It’s Rabbit Awareness Week running from the 9th-17th May, so it’s time to start thinking about bunnies…
With Spring just sprung, our lovely bunny friends are everywhere, aren’t they? With Easter now behind us we saw so many cute stuffed toys on the shelves, chocolate shaped rabbits in your basket and bunnies gracing the front of every promotional poster. However, with all of these floppy-eared friends around at the moment, we’ve started thinking much more about our clients and their pets.
With the holiday season coming up you’d be forgiven for letting your pet’s routine vaccination slip your mind. However, it’s extremely important your companion is up-to-date with their vaccinations so that they’re not at risk of developing a potentially fatal condition.
Unfortunately, there are two diseases that rabbits are at risk of; Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD).
The condition causes rabbits to develop skin tumours, blindness (in some cases), fatigue and fever and can be fatal.
It is spread by direct contact with an affected animal, or from bites from fleas or mosquitoes that have fed on an infected rabbit.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Myxomatosis, which is why it is so important to ensure your furry friend is up-to-date with their vaccinations.
Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD)
Viral Haemorrhagic Disease – also known as Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease
While Myxomatosis has obvious symptoms soon after contraction such as developed skin tumours, blindness (in some cases), fatigue and fever, VHD does not. However, in some cases the rabbit may develop a fever, squeal in pain, swollen eyelids, paralysis and convulsions.
It is believed that VHD kills 90% of rabbits that are affected. For that reason, you are strongly advised to have your companion vaccinated against the disease..
A vaccination is an injection that is given to your pet to prevent them from developing nasty conditions. It works in exactly the same way as human inoculations, where a small amount of a disease is administered to your pet, encouraging their immune system to produce the necessary antibodies to fight off the condition in the future.
Today, your companion can be vaccinated against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease with just one injection whereas recently they used to need two jabs. Your floppy-eared friend will require their initial vaccination at around 5 weeks old, and then a booster injection once a year for the rest of their life.
Fly strike is a very unpleasant condition caused by flies laying their eggs on dirty fur. These hatch into maggots which eat into the rabbit’s flesh and can kill a rabbit in a matter of hours. Vets see cases of fly strike every year from Spring to early Winter.
How can I stop my rabbits getting fly strike?
Most at risk are rabbits that get dirty around their back end, so you should make sure the hutch and living environment are cleaned out regularly. If rabbits don’t groom their fur properly and allow it to get dirty, it is vital to get your bunny checked at the vet. There are also preventative spot on medications such as Rearguard that can be provided by your vet.
Fleas and worms
It’s not just dogs and cats that can get these nasty visitors. Rabbits can too.
Commonly, you will notice black flecks in the fur (this may not be so obvious in dark coloured rabbits); this is flea dirt. Since the flea dirt is dried blood, if you brush some of the flecks onto a wet piece of cotton wool, they will turn red; this is diagnostic of fleas on your rabbit.
Unless the infestation is advanced, you are unlikely to see any live fleas on your rabbit.
It is also important to worm your rabbit regularly to avoid intestinal worms. Panacur Rabbit is a paste that is administered orally and should be repeated 2-4 times a year. It also aids in the control of Encephalitozoon cuniculi which is quite common and can cause neurological problems, head tilts and kidney problems.
Diet & Exercise
Many of the common problems seen in our bunny patients can be avoided with a good diet. In our pet rabbits this involves mainly feeding a good quality hay diet or grass for the majority of the diet. Rabbits should only have very small amounts of packaged rabbit food and this ideally should be a good quality diet- diets that are often recommended by vets include Excel and Russell Rabbit. Remember the 80/20 rule. 80 of their diet should be grass and hay. Remember rabbits need exercise, being stuck in a hutch is not fair as they need to run as they would in the wild.
If one of your rabbits becomes sick or injured you may be faced with expenses that you weren’t prepared for. These can rise rapidly, especially if your rabbit needs to be hospitalised. Pet insurance helps you budget for these unexpected costs as rabbit vet bills can become expensive.
There are hundreds of thousands of unwanted animals in need of homes. Neutering stops animals from adding to this problem by having unwanted litters. It also reduces the risk of rabbits developing some serious diseases. This can help them live longer and enjoy a better quality of life.
Neutering (spaying) female rabbits
Spaying is important for your rabbit because it reduces the risk of her developing cancer of the womb. It also allows her to live with another rabbit (e.g. a neutered male) without having unwanted babies. This is important because rabbits need company from other rabbits.
Spaying can help to reduce aggression, but you should get advice from your vet about any problems you are having with your rabbit’s behaviour.
Female rabbits can be spayed at around 4 months of age. You should ask your vet when the best time for your rabbit is. A rabbit doesn’t need to have a litter before she’s spayed.
Up to 80% of un-neutered female rabbits can develop cancer of the uterus
Although rabbits are often not keen on being picked up it is important to learn to do this to get them used to being checked and it is especially important to check their rear during the warmer months for dampness and flystrike.
• Approach your rabbit slowly and get down to his/her level. …
• When you feel confident your rabbit is ready to be picked up, put a hand on their back to steady the bunny then scoop him/her up by placing a hand under the torso and pull your bunny close to your body.
• Support the rabbit’s hindquarters.
Rabbits are great fun, and can become very affectionate. Here are some ideas for how to have fun with your bunny and make them happy
• Get down on the floor – rabbits are ground-loving animals!
• Find out your rabbit’s favourite foods, and hand feed him…. many rabbits will come when called if they know they’ll get a treat!
• Gently scratch your rabbit’s forehead
• Rabbits love to chew and dig – it’s what they do when making burrows!
• Pet rabbits need things to chew (e.g. hay; apple or willow twigs; kitchen roll inner tubes) and somewhere to dig. You can make a “digging box” by putting peat into a cardboard box and cutting a hole half way up the side
• They also like searching for tasty food, so you can hide titbits and watch your bunnies hunting for
At London Veterinary Surgeries your pet couldn’t be in better hands. Our friendly and professional team have a wealth of experience caring for rabbits, and are always happy to answer any questions you may have.
So, while you enjoy your chocolate surrounded by bouncing bunnies this Easter, think about your pet’s health and happiness, and make sure they aren’t overdue their essential vaccination.
For more information about your rabbit’s health, or to book an appointment to have your companion vaccinated, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.