How do you keep your rabbit healthy? What do you do to make sure your bunny is as fit and as happy as possible? How do you care for your rabbit. Well, it’s the right month to ask those questions!
The 18th-26th June is Rabbit Awareness Week, which exists to promote ways of improving the life of pet rabbits across the UK. Rabbits are great pets, but in the past they haven’t been kept in ideal conditions; the idea of a single rabbit outside the back door in a hutch is really out-dated. So here are a few ways you can make life better for them.
The first thing to remember is that rabbits are sociable. In the wild, they live in burrows with their extended families, so they should be kept with at least one other rabbit. Although they’ve often been kept with guinea pigs, that isn’t ideal, as rabbits often bully guinea pigs.
Bunnies need lots of space. They should be able to move around both on the flat and up and down on to things of different heights. This keeps them fit and is good for their bones and joints. Like older people, rabbits often suffer from osteoporosis! Precise information about the space needed can be found on this Rabbit Welfare Trust page.
Some of the happiest rabbits I know are house rabbits. They can be litter-trained and are perfect house pets, although some do like to chew electric cables and you may need a cage to keep them in when unsupervised. They can be trained to fetch and love to play games with you and each other.
Diet is very important to rabbits – like guinea pigs they are fibrevores, and so need lots of roughage every day to make their guts work. They should have a bundle of hay at least as big as they are, a handful of veg and an eggcup full of complete dry pellets each day (muesli-type rabbit food is not good for them).
You can feed them all sorts of vegetables and some fruit, including apples, asparagus, banana, basil, sprouts, cauliflower, celery, chicory, dill, fennel, green pepper, kale, mint, oregano, parsley, savoy cabbage, spinach, turnip, watercress, red leaf lettuce & Romaine lettuce. Willow sticks or branches from fruit trees such as apple and pear are great for them to chew. Good advice about diet can be found here.
You need to vaccinate your rabbits every year to protect them against myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease. Myxomatosis causes swelling of eyes, nostrils, lips and bottom and leads to a slow lingering death. VHD causes sudden death due to internal bleeding; often there is very little warning. Treatment for both is rarely successful, so vaccination is very important. This can be given as a single injection – check with your vet. Even indoor rabbits should be vaccinated as biting insects can spread these diseases.
Rabbits should be neutered; spayed for females and castrated for males. This reduces their aggression towards both people and other rabbits, and also prolongs life. If un-spayed, 80% of female rabbits over 2 years old will develop cancer of the womb. Neutering also allows you to keep two male rabbits together without them fighting, or a male and female rabbit together without getting lots of extra rabbits.
You can find great information on the health of rabbits at the Rabbit Welfare Trust.
At Ash Vets, we are offering free health checks for your rabbits during the whole of June for Rabbit Awareness Month. Just give us a call on 01685 385117 to book an appointment and we can give you lots of personalised advice on your rabbit too.