Scarsdale Vets practice nurse Emily Tindall shares her top tips for caring for your fluffy friend:-
Rabbits require large amounts of space with grazing areas, access to outdoors and dry, well ventilated indoor areas, meaning the hutches you get from stores are usually not appropriate. Playhouses, sheds or even aviaries can be converted to be much more suitable accommodation for your bunnies. Rabbits need to be exposed to natural light to prevent vitamin D deficiency, so supplements or time outdoors needs to be factored into their daily lives, especially house rabbits. Suitable housing also prevents health problems such as upper or lower respiratory disease, therefore avoiding small, dusty and dirty environments is vital while ensuring there is suitable weatherproofing to avoid damp.
The diet of a domestic rabbit should mainly consist of three things:
•Hay/grass (timothy hay being the preferred type)
•Mixed leafy green vegetables/herbs
Hay and grass should make up the majority of the rabbit’s diet (a minimum of a ball of hay the same size as the rabbit or larger per day) but a handful of leafy greens/herbs and a tablespoon per kg of ideal bodyweight of pellets will lead to a well-balanced diet. Treats, vegetables and herbs must be given in moderation and new food items should be introduced separately – one new item per week to allow time for any intolerances to show. Long-term changes to the rabbit’s diet should made slowly over 4-6 weeks to allow their sensitive digestive system to adapt and to reduce the chances of an upset stomach.
Rabbits are highly social animals and prey creatures, so without a buddy to watch their back, a rabbit may never fully relax. However, bonding can be complicated and can vary from pairing to pairing, from 2 weeks to as long as 3-4 months. On rare occasions, 6-12 months. Patience is key! Both rabbits should be neutered before being introduced to reduce hormonal influence. Bonding should start a month after neutering to allow for enough hormones to leave the other rabbit interested enough without going overboard. Place a second cage near to the original one but also near to neutral spaces so the pair can interact. Introductions should be gradual and closely observed at all times.
VACCINATIONS & HEALTH CHECKS
Rabbits should be fully vaccinated every year. There are two vaccinations available; a combination vaccination covering Myxo (myxomatosis) and RHD1 (rabbit haemorrhagic disease) and a single dose for RHD2 (a separate strain) – both are important and should be given 2 weeks apart. The combination vaccination can be given from as young as 5 weeks old but the single dose vaccine should be given from 10 weeks. Annual vaccinations ensure full protection.
Frequent health checks will help assess your rabbit’s general growth and care. It is important to monitor how much they eat, drink and poo so you can spot any potential problems early on. It is also a good idea to get your rabbit used to being handled and having their paws touched - this will make health checks and nail clips much easier and reduce stress levels during vet visits.
Flystrike coverage is also important during the warmer months and can be easily applied throughout the year. Speak to your vet for when best to apply flystrike protection.