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Orchard Vet's Blog

Rabbit Awareness Week 2022

24/06/2022


The Rabbit Awareness Week campaign runs every year to help to educate rabbit owners and potential owners about the welfare needs of these wonderful animals. This year we’re sharing hints and tips on how to aid your bunny in a long and happy life over on our Facebook page



Rabbits are lively, energetic social animals. This means they must live in pairs or groups to keep them happy. Littermates usually make the best companions – but they should always be neutered! Rabbit siblings can mate with each other, and with a litter size ranging from 1 – 14 kittens (baby rabbits) you could quickly have a lot more rabbits than you thought.



It’s a good idea to socialise with your rabbits from an early age so they can get used to you. Always interact with them at their level on the floor, and give them plenty of time and space. It might take a while for them to feel comfortable, but once they do, you’ll have a great relationship.



Diet 



Rabbits need high levels of fibre in their diet – without this, their digestive systems will not work properly and they can become poorly. Your rabbit diet should be made up of roughly 85-90% high quality feeding hay or grass to help maintain your rabbits dental health, as well as their digestive health!



It’s important you feed your rabbit a nutritionally balanced high fibre nugget or pellet and you should always follow any feeding instructions on packs of food as these are designed to help combat obesity.



There are lots of tasty plants and vegetables your rabbits can eat, for example rabbits can eat broccoli and cucumber, but some that aren’t suitable too! Here are some rabbit friendly fresh greens:




  • Basil


  • Broccoli


  • Cauliflower


  • Celery


  • Coriander


  • Curly kale


  • Dandelion leaves


  • Mint


  • Parsley


  • Thyme


  • Watercress



Not all greens are rabbit safe! Some plants can be poisonous for your rabbits:




  • Begonia


  • Buttercup


  • Carnation


  • Cowslip


  • Daffodil


  • Foxgloves


  • Hemlock


  • Holly


  • Ivy


  • Nightshade


  • Primrose


  • Poppy



Environment



Rabbits can be kept indoors or outdoors, but if keeping them indoors it’s important that you gradually introduce your rabbit to common household sights and sounds, and make sure that all areas are rabbit proofed!



For outdoor bunnies, your housing should be sheltered from the elements, have plenty of warm bedding, be dry and well ventilated and secure from any predators.



You should give your rabbits’ housing a quick clean daily, throwing out wet/dirty bedding, uneaten food and cleaning and refilling food and drink containers. Each week you should give the housing a thorough clean, removing and replacing all bedding. Every month you should give your rabbits’ housing a ‘deep clean’ where you take everything out, scrub the housing with a animal-safe cleaner then replace bedding with fresh hay.



Health



You should bring your rabbit for a health check with one of our vets every 6-12 months and check that they are eating correctly and passing plenty of droppings every day.



We advise that you neuter your rabbits to avoid any unwanted litters. Female rabbits can develop uterine cancers if un-neutered, while males can become aggressive towards other males.



It’s important to keep an eye out for signs of fly strike, gut stasis, Encephalitozoon, RVHD and Myxomatosis in rabbits…




  • Flystrike is particularly common during warm weather. It’s caused by the green bottle fly laying eggs on the skin. Once these eggs hatch the maggots grow by feeding on the rabbits flesh.


  • Myxomatosis is a virus spread by biting insects. It causes gradual swelling around the eyes, ears, anus and genitals. You should always get your rabbit vaccinated by your vet to prevent infection. But if you do see any of the signs mentioned, then you should see a vet immediately. 


  • Encephalitozoon is another common parasite with symptoms such as head tilt or trouble standing up.


  • RVHD is fatal in unvaccinated rabbits, sometimes with no warning signs. In rabbits that survive the first few days after infection, diarrhoea with blood is often seen.


  • Gut stasis is potentially life threatening in rabbits. It occurs when normal gut movement slow or stop altogether. If you notice your bunny has a bloated belly, stops eating, drinking and passing stools call us immediately.



For more in depth information on housing, feeding and socialising your bunny check out the Rabbit Awareness Action Group website