Did you know that rabbits are the third most popular furry pet in the UK? And at Astonlee, we appreciate that they are just as important to the family as any other pet! Like dogs and cats, rabbits make a strong bond with us, and that makes dealing with critical illness emotionally draining. I know this myself - I remember being heartbroken when a rabbit, my first pet, died suddenly and without warning when I was 8.
But compared to our carnivorous pets, rabbits have very specific health requirements. In this blog, we’re going to explore two key elements to rabbit health: gut health, and parasite control.
Rabbit intestines are… different
They have a complicated digestive system that is essentially an enormous fermentation chamber, allowing them to break down the cellulose in their diet. This always needs to be working properly because it can produce too much gas (leading to bloat and discomfort) or become static (called ileus). This results in blockages and the resultant release of toxins send the rabbit into acute shock, and can rapidly be fatal.
Care of the gut is important
Getting the feeding right is essential. Not only is long-fibre important for gut health, it also maintains dental health - and unlike many other pets, poor dental health in the rabbit will inevitably lead to poor gut health, and ultimately, catastrophe. The teeth are a vitally important part of the digestive system, breaking down that high-fibre diet (hay and grass) that rabbits need for health. When the teeth don’t work properly - because they’re overlong, or have ground down in an abnormal way - the gut doesn’t work right either.
If the gut stops working, going into “gut stasis” or ileus, rabbits deteriorate very quickly. This is why if your rabbit stops eating or stops pooing, or if they seem bloated or uncomfortable, get them to us as fast as possible!
What care can you provide?
Well, as always, prevention is better than cure… so every time we see your bunny - for a vaccine appointment or anything else - one of our team will carefully check their teeth for any problems, and have a good feel of their abdomen. If hospitalisation is needed (for example, after an operation; or if they are showing signs of tummy problems) we provide 24/7 care in our hospital with our own team. That includes team members going out to find and cut fresh dandelions to tempt them to eat again!
Care from the Outside In
OK, so that’s the tummy issues… but sadly rabbits carry their own external menaces as well! I’m referring, of course, to mites. Whilst fleas tend to cause a myriad of problems in dogs and cats (and rabbits do get them too!), mites are often a common problem in rabbits. It can be difficult to spot them but the symptoms they cause tend to be quite obvious. There are two main groups of nasty mites…
The most common mite found on rabbits is called Cheyletiella but it is much easier to say ‘Walking Dandruff’, its common name! This is because the mite is quite large and if you comb them out onto a dark surface, although they look like skin flecks, you can see them moving. They cause a thick scurf to form on the skin, patchy hair loss and they can be very itchy; affected rabbits can scratch themselves raw. It is often not possible to identify where the mites came from, but it is often a bad batch of hay or bedding. Also, there is a variation in how sensitive rabbits are to the mite and often one in a group will be very badly affected but the others fine.
As the name suggests, they live in your rabbit’s beautiful long ears, and cause severe itching! They can cause very severe problems in rabbits, as infestations can be in one or both ears. The main symptoms are a thick, flaky crust in the ear and a great deal of discomfort.
How do we treat mites?
The treatment for fur mites is a spot-on preparation, applied every fortnight for 6 weeks to fully clear the infestation. If there is skin damage, antibiotics may also be required. You should also clean out the hutch thoroughly after each treatment.
Ear mites can be treated using similar spot-on drops, but also with injections or ear drops.
What else do we offer for rabbits?
Well, we want to make looking after your rabbit as easy as possible. That’s why we’ve set up our Pet Care Monthly scheme to allow you to provide them with the best of care, and save money too! Pride of place in the scheme is our vaccination protocol (all included in the price!) that will protect your pet against the killer diseases - Myxomatosis, Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease 1 and even RHD 2 as well.
So, if you’re worried about your rabbit, inside or out, give us a ring on 01908 611 637 and we’ll do everything we can to help get them hopping about again! Or, click here to learn about our Pet Care Monthly scheme to save on all your rabbit’s essential healthcare...