are much more social than people think. For generations, people have
pictured rabbits outside in a backyard hutch, due to their habit of
defecating whenever they feel the need. On the contrary, rabbits can be
trained to use a litter box, just like a cat. This new revelation has
brought the rabbit from being housed outside to being an indoor pet,
giving owners more time to spend with their pet. Rabbits who are housed
indoors quickly become integrated into the family's day to day
activities and add their own personalities into the mix.
When keeping a rabbit inside, a cage is still an essential need. Here
the rabbit will find a private place to rest and call his own. It is
also a place of safety for him when you leave your house. You should
never leave a rabbit running loose in your house unattended. Because
they are diggers and chewers, they can get into all sorts of trouble
pen-type cages are very popular due to the ease of cleaning and the
ability to move them around. Whatever the setup you choose, remember
that rabbits like to dig and chew so place the cage in a rabbit-proof
area of your home. Buying a large piece of linoleum to use under the
cage can eliminate digging behavior and makes for easy cleaning. As
long as your bunny has access to his litter box, cleaning his cage area
should not be a chore.
Rabbits also enjoy
having a box to sleep and hide in as well as toys to play with. Some
rabbits like tossing cardboard rolls, plastic cat toys, and even
plastic soda bottles around. Each bunny is different so try different
should change the litter box 2-3 times a week, depending on the number
of rabbits you keep. A very good litter out on the market is called
Carefresh. It is a newspaper-based litter and very soft and absorbent.
Carefresh is recommended over using regular cat litter as it is easily
digested if the rabbit happens to eat it. A clean litter box is
essential and some rabbits have been known to quit using the box if it
is not cleaned regularly.
There are many false ideas about just what a rabbit should be fed. The
diet we recommend here at our hospital is an unlimited quantity of
fresh hay, ½ cup of pellets, and a small amount of fresh fruits and
vegetables as a daily treat. The hay is essential because it is high in
fiber and keeps the bunny's digestive tract moving. Timothy, alfalfa,
oat, sweet grass, and meadow grass are all very good and, depending on
the time of year, some if not all will be available. Rabbits, like
people, have different tastes and your bunny will let you know which
type of hay he enjoys. One important side note to remember: alfalfa is
like the "candy bar" of hays. Rabbits will usually eat alfalfa with
gusto but too much alfalfa can cause urinary problems because of the
high calcium so feed alfalfa sparingly. Free choice water from a water bottle should be available at all times.
The most common problems we are presented with here at our hospital
include lack of appetite, tooth problems, parasites, abscesses, E.
cuniculi, and Pasturella.
External parasites usually present themselves on the hair coat of your
pet. If you notice your bunny's fur contains dandruff-like flakes, he
may have fur mites. Your vet will recommend a skin scraping to rule out
these parasites but if the mites are present, a 2 dose treatment of
medication given 2 weeks apart should alleviate this problem. Fleas can
also be a problem for rabbits. By using either Program or Advantage,
these pests can be kept in check.
examining your pet's ears on a regular basis, you can catch any signs
of ear mites. These parasites live down in the ear canal of your
rabbit. A dark, crusty exudate in the ear indicates this parasite.
Again, your vet will use the microscope to check for signs of this bug
and treat it accordingly.
appetite can be a red flag to rabbit owners. Rabbits love to eat so any
time their eating habits change, pay close attention. Drooling can
indicate tooth problems so have your pet's teeth checked regularly. In
some cases when caught early, trimming of the molars will help the
bunny eat again. If the teeth are not wearing evenly, they can grow
points that dig into the rabbit's cheeks and tongue, making eating very
Rabbits can also have digestive tract problems. Impactions
caused by rug fibers or hairballs can be very serious. If your bunny
stops eating or his droppings change in size, you should call your vet
are another rabbit health problem. The most common places they can be
found are on the jaw area (usually in association with a tooth
problem), the legs or feet, or other areas on the body. Because rabbit
pus is very thick, abscesses can be very difficult to cure. A
relatively new procedure that has been found to be quite successful
involves cleaning of the abscess and implanting antibiotic-impregnated
beads into the wound. These beads stay inside the abscess and the
antibiotics are then released over time.
E. cuniculi is a disease
caused by a protozoan known as Encephalitazoon cuniculi, or E. cuniculi
for short. The symptoms can include depression, head tilt, and
sometimes rear leg paralysis. A blood test can be sent out for
diagnosing this disease but as of yet, there is no known treatment.
is a bacterial disease. Pasturella multocida causes upper respiratory
symptoms in rabbits including sneezing and nasal discharge. In advanced
cases, the rabbits get matted front legs due to rubbing their noses. If
you notice your bunny having any nasal discharge at all, a trip to the
vet is a must. Your vet can take a blood sample for testing and if your
pet is positive, antibiotics can be used to help control the symptoms.
Pasturella is hard to cure but can be controlled with the proper
Please call the Merrick Veterinary Group at 516-379-6200 to schedule your rabbit for an examination with Dr. Marder or Dr. May today.