Before you bring a rabbit into your home, there are important things to consider. The most important consideration is finding a veterinarian that cares specifically for rabbits. Many “exotic” vets care for rabbits, but it is important to make sure you have access to a vet that is completely knowledgeable on matters of rabbit health and maintenance. You also need to locate an emergency location for vet care for your rabbit in the case of an afterhours emergency, as a rabbits health can drastically decline quickly by the time you are aware there is a problem. Domestic rabbits and their wild cousins, being prey animals, instinctively hide injuries and health issues as a survival technique. Their instinct is not to appear weak. You need to seek veterinary care immediately if your rabbit exhibits any of the following; not drinking, not eating, not urinating, difficulty and straining while urinating accompanied by bloody urine, not defecating, loss of coordination and inability to move smoothly and tilting of the head. Dull eyes, a stiff posture accompanied by grinding teeth can mean that your rabbit is in extreme distress and you need to seek veterinary attention immediately. It is important to keep a rectal thermometer available to you. A rabbit’s temperature should range between 101 and 103 degrees. Anything less or more should be addressed quickly.
A very common health issue in rabbits is GI distress. Always monitor your rabbits eating habits and check stools when cleaning the cage or hutch. Stools should be uniformly shaped and sized. Any deviation, should be checked out. Proper grooming can eliminate excess fur in the stools. If your rabbit does not eat within a four to six hour period of time, or there is no urination or stools, this needs to be addressed immediately. Sooner better than later.
As mentioned, grooming is important. It will keep your rabbit from ingesting excessive amounts of fur.
A rabbit needs two to four hours of exercise a day to keep his body fit and his GI functioning properly. If your rabbit spends the majority of his time in a large outdoor hutch, you should consider building a rabbit run for him to spend some of his time in. It should be constructed of similar materials used to build a hutch, but it should also have a deterrent to digging out from under it. Some people build a floor to the run as opposed to setting it on the grass to eliminate the possibility of the rabbit digging out and getting loose. Rabbits are built for digging. Without constant supervision, a rabbit can get loose in thirty seconds or less. In a properly constructed run, a rabbit can get plenty of exercise and fresh air. Even an indoor rabbit can benefit from spending time in an outdoor rabbit run.
Especially a rabbit that spends a great deal of time outside can suffer from parasites. Flea, tick and mite preparations for dogs and cats are not safe for rabbits. Consult with your rabbit veterinarian on safe products to protect your rabbit. In addition, it is not advised to use any chemical products such as pesticides, herbicides, etc. whatsoever in the yard around and near your rabbit hutch and run.
Coccidia is an intestinal parasite that can be easily diagnosed and treated by your veterinarian. This parasite usually affects rabbits that have been in mud, wet grass and dirt. Symptoms can include bloating, loss of appetite, loss of fur and diarrhea or there can often be no symptoms at all. If your rabbit has been exposed to another rabbit with coccidia, he must also be treated.
Rabbits do not contract the common cold. If there is any nasal discharge, sneezing or wheezing, the rabbit must be taken to the vet immediately.
If your rabbit’s eyes are rolling or he is having trouble with his balance or his head is noticeably tilting, you should rush to the emergency vet hospital that you have already determined treats rabbits. It could be an inner ear infection, but it could also be the sign of something much more serious. Typically, the vet will examine the rabbit thoroughly and check inside his ears and take blood samples and cultures to determine the problem. Usually the vet will prescribe a rabbit specific antibiotic such as Baytril or Bactrim while waiting for test results. Often, the rabbit will be kept for observation until a treatment plan can be devised.
Rabbits can have problems with their teeth. The teeth of a rabbit continuously grow. This is an adaptation to wild rabbits and their diet of tough, fibrous grasses, etc. If a domestic rabbit’s diet is lacking in the proper elements, their teeth can grow in an unnatural position and cause numerous problems, sometimes involving great discomfort. The incisors can often be treated with an office visit to your rabbit vet, but often, treatment of molars, impactions, abscesses and uneven growth that requires repair requires anesthetization. Often a course of antibiotics is given as well as pain medication in severe circumstances.
The color of your rabbit’s urine can vary according to diet. A cause for concern might be in the case of milky urine, which is often the sign of too much calcium in your rabbit’s diet. This can easily be remedied, but to be sure, consult your vet. In addition, if your rabbit’s urine is red in color, consult your vet, quickly.
There is a very common problem with obesity in domestic rabbits. Often attributive to improper diet and lack of exercise. This can lead to heart problems and fatty liver disease. A diet low in carbohydrates and high in fiber and plenty of exercise is the key to proper rabbit weight and health.
Rabbits can live satisfactory lives with a number of disabilities, from loss of an eye to becoming a paraplegic. Many options for treatment or aid are available. There are prosthetics for partially paralyzed rabbits, rabbits, like dogs, can get around quite well on three legs, and a rabbit can adjust quite well to diminished or loss of vision. In the future, the use of 3D printing can make enormous differences for disabled rabbits. Adopting a physically challenged rabbit can be a rewarding endeavor.