LUMIAIRE- LIONHEADS - exhibiting under Luminous prefix

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.  



Rabbit care



Housing: Rabbits require a comfortable cage, if cage is going to be located outside it should be weatherproofed, draught proofed and secured from predators. In addition there should be   a covering to wrap over the hutch on cold nights. Wire bottom cages are not comfortable for rabbit's feet, so please get a cage with a solid bottom. The rabbit should have enough room to move about easily, with an open and sheltered area and litter box/area.     It is essential, particularly if the hutch is outdoors in the summer, that the hutch is kept clean, or fly’s will be attracted.  Clean hutch as least twice weekly and remove soiled bedding each day.  Rabbits make good house pets and can be litter trained, however,   rabbits love to chew and can be destructive to furniture, it is also wise to take measures to prevent chewing of electrical cables - not the ideal pastime!   


Bedding:  Rabbits like to arrange and then rearrange their beds and require suitable types of bedding material should be given. The  bedding  should  be changed  at  regular intervals  to keep  the cage  smelling  fresh  and the rabbit feeling comfortable. The bedding should be completely changed and the cage washed with warm soapy water and hosed out once every month or 2 (more frequently   if the rabbit urinates outside the litter box).  Bedding material can be dust extracted hay (though rabbits might eat this) straw and hardwood shavings, you can buy other materials especially for rabbits.

Diet:     In the wild, rabbits are natural browsers, selectively eating a wide variety of vegetation; pet   rabbits require the same nutrients, so the best diet is one that mimics as closely as possible their natural grass-based diet in the wild.  Hay, if you read no further just remember this word…HAY. ... it should form the bulk of the diet as it holds the key to a healthy 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.

Grooming: If you have a short haired rabbit you should brush them once a week, more frequently when they are shedding. If your rabbit has long hair, you should groom them on a daily basis, lionheads are in between so they need to be groomed (including underneath) 3 or 4 times a week, depending on how long the mane is and if their fur tangles. You should use grooming equipment specially designed for rabbits and brush them gently, keeping in mind that their skin is quite fragile. If your rabbit develops mats in their coat, gradually work out the mat by separating and combing the hair. It may take several grooming sessions to get rid of the matted hair or alternatively you could take your rabbit to a professional groomer where they will trim it out. Rabbits do not usually need a bath, they find it very stressful, only clean the dirty area of your rabbit rather than giving him a bath. Your Rabbit's nails may need occasional or if unsure take to vet.     trimming. To clip the nails, trim a very small amount of nail with a pet nail clipper making sure to avoid the blood supply. Visit the video page for David Graham's tips for gooming lionheads. 

Dental Problems: Rabbit’s teeth continue to grow throughout their life. Rabbits require a high fibre diet, mainly consisting of hay supplemented by a small amount of commercial rabbit food.  Munching on hay ensures the teeth are evenly worn and prevents spurs (overgrowth) developing on cheek teeth.  If the teeth are not worn down, they grow incorrectly leading to discomfort, abscesses, anorexia, etc. The teeth may require “burring” by the vet to correct the problem   (this can be financially expensive if the rabbit has to be anesthetised) and as the rabbits teeth regrow so does the problem, every 1 to 3 months trimming will be required unless the underlying diet problem is addressed - really prevention is better than cure in this case, so make sure you provide a hay rich diet.   Indication of dental problems may be saliva around the mouth or on the chest or front paws, an inability to eat or teeth grinding. Seek veterinary advice quickly if you are at all concerned.

Flystrike: Flies are attracted to rabbit droppings, either in the hutch or around the rear end of the rabbit. Fly eggs will hatch into maggots and will initially feed on the droppings and will then burrow into the rabbit and eat its flesh. This will result in discomfort, pain and, often, death. Avoid flystrike by removing droppings regularly from the hutch, grooming your rabbit frequently and ensuring good ventilation to the hutch as this will   prevent flies becoming attracted and then trapped in the hutch. Spray a safe disinfectant in and around the hutch to deter flies and eliminate bacteria. Seek veterinary attention immediately if you suspect fly strike.

Snuffles: This is a condition caused by bacteria and can be brought on due to stress (such as high temperature, draughts, damp bedding etc.) The animal will develop cold-like symptoms, a runny nose, breathing difficulties and discharge from the eyes. Snuffles can lead to more serious problems, such a pneumonia, head tilt and tooth root abscesses. Keep your hutch well ventilated and in a fairly constant temperature. Avoid leaving damp bedding in the hutch. Seek veterinary advice if your rabbit appears poorly. 


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.


Gastro-Intestinal Disorders: These can be caused by such things as inappropriate diet, stress, the presence of parasites, etc. Your rabbit will have a digestive upset and will exhibit symptoms such as bloat, constipation or diarrhoea, or a combination of these. It is extremely important that rabbits are treated quickly during this period to prevent dehydration or the condition worsening, as they can deteriorate very quickly. Seek veterinary advice if your rabbit shows any signs of these disorders.


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.