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Rabbit Advice

Tips on all aspects of caring for your rabbit

  • Oral Hygiene
  • Feeding
  • Microchipping
  • Neutering
  • Flea and Tick Treatment
  • Worming
  • Vaccinations

Oral Hygiene

Dental problems are a major health issue for rabbits - they need to eat fibre to wear down their continuously growing teeth. If teeth don’t get worn down enough this can cause drooling and lack of appetite. Refer to the “Feeding” section of the website for more detailed information on your rabbit’s dietary requirements.

Rabbits should have their teeth checked by a vet or nurse at least every 6 months to look for overgrowth of incisor teeth or the development of sharp spurs on the molar (cheek) teeth, which can damage the tongue and inside of the cheeks.

A rabbit which is unable or unwilling to eat is considered an emergency as their gut needs a regular intake of food to work properly. If your rabbit is off its food, contact a vet immediately.

Feeding

Rabbits are herbivores, and they rely on fibre as an essential part of their diet. They need both digestible (short) and indigestible (long) fibre to provide essential nutrients, maintain the correct level of bacteria in the gut, keep their digestive systems healthy, and keep their teeth worn down. Rabbits can’t extract sufficient nutrition from fibre the first time round, so they need to eat it a second time. This means indulging in the unsavoury (to us) behaviour of caecotrophy. This is the eating of caecotrophs, which are clumps of sticky droppings. Caecotrophy usually occurs at night, and is a normal and important behaviour.

The ideal diet for your rabbit will provide all the nutrition they require for optimum health, whilst keeping them interested and occupied. Feeding a variety of sources of fibre is the best way of achieving this, along with the vitamins and minerals that your rabbit needs. Your rabbit’s diet should be made up of unlimited forage, a commercial balanced rabbit mix containing vitamins and minerals, fresh greens, and occasional fruit and vegetables. A constant supply of fresh, clean water should always be available.

Forage

The most common type of forage for rabbits is hay. Hay can be given on an ad lib basis, as rabbits are naturally grazers and are designed to have a constant trickle of food moving through their system. Hay should be good quality, and sweet-smelling. Alfalfa is another forage that can be fed to rabbits. Grass is also a good forage for rabbits, but isn’t reliably nutritious or available all year round. Forage also helps to prevent boredom in rabbits, and foraging behaviour is normal, and vital to their well-being.

Commercial rabbit mixes

Rabbit mixes are available in different forms. A good quality pellet or nugget-based food is preferable to a muesli-style food because all the nutritious ingredients are packed into each pellet, whereas, in a muesli-style diet, the different ingredients are separate. This can lead to selective feeding by your rabbit, often of the sweetest ingredients, and an unbalanced intake of nutrients. Many foods are labelled as ‘complete’, but this is a misleading term.

Many domestic rabbits are overweight and obese. Obese rabbits are more prone to health problems and tumours than are rabbits of a healthy weight. Obesity also limits a rabbit’s ability to perform caecotrophy, which can lead to serious problems. It is easy to feed too much of a commercial rabbit food, as your rabbit will invariably find it appetising. Rather than feeding ad lib, you should refer to the manufacturer’s feeding guidelines, and you will often find that your rabbit needs slightly less than recommended to remain in top condition.

Fruit, vegetables and plants

Small quantities of fresh forage can be a useful and welcome addition to your rabbit’s diet. Only small amounts should be fed at any one time to avoid causing tummy upsets, as rabbits are very sensitive to digestive problems. Vegetables such as carrot leaves, cauliflower and cauliflower leaves, celery, corn on the cob, kale, lettuce leaves, parsley, spinach and string beans can be enjoyed by your rabbit. Fruits are a tasty complement to your rabbit’s normal food, and small amounts of apple, melon, pear, strawberries and tomatoes can be fed to your rabbit. Fruit juices can be acidic though, and may irritate your rabbit’s mouth.

Many wild plants are enjoyed by rabbits and grasses, clover, dandelions, chickweed, poppies, sorrel and wild radish are a few of those that are safe to feed. Any wild plants gathered should be clean, and disease-free. Diseases can be spread from wild rabbits via plants, and pesticide-treated plants from the roadside can be dangerous - take care where you gather your plants, or you can wash them in a mild disinfectant, then rinse and dry before feeding.

Microchipping

If your pet goes missing, its unlikely to find its way home. With microchipping anyone who finds your pet can have it scanned and quickly it will be on its way back to you.

Every year more than 300,000 treasured pets get lost or go missing. This is why we recommend having your pet microchipped to give it the best possible chance of being reunited with you.

Our practice uses Tracer Advance Microchips - the most comprehensive animal identification system available in the UK. Tracer Advance is the most commonly used and trusted microchip within the veterinary profession.

Tracer Advance is a tiny microchip, hardly bigger than a grain of rice. Unlike other glass chips, Tracer Advance is encased in a unique bio-polymer material which is ten times stronger than glass and is designed to sit comfortably under your pet's skin.

How is it implanted?

Having a microchip implanted is just like a normal injection. It is implanted under the loose skin of the neck.

How long does it last?

Microchips are invisible and cant be tampered with. Once implanted, it lasts a lifetime.

How does it work?

If your pet goes missing, most vets, animal charities and local authorities have microchip readers, so when someone finds your pet, the scanner can read the microchip 15 digit code easily. This identifies your pet on the secure petlog database, where all your microchip details and contact details are registered. The database is accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

Neutering

What is Neutering?

Neutering is the surgical removal of the testicles of a male animal (also called castration) or the ovaries and uterus (womb) of a female animal (also called spaying.)

Male Rabbits:

• Reproductive control
• Eliminates the risk of testicular cancer
• Decreases aggression towards humans and other rabbits
• Decreases urine-marking behaviour

Female Rabbits:

• Reproductive control
• Decreases aggression towards humans and other rabbits
• Eliminates the risk of developing cancer of the uterus (womb) - 8 out of 10 rabbits which are NOT neutered develop uterine cancer

What age can I get my pet neutered?

 Male rabbits can be neutered from 4 months of age. Female rabbits are neutered around 6-12 months of age.

What is involved in having my pet neutered?

We carry out routine operations (including neutering) every day Monday to Friday. You can book the operation in by contacting our reception to make an appointment.

Neutering is a day procedure so animals are admitted first thing in the morning and will usually go home that afternoon or evening. A nurse will admit your pet and go through the consent form with you. Your pet will be weighed, anaesthetised and the surgical site clipped and cleaned before the vet carries out the operation. Your pet will recover in a warm cosy kennel under close supervision and once he/she is well awake will be offered some food and water.

Once we are satisfied that your pet is awake enough to go home, a nurse will discharge it. The nurse will explain how to care for your pet following their operation, inform you when you need to bring your pet back for a check-up, and explain any medication that has been prescribed. Most animals will be a bit sleepy for 24 hours following the surgery but will usually be back to their normal selves afterwards.

Are there any risks associated with neutering?

No anaesthetic or surgical procedure is completely risk-free and neutering is quite a major operation particularly for females. However, these are routine procedures done on healthy (and often young) pets which we are very experienced at performing these operations. A vet will examine your pet on the day of the surgery - we choose our sedation drugs carefully to suit the individual patient. We use very modern gas anaesthetics which allow good control over the anaesthetic and a nurse will closely monitor your pet throughout the operation and recovery time. Carrying out pre-anaesthetic blood tests help us identify problems in advance and any longer operations are put on an intravenous fluid drip. After the operation, it is important to regularly check your pet’s wound for any sign of swelling, redness or discharge and contact us if you have any concerns. Thankfully complications are extremely rare and most people find their pet is back to normal within a week of the operation.

Flea and Tick Treatment

What are fleas?

Fleas are small, black insects about 2 mm in length, which live in the bedding and coats of animals and feed on their blood.
 
How can I tell if my animal has fleas?

Close examination of your pet may reveal small, black insects moving rapidly through their coat. If there are a few fleas present, “flea dirt” may be evident which will appear as small, black specks. To check for flea dirt, place the black specks on a wet piece of cotton wool. The dirt will turn red as the blood pigment dissolves.

Ticks

What are ticks?

Ticks are a small, light grey, rounded parasite which belongs to the arachnid family. They feed on the blood of animals, and vary in size - when engorged, can reach the size of a pea. Ticks will only feed at certain times of their life. Peak activity is between the months of March to June and from August to November, and most of their life cycle is spent outside in areas of long grasslands and moorland.

How can I tell if my pet has ticks?

Adult ticks can be seen attached to the skin of your pet and will resemble a small, smooth wart or blood blister. If your animal has only a few ticks, they may have little effect on the pet, but occasionally the skin may become irritated due to an allergic reaction to the bite. If infestations are heavy, anaemia may develop.

Worming

Why should I routinely worm my pet?

Even if your pet looks healthy they can potentially be harbouring worms - worms carried by cats and dogs pose a health risk to humans as well as animals. Using a veterinary practice bought wormer and using it regularly can ensure that your pet and family remain protected from worms.

Which worms will my pet be protected against?

Rabbits can be carriers of Encephalitozoon Cuniculi, a protozoan which can result in neurological disease and eye abnormalities.

How is my pet wormed?

Rabbits are wormed using an oral paste.

When should I worm my pet?

Routine worming of rabbits is recommended 2-4 times yearly. Dosing should also be considered during periods of higher risk, such as when the rabbit is acquired, prior to mating and when mixing with other rabbits.

Vaccinations

Why should I vaccinate my pet?

There are a number of infectious and potentially fatal diseases that can affect your pet, and many of these diseases have no effective treatment. The best and most simple way to protect your pet from these conditions is by vaccination. Disease is spread via animal to animal contact by means of body fluids such as urine, saliva and faeces. Disease can also be spread by an uninfected animal coming into contact with an object that an infected animal has touched such as a water bowl, food bowl or even a lamp post. Contrary to belief, disease is not only spread in areas where there are a large concentration of animals such as a kennels or a cattery but can be spread outside on a walk or in the garden.

When I vaccinate my rabbit, what diseases will I help to prevent against?

Myxomatosis - spread by biting insects such as fleas and midges or by direct contact with an infected rabbit, myxomatosis causes severe conjunctivitis which can lead to blindness and is accompanied by lumpy swellings on the head and body. Sadly myxomatosis is a common and fatal disease.

Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) - this can cause inappetance, fever, bleeding from the nose or bottom and some animals may simply be found dead.

How are vaccinations given to my pet?

Vaccinations are given via injection, just under the skin - most rabbits do not even notice!

Are there any risks associated with vaccination?

Small skin reactions to the vaccine just around the site of injection are not uncommon, and these usually go away within a couple of days. Your pet may also be slightly subdued after vaccination - this will also subside within a day or two. Complete vaccine reactions are very rare but if you suspect that your pet is unwell after vaccination, contact the surgery.

At what age should I have my pet vaccinated?

There is now a combined myxomatosis/VHD vaccine available for rabbits. A single injection can be given from 5 weeks of age, and protects your rabbit for 12 months.

Practice information

Struthers & Scott

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  • Mon
    8:00am - 7:00pm
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    8:00am - 7:00pm
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    8:00am - 7:00pm
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  • Fri
    8:00am - 6:00pm
  • Sat
    8:30am - 12:00pm
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    Closed
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Struthers & Scott Veterinary Practice Innes Park Station Wynd Doune Perthshire FK16 6EH
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