottom.
Check your rabbit’s bottom is clean and dry daily, especially in the summer to avoid fly infestations. You can also buy a product from your vet to apply to the fur.
Vaccination and worming are very important. Vaccination is yearly. Two boosters are recommended, given two weeks apart. Worming with panacur paste is a good idea a couple of times a year, especially if your rabbit runs free. This can prevent normal worms, but also the parasite E.cuniculi, which can cause varied disease.
All of us at Robson and Prescott Vets wish you a very Hoppy Easter.
By Catriona Gibson, Vet