Rabbit Booklet

INTRODUCTION:

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bunnyRabbits make engaging and loving house pets and I highly recommend them as such. Their merits include the ability to easily be litter box trained and taught to use a doggie door and they can be long lived with proper care. Rabbits are popular house pets and there are many clubs and Internet organizations devoted to their care which I’ll provide links to on this page. Like all exotic pets, rabbits do have special needs in order to keep them healthy and the rabbit page will be a forum for some of those subjects

Sterilizing your pet rabbit is highly recommended to prevent problems down the road. Male rabbits that that are not neutered have a tendency to fight and with rip and tear each others scrotum’s leading to surgical intervention. Intact males will also be difficult to litter box train because they have a tendency to fecal and urine mark their environment. Intact females will also be difficult to litter box train and if left intact throughout their lives have a high potential of developing uterine cancer as older rabbits. If your rabbit is meant to be a housepet, and is healthy, there really isn’t any good reason to not spay or neuter.

SURGERY / ANESTHESIA:

Prior to any anesthetic procedure all animals should have a complete physical exam and pre-anesthetic blood testing to rule out any existing organ disease. With young animal that have
been properly screened the risk is minimal. After any stressful event (surgery, anesthesia, pain, disease, environmental change…) it is important to monitor your pet for normal appetite and fecal production. I advise my clients that one of the most important clues to the health of a rabbit is the poop. Healthy rabbits eat well throughout the day and make round fecal balls of the normal size. Rabbits that are stressed for any reason will sometimes stop eating or defecating (pooping). You may see that the fecal balls are smaller then normal, or they may be absent all together. If noted, this is a serious and potentially life threatening condition that should be addressed immediately. As veterinarians one of the things that we can do to help reduce this potential is to provide pre and post surgical pain control to minimize the stress on your bunny. At home, if you notice a reduction in feces or change in appetite, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Typically, we’ll try to adjust the pain control and if still not eating we’ll often introduce syringe feeding for a short time to jump start their GI tract again. The syringe formula will consist of a slurry of grass hay pellets, water and vegetable baby food. It is also important to provide your bunny with plenty of fiber to ensure that the gut works properly. Fiber will be discussed further under the diet section. My intent is not to scare you away from elective or necessary surgery, but rather to advise of potential problems in an effort to ensure that your bunny is properly monitored and cared for following surgery. The benefits of spaying and neutering your bunny far outweigh the small risk.


  • SUMMARY:

  • – PET RABBITS SHOULD BE SPAYED OR NEUTERED

  • – THERE IS ALWAYS A RISK WITH ANY SURGERY/ANESTHESIA

  • MINIMIZE RISK WITH PROPER SCREENING PRIOR TO SURGERY

  • MINIMIZE RISK WITH PROPER POST-SURGICAL CARE AND MONITORING

Grooming:

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All rabbits require regular grooming. They should be brushed daily to remove loose hair and reduce the potential of hairball ingestion and formation in the gut. Proper grooming also entails regular toe nail trims. Rabbits have very sharp nails and due to the shape of the nails they can’t ever be entirely dulled. But to keep their feet healthy the length should be controlled. Many people consider teeth trimming to be a part of grooming. I believe that if your rabbit requires a regular tooth trimming it is not grooming, but rather, it is due to oral disease such as malocclusion and this is a medical procedure. Teeth will be discussed further below. Bathing is not normally recommended for the healthy bunny. Rabbits are good at self cleaning and all you really need to do to help is to brush them daily. Bathing will cause enormous stress to your rabbit and for those with thick coats it is difficult to get them dry down to the skin. Wet fur can result in skin disease and other problems. The final aspect of grooming involves checking for fleas if this is a problem in your state. Over the counter flea and tick products should not be used on rabbits. I have used Revolution successfully and recommend this prescription product for prevention of fleas, ticks, and mites and often use it to treat mites on rabbits and guinea pigs. The product must be applied appropriately and dispensed at the correct dosage for your rabbit. Never use your dog or cat products on your rabbit. The product Frontline, safely used in dogs & DSC00463.thumbcats, is believed to cause health problems in rabbits and is not recommended.

  • Summary:
  • – Rabbits need daily brushing
  • – Bathing is not needed or recommended
  • – Rabbits require regular nail trims
  • – Over grown teeth is often a medical problem
  • – Flea and mite control may be needed
  • – Over the counter flea control is not recommended
  • – Revolution has proven to be safe to rabbits.
  • – Frontline should not be used on rabbits

HOUSING:

The best way to house a rabbit is to litter box train them and rabbit proof your house. They can then be allowed to interact with the family. When unsupervised it is a good idea to cage them to prevent destruction to your house (they like to dig and eat carpet) and for their safety. Rabbits should never be housed in a wire bottom cage. Over time the wire will result in sore feet and even foot wounds. The best cage is the largest one you can afford and have room for and should have a solid surface bottom. The cage can be lined with newspaper or straw. I like to outfit the cage with a hay manger, but be careful because if startled rabbits can potentially get a foot or leg trapped in the wire manger. The cage should also contain a litter box with litter such as newspaper pellets or straw. There is some though that pine shaving can be toxic to rabbits and I don’t recommend using them at this time. A salt lick is not needed for rabbits. They do however need a water source. Bottle watering rabbits is usually best because it prevents them from wetting their fur while drinking. The cage should be cleaned daily.

  • Keep pet rabbits indoors- Rabbit proof your house- Litter box train your rabbit- Cage when unsupervised – Don’t use wire bottom cages – they will get sore feet– Have a constant source of hay and water available– Include a litter box in the cage– Avoid pine & cedar shaving as a source of litter 

PROPER DIET:


Rabbis have a very sensitive gastrointestinal (GI) tract and many disease problems are associated with a poor diet causing GI dysfunction. The very best thing you can do for your rabbit is to have grass hay available at all time. Notice I said “grass” hay and not alfalfa hay. Alfalfa is much to rich for rabbits and very high in calcium which can result in urinary problems. The best types of hay are grass, either Bermuda or timothy. Hay is an excellent source of fiber and not only helps to keep their GI tract working normally, but also provides them with fiber for chewing activity and tooth wear. In addition to hay, offer at least 1cup/5 lbs. body weight of leafy greens daily. Spring greens are often a good choice and can be purchased prepackaged. Greens such as the tops of most veggies, parsley, kale and collards are good choices. Iceberg lettuce is not a good food because it offers no nutritional value. Lastly, grass hay based pellets can be provided at about 1/4cup / 5 lbs. body weight daily. Pellets should not be the sole diet and should not be used in place of hay. Foods to avoid are the grain and sugar rich foods. These can result in obesity or diarrhea.

  • Summary:- Grass Hay should be the primary food source – bermuda / timothy- Mixed Leafy greens should be provided daily- Pellets are not the primary diet and should be grass hay based – Alfalfa is not a good hay source for rabbits– Rabbits should not be fed food rich in grains and sugars– Multiple diseases are related to the diet

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