Rabbit Care

RABBITS MAKE GREAT PETS

 

Rabbits are great pets that have character, are extremely sociable, enjoy the company of humans and are a great way of introducing young children to pet ownership. They are quiet, clean and are easily toilet trained.

While rabbits love company, they can be left alone during the day and are therefore suitable for people who work or are away from home. A predator-proof enclosure to ensure their safety is essential. An appropriate enclosure is a hutch that is divided into two connecting compartments: one compartment of wire mesh to allow access to natural light and fresh air; the other compartment enclosed to provide protection against weather and a secure sleeping place.

LIVING SPACE

The floor of your rabbit's hutch should be covered with newspaper, with a layer of bedding material like straw, grass, hay or shredded paper for warmth, comfort and to prevent pressure sores on your bunny’s feet. Consider extreme weather conditions and ventilation when choosing a location for your hutch.  Rabbits are extremely sensitive to the hot summer temperatures we experience in Australia and may die of heat stroke if their hutch is not in a cool, shady position.

Rabbits should have at least two hours outside of the hutch for exercising each day. Handling them will also be of benefit in keeping them tame.

GROOMING

Using a firm brush to remove dead hairs, tangles and pieces of garden matter should form part of your daily routine.Grass seeds can commonly become stuck in their eyes, ears and nose, causing irritation or even infection. Check your rabbit’s rear end daily to make sure it is clean and dry, if soiled it is very prone to fly strike.

NUTRITION

Feeding and nutrition is the most important factor in making sure your rabbit stays healthy. Many commercial rabbit foods don't contain enough fibre (18 - 20% is required) and are too high in fats and sugars.

Rabbits are herbivores so their diet should consist almost entirely of vegetable matter. Pellets and mixes should not form a main part of the diet. Grass or hay is an essential dietary component to ensure your rabbit’s health. Apart from providing a high fibre diet, chewing hay wears down their continuously-growing teeth and keeps them occupied, preventing boredom. Ideally,feed your bunny 85% hay and 15% veggies such as Asian greens or endive (lettuce and cabbage can cause diarrhoea). Treats such as fruits, root veggies(carrots), capsicum and pellets should only be offered in small amounts (1 - 2 tablespoons per day per rabbit). Fresh water should always be available using both a drip feed bottle and an open container.

As a rule of thumb, if feeding pellet rations, the best commercial pellet foods should have a fibre content of no less than 16%, and a reduced protein content of 16%. A fibre content below 15% may increases the potential for loss of appetite and diarrhoea. High protein, low fibre diets increase morbidity and mortality from diarrhoea. Once a rabbit starts to suffer from gastrointestinal problems it can be very hard to restore normal gut function. Pellets should also have a fat component of up to 8%. This will increase pellet palatability and reduce dustiness.

Pellets need to be stored in proper, sealed containers to prevent rancidity and contamination from rodents. Buy just enough to enable you to use them quickly so as to preserve their freshness and nutritional content.  

A fibre content of greater than 16%, while not causing digestive problems can be unpalatable to many rabbits unless there is other foodstuff available such as fresh greens, grass and all the sorts of things that rabbits like to nibble when running around free. A higher fibre content of between 18 - 22% helps to prevent obesity in pet rabbits so if you can achieve a balance between high fibre and palatability then your rabbit can have the best of both worlds as far as diet is concerned, and the health benefits that flow from good, balanced tucker.

Hay provides the best source of fibre. Beware of overfeeding Lucerne hay as it is high in calcium. High calcium diets can predispose rabbits to calcium carbonate stones (urinary calculi) which can develop , although the aetiology or cause of bladder stone formation in rabbits is not totally understood. If feeding Lucerne as part of an overall diet, choose either pellets or hay, but not both, and make Lucerne only a small part of the overall ration.   

Dietary requirements vary according to age and, to some extent gender and whether or not rabbits are breeding, rearing and nursing young. Overall though, the best rations tend to be a measured amount of a commercially produced pellet (Lucerne-based or not) supplemented with quality meadow/pasture hay and fresh green OR a free-choice hay/grass diet with vegetable supplements. The addition of certain herbs like parsley is an excellent idea.

Routine veterinary care for rabbits includes vaccination against calicivirus and desexing (females can become quite aggressive when mature and are very prone to reproductive cancers). Like all animals, rabbits should have regular veterinary checks, especially to check their teeth and claws.

We welcome you to book an appointment with us to discuss how to keep your rabbit in optimal health.