Edgemoor Veterinary Practice – providing high quality veterinary care throughout Ryedale and beyond

Rabbit Advice

What should we consider before buying a Rabbit?

Rabbits can be very rewarding pets, they are sociable pets that will soon become part of the family. They have a life expectancy of 6 – 10 years and you will need to be committed to their care every day of their life. You will need to provide a suitable diet, keep them safe from predators, provide a suitable place for them to live and do all you can to prevent them having pain, injury or disease. You will need to adapt your daily routine to accomodate time for feeding, hutch cleaning, grooming and social interaction with your rabbit.

Because rabbits would normally live in a ‘herd’ and are very sociable, it is best to keep at least a pair of rabbits so they can keep eathother company. You will also need to consider if you already have any other pets in the household. For example, rabbits will often bully guinea pigs so they should not be kept together. Rabbits will naturally fear dogs and cats because they would be seen as prey out in the wild.

If you are thinking of keeping a rabbit outside you will need to take note of the local weather. Rabbits can become hypothermic in very cold conditions.

Where should we buy rabbits from?

There a plenty of places to buy rabbits from but you should take time to make sure you buy from a reputable breeder/seller and avoid taking on an unhealthy rabbit. Good breeders will let you see the litter and their mother and be interested in how you plan to look after them. They should also give you information on their current diet and any treatments they have had (e.g. worming treatments).

Rehoming centres often have friendly adult rabbits which are in need of a good home. They usually will have had a check by a vet before you buy to help identify any health problems. So worth checking what your local centre has to offer.

Once you have made your decision to take on a new family member, we always recommend bringing them to one of our practices for a check over with a vet. Because it is so important, we offer this inital check over free-of-charge.

If you would like to discuss owning a rabbit further or to book your new rabbit in for a complimentary check over, call us on 01439 771166 to chat to one of our friendly team.

What should we look for when choosing a rabbit?

There are a few things to look out for that can be good indicators of their current health, these include:

– The rabbit should appear active and aware of their environment and anyone visiting them.

– Their coats should not be excessively scurfy and you should check for any skin lesions.

– Their eyes, ears, and nose should not have any discharge (fresh or dried) coming from them.

– They should not appear thin and their ribs shouldn’t feel like they stick out when you stroke them.

– They shouldn’t have have any droppings stuck their back end nor be excessively wet in that area.

You can also ask the breeder/seller if there are any known illnesses you should be aware of, if they have been vaccinated against myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) and if they have been neutered.

What is the best house for our rabbits?

Rabbits like to be active and will need space to run, hop and stand upright. You should provide adequate space for them to do this in a safe, secure area that is either inside or outside your house. If kept ouside, they should also have a good shelter such as a hutch where they can sleep, alongside a large secure area to exercise in. Rabbits kept indoors can be house trained to toilet in a litter tray but can be naturally destructive so care should be taken to ensure they don’t chew any wires or destroy treasured furnishings.

You can also provide ‘toys’ in their exercise area to keep them mentally stimulated, these can be purchased from our Accessories section or a pet shop but a simple cardboard tube can also be seen as a good toy to a rabbit.

Having an area where your rabbit can sleep is essential, there are a few options for bedding material that your rabbit will love to snuggle down in. Outside rabbits are best having straw, wood shavings or hay as bedding. Any straw used should be kept dry and clean to prevent mould developing. Indoor rabbits might enjoy paper or old towels to sleep in. All bedding should be regularly checked – at least daily – for any soiling and changed if found to be dirty.

How can we litter train indoor rabbits?

You may not have thought it possible but rabbit can indeed be trained to toilet in a litter tray. When your new rabbit is settling in to their home, you should keep them in a small area of a room or large dog crate. You will soon notice that they naturally like to toilet in one part/corner of this area. If you place a low-sided litter tray or 2 in this toileting area they will soon associate the litte tray as the best place to urinate/defecate. You will then be able to gradually move the litter tray after a few weeks and your rabbit will follow. N.B. cat litter can cause illness if swallowed by your rabbit so any litter if best filled with shredded paper or straw.

What is the best type of food to feed our rabbits?

Domestic rabbits have a digestive system that is completely the same as their wild counterparts. Therfore, the diet you feed them should mimic what they would normally eat in the wild – namely grass! It can be fresh or dried as hay but the bulk of their diet should consist of some kind of grass. Having it in plentiful supply will allow your rabbits to chew all day long, as they naturally should, helping to prevent the dental or digestive problemsĀ  seen in rabbits on a poor diet.

You should supplement the grass or hay you provide with ‘leafy greens’ to add extra nutrients your rabbit needs. These can include kale, watercress, cabbage, basil, broccoli and dandelion, amongst others. Your rabbit will love them but they will only need a small amount in comparison to the grass they eat. Give too much and they could cause an upset tummy.

They are plenty of diets advertised in pet shops that come in pellets which can be high in energy – so your rabbit will love them. These should only be used in small amounts to supplement the grass/hay you provide as the majority of their diet. Rabbits will often pick out the tastey, high energy parts of a commercial dietĀ  which can cause obesity and health problems. A diet made up of a mostly pelleted diet is also unlikely to provide sufficient fibre to prevent dental and digestive illnesses. A diet of mostly grass/hay will provide all the fibre they need.

It is important to find out what a rabbit has been fed by a seller or breeder so you can provide it in their new home. Any changes to their diet should be made very gradually over a few weeks to avoid digestive upset.

How should we provide water?

Fresh water should always be readily available and changed daily. You can provide water in a bowl and/or from a drinking bottle designed for rabbits. Both should be kept clean to avoid illness.

Should we vaccinate our rabbit against any diseases?

Yes! At Edgemoor Vets we routinely vaccinate against myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD-1). RHD-1 can be picked up by owners on their shoes or clothes when outside and passed on to their pet rabbits. Myxomatosis is usually spread by fleas that can be transmitted from wild rabbits. Both are fatal with no known cure – so it is important you vaccinate your rabbit every year to protect them.

Save up to 35% on your vaccinations and regular treatments on our Health Plan

Give a call on 01439 771166 if you have any more questions on these diseases or to book your rabbit in for their vaccinations.

Should we have our rabbits neutered (spayed/castrated)?

Neutering you rabbit is recommended to prevent behavioural problems and disease later in life. Rabbits that aren’t neutered can become aggressive as they get older and may fight other rabbits. Spaying female rabbits also greatly reduces the chance of them developing uterine cancer, which is relatively common in older, entire rabbits.

We routinely neuter both male and female rabbits from 5 months of age, though if you have 2 rabbits of the opposite sex we recommend neutering the male rabbit as soon as possible after 3 months of age. It is best to keep entire rabbits of the opposite sex separate after 3 months of age to prevent unwanted litters.

We regularly do the procedure at our Helmsley practice. Your rabbit will be admitted on the morning of the procedure and most are able to go home the in the afternoon the same day.

You can save 10% on your rabbit’s neutering procedure when you join our Health Plan.

Why should I insure my pet?
In recent years, veterinary medicine has become increasingly more advanced. We are able to diagnose and treat conditions that in the past would have been left undetected, sometimes with fatal consequences. But this more advanced treatment can be costly.
One of the hardest positions we find ourselves in, is when a client is unable to afford the treatment cost and the owner has to opt for a less effective treatment option, or a less effective treatment option. That’s where pet insurance can provide that peace of mind that you do not have to make these difficult decisions, allowing you to focus on caring for your pet.


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