Rabbits are now the third most popular pet in the UK.
They CAN make great pets, especially for children, BUT they do need a lot of looking after and sadly, we see many rabbits being neglected once the novelty of owning one has worn off.
The vast majority of the problems we encounter in general practice associated with rabbits are due to inappropriate housing and feeding. Below are some guidelines to try to help prevent such problems occurring.
- Sexual Maturity - 16-24 weeks
- Pregnancy Length - 30-33 days
- Litter Size - 4-12 [average 7]
- Weaning age - 7-8 weeks
- Lifespan - 8-12 years
- Adult Body Weight - 1-8 kg
Danger - Do Not Use Frontline on Rabbits
A word of warning; whilst Frontline is considered to be one of the safest forms of ectoparasiticide around, there have been some reported adverse reactions in rabbits which are thought to relate to the alcohol used to spray the active ingredient onto animals. The manufacturers have therefore stated that they do not recommend its use in rabbits.
Avoid Keeping Guinea Pigs and Rabbits Together
We often hear of clients keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together. Years ago, this was considered perfectly acceptable as long as they got on together. However, we now know that rabbits carry a bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica. Whilst this rarely causes a problem in the rabbit, it can cause serious disease in guinea pigs and may even be fatal. Our recommendation therefore is that rabbits and guinea pigs should be housed separately.
Many of the problems we see guinea pigs for in the surgery are dietary related. Particularly they are often associated with a lack of adequate fibre in the diet that each animal eats. Many of the modern commercial diets allow “selective feeding” meaning that they only eat parts of the diet, often leaving the less palatable high fibre portions which are so important to help avoid dental and digestive problems. If you can get hold of decent quality hay (preferably Timothy hay), then the basic rule is to feed hay, hay and yet more hay!
With guinea pigs too, don’t forget that they need vitamin C in their diet. Adults require a minimum of 10mg/kg bodyweight of vitamin C per day. This can rise to 30mg/kg in a pregnant sow. Even feeding lots of fresh greens in addition to a good fresh proprietary diet may not provide enough. As a result, we now recommend that vitamin C should be added daily to a guinea pig’s drinking water.
A very good source of information on rabbits cane be found here: Rabbit Welfare Association
Most rabbits are housed outside in a hutch with ready access to a grass run. The hutch should be damp-free, draft-free but well ventilated and contain soft bedding such as hay. Rabbits are very susceptible to heat stroke, and so the hutch must be kept out of direct sunlight in... read more »
The ancestor of the domestic rabbit maintained a territory of about 2 acres, within which heshe would wander looking for food and mates. Great distances were covered each day. Rabbits are also very athletic in order to escape from predators. Adequate opportunity to exercise is vital for pet rabbits, as... read more »
Rabbits love running in the garden, sniffing the air, digging and nibbling at the plants and grass. However before you let your bunny out for the first time it's essential to take some precautions: Fence the garden with wire mesh. Beware of predators, including neighbours' cats and dogs, large birds, foxes, rats... read more »
Toys provide your rabbit with mental and physical activity, and also help to protect your home. Indoor Toys: Closed cardboard box with 2 or 3 doors for hopping in and out, climbing on, chewing, etc. (may also be lined with newspaper, a towel or carpet for digging) Seagrass mats to chew... read more »
It is recommended that all rabbits not intended for breeding are neutered, for the following reasons: Prevention of Pregnancy Prevention of Uterine Cancer. This is the most compelling medical reason to neuter female rabbits. Up to 80% of female rabbits over the age of 2 years may develop this disorder. Prevention of... read more »