Diane McClure, DVM, Ph.D., DACLAM, of MSD Veterinary Manual, a trusted source of animal health information for students and practicing veterinarians, said rabbits should undergo annual health checkups. Your veterinarian may employ techniques that are used for dogs and cats when examining your rabbit.
As an owner, you should be responsible for preventing diseases through vaccinations to protect it fatal diseases like Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) and provide it with a healthy diet, stated Nidirect, a government services website. You should also be responsible to act promptly if your rabbit gets sick or exhibits a change in behavior.
Rabbit Ownership In the UK (2019 Report)
PDSA, a vet charity in the UK, found that 26% of 10,000 adults (9.9 million) owned a dog, 245 owned a cat (10.9 million), and 2% (900,000) owned a rabbit. 26% of rabbit owners said they got their pet because their kids wanted one, and 26% said they owned a rabbit because of love and affection and happiness.
44% of rabbits lived predominantly inside while 56% lived predominantly outside. The charity also found that 25% of owners kept their rabbits in inadequate housing provision, unlike 2017’s 35%. 10% of rabbits don’t have a run and only live in a hutch, and only 11% can do between zero and four hops in the widest part of their run. However, 28% were free-roaming while 45% can do five or more hops.
26% of owners stated that they don’t provide hay as part of their rabbit’s main diet whereas 30% did not feed their pets enough hay. The treats that owners regularly offer to their rabbits were carrots (71%), vegetables like broccoli and peas (69%), dandelion lives (53%), growing fresh grass (50%), fruit (41%), rabbit muesli (32%), celery (19%), and grapes (10%). When asked how they decide that their rabbit is the right weight, they sought advice from a vet or a veterinary nurse (48%), looking at their pet’s body (43%), and feeling their pet’s body (37%). 38% admitted to using their common sense when deciding if their rabbit is the right weight.
71% of rabbits were presently registered with a vet, which is lower than cat (84%) and dog (92%) owners. The owners chose their veterinary practice because it is the nearest (46%) and has the best reputation (41%). Good customer service was chosen by 28% of rabbit owners, unlike 31% of dog owners and 29% of cat owners. A smaller proportion of rabbit owners (14%) chose their practice because it was in their local pet store, which was higher than dogs and cats (both at 7%). Only 13% of rabbit owners chose good parking.
Only 49% of rabbit owners said their rabbit had received a primary course when young while 51% stated that their pet received regular booster vaccinations. 30% of those who had not provided their rabbit with regular booster vaccinations cited “they don’t come into contact with other animals” as their reason for not vaccinating their rabbit after their primary course. 16% felt it was not necessary while 18% said their vet did not recommend an annual vaccination, while 13% said it was too expensive.
15% of those who did not neuter their rabbit said they did not think there was any benefit in neutering their pet and haven’t thought about it. 11% said they were worried about the anesthetic, which was higher than dog (5%) and cat (3%) owners. A large proportion of owners cited “lives alone” as their reason for not neutering their rabbit.
Routine Care for Rabbits
A healthy rabbit has alert, bright eyes. Dry nostrils and clean, shiny coats are also signs of good health in rabbits. Feces in their nesting area should appear as small, firm pellets. Rabbits are prey animals and to help them avoid attracting predators, they don’t show signs of illness or changes in behavior.
In that case, illness can escalate quickly so you will need to have your rabbit treated immediately. Signs of illness may include flinching, teeth grinding, trouble breathing, redness on the skin around your rabbit’s belly, bottom or on the underside of feet, soft pellets (feces) on the ground, and more.
Rabbits naturally shed fur at the end of the winter and summer. Short-coated rabbits should be groomed every week while long-haired ones should be groomed at least once a day to avoid tangle and mats. They can also be clipped by your veterinarian or a pet care specialist. Trimming your rabbit’s nails depends on where you house it, but they should be kept at a suitable length. Its nails wear down when digging or exercising on hard surfaces.
Good quality grass or grass hay is the best source of fiber, said Blue Cross, an animal charity in the UK. Ensure that the grass is free from mold, dust, and grass seeds. The latter may get into your rabbit’s eyes so be careful when feeding it. Provide your rabbit with fresh vegetables. It is not recommended to feed it with cereal-based diets as they are high in sugar and low in minerals. Instead, opt to offer high-fiber pellets as a healthier alternative.
Every rabbit needs to be vaccinated against myxomatosis and viral hemorrhagic disease. Myxomatosis is spread by fleas and mosquitoes and by contact with an infected rabbit. Vaccines do not guarantee protection, albeit vaccinated rabbits have higher rates of survival than non-vaccinated ones. It is strongly recommended to give annual vaccinations in spring, as biting insects are more common during this season. Consult your vet for a suitable product to treat your rabbits (including your cats and dogs) for fleas and protect it against mosquitoes.
Viral hemorrhagic disease, both outdoor and indoor rabbits should be vaccinated every year and reduce their likelihood of contracting the virus. Wild rabbits should be kept away with rabbit-proof fencing. The areas surrounding the hutch should be clean so as not to attract wild birds and rodents, preventing them from entering into the hutches and runs.
5. Microchipping and Neutering
Don’t let your rabbit escape! Microchipping will help you reunite with your pet faster if it escapes and is found by a stranger. Meanwhile, neutering prevents female rabbits from being aggressive to other rabbits and male rabbits from mounting on other rabbits and animals. Unneutered rabbits tend to exhibit problematic behavior and may suffer from health complications.
Owners should invest in vaccines to protect their rabbits from fatal diseases. Exercise and weight management are also needed to maintain their quality of life. Like dogs and cats, rabbits should be microchipped in case they get lost.