Looking after rabbits
The rabbit is the most popular of all the small mammals kept as a pet after dogs and cats and the most neglected. People buy cute baby bunnies and then tire of them, or find they are allergic to them, the rabbit ends up left in a hutch with no stimulation and little contact with their owner. According the Rabbit Welfare Association around 35,000 rabbits end up in UK rescue centres each year .
All breeds of rabbit make appealing pets, some do take more looking after than others, all require a commitment from their owner to spend time and money looking after their welfare. Please think carefully and do some research before considering buying a rabbit.
the high fibre content is essential for normal gut function, the low fat content helps prevent obesity and the high calcium level keeps rabbits' bones strong. Additionally, having to chew large quantities of abrasive hay grinds down the front and cheek teeth preventing dental disease. Commercial rabbit pellets made from timothy hay or high fibre rabbit mix should be fed in small amounts (a small handful) every day, since these provide extra essential nutrients. If rabbit mix is given make sure it has a high fibre content and that the rabbit eats all of it, even the pellets - some rabbits are selective and leave things they are not fond of, but they are necessary for a balance diet, so do not give more till ALL the food is eaten. A diet of rabbit mix, or pellets alone can lead to dental disease, diarrhoea and fur block, so remember HAY. Rabbits also require green vegetables now and again and also enjoy receiving carrots, fruit and other vegetables. Add a new food in small amounts, gradually increasing over time since a sudden change in diet can cause diarrhoea which can be fatal in rabbits. Fresh drinking water must be available at all times; bottles are easier to keep clean than water bowls.
Parasites: Rabbits are prone to a number of internal and external parasites, including fleas, fur mites and worms. Pet rabbits should be kept free of all parasites to keep them in optimum health. Signs of parasites are numerous, from loss of condition, to diarrhoea or sore skin, depending upon the type and place of the infection. Seek veterinary advice for diagnosis and treatment.
Myxomatosis: This is a disease transmitted by fleas, or from contact with other infected rabbits or objects. Symptoms are usually swollen eyelids and thick discharge from the eyes and nose. The rabbit will become very subdued and stop eating. This condition is usually fatal. Take your rabbit to the vet immediately if he shows any of these symptoms and isolate it from any other rabbits. Remember vaccination of your pet can control strains of this disease. Additionally regular flea control and a clean hutch should help avoid the spread of any virus from one rabbit to another.
Floppy Rabbit Syndrome: Unless you are familiar with this condition, often the first sign is an apparently healthy rabbit lying limp in its cage. Upon examination, the rabbit has little or no movement of any limbs and just "flops" in your hands. Sometimes the only sign of life is the small "twitch" of the nose. If you are alert for the condition you can often spot the early signs before the rabbit has progressed to total paralysis. If a rabbit is sitting quietly in the corner of its cage (in no apparent distress) I give it a gentle push. If the rabbit falls over and finds it difficult to regain its feet I immediately suspect Paralysis or Floppy rabbit syndrome. Sometimes a rabbit can still be hopping around the cage but its hop seems a little unsteady and unbalanced. The progression of the condition can vary between rabbits. Sometimes a rabbit can be perfectly healthy an hour later dead in its cage! Other rabbits can gradually get worse over several hours and remain in a paralysed state for several days. Rabbits with a rapid onset of the condition can rarely be saved. More recently a link between the syndrome and vitamin E deficiency has been put forward as a cause. Armed with this knowledge treating affected rabbits with Vitamin E, given in crushed tablet or liquid form improves the chance of survival and perhaps adding to the diet may help prevent floppy rabbit syndrome.
Vent Disease (VD): Vent Disease is caused by the bacteria Treponema cuniculi. VD affects the mucocutaneous junctions in the rabbit, which include the vent area, nose & lips. This causes scabs which can be on the genitals (the vent), the nose & lips. It will appear either in both places, or just one place. You can have rabbits who just have scabs on the nose & lips with no signs of VD on the vent. Vent Disease is highly contagious. It is normally transmitted through breeding or birth (babies born from an affected doe). But, it can also be spread by poor sanitation in the rabbitry.Topical treatment with creams such as neosporin will only deal with the outward appearances. But, it will not deal with the root of the problem. Therefore, you will have a rabbit who may appear symptom free, but actually is a transmitter of the disease.