Rabbit Care

Rabbit Care & Husbandry

Rabbits are fluffy, inquisitive and adorable companions! Before introducing these wonderful creatures into your home, it is important to know that rabbits have very specific husbandry and dietary requirements that greatly impact their overall health and wellbeing. Most diseases and health problems can be avoided with the right care and set up at home.

Here at Lynbrook Vet, we provide several veterinary services to keep your bunnies healthy, happy and hopping!

The following veterinary services are available at Lynbrook vet

  • General health checks
  • Basic emergency, medical and surgical treatments
  • Vaccination services (bi-annual calicivirus vaccine)
  • Desexing
  • Nutritional and husbandry advice
  • Nail trims
  • Regular parasite prevention- a spot on monthly treatment (Revolution) is registered for use in rabbits for this purpose
  • Referral to exotic pet specialist

We work in association with several exotic pet clinics to provide the best care and advice for your rabbit. For cases that are not able to be managed in clinic, referral to an exotic pet specialist can be organised on your behalf.

Vaccination

There are two major viruses that pose a serious risk to your rabbit’s health: Calicivirus and Myxomatosis.

Your pet rabbit can be protected against the Calicivirus stain RHDV1 with the Cylap® vaccine. Cylap® can be first given to rabbits at 8 weeks of age. An additional booster is required 4 weeks later after the initial vaccine. Adult rabbits should be vaccinated every 6 months to ensure adequate protection against Calicivirus.

The RHDV1 strain causes rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) which can be fatal in unvaccinated, domestic rabbits. RHDV1 can cause damage to internal organs leading to organ failure and internal bleeding. Sadly, most rabbits do not display any warning signs and can die very suddenly. Therefore, it is vital your rabbit is protected with the Cylap® vaccine. Please be aware this vaccine does not protect against all strains of calicivirus which is why other control measures are important to keep your rabbit safe e.g. insect proofed enclosure, regular parasite prevention for flea control.

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine available for mxyomatosis in Australia. This virus was originally released by the Australian government in 1950 to help control wild rabbit population numbers. Since then, deadly strains have emerged that lead to widespread inflammation in the body affecting mainly the ears, eyes and genital area. Mxyomatosis virus is almost always inevitably fatal if contracted by domesticated rabbits due to secondary complications such as infection.

Desexing

Lynbrook Vet provides routine desexing for both male and female rabbits. Rabbits reach sexual maturity at approximately 3 months of age (earliest 8 weeks of age). Desexing your pet rabbit is beneficial for reducing risks of ovarian and uterine cancer, inter-rabbit aggression, sexually driven behaviours and unwanted pregnancy.

We recommend desexing female rabbits between 4-5 months of age and male rabbits between 3-4 months.

Husbandry

Rabbits can be housed both indoors and outdoors. There should always be a minimum floor space of 1.5m x 1.5m per rabbit. The minimum recommended enclosure size for a pair of average size rabbits is 3m x 2m x 1m according to the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund.

Outdoors

Outdoor rabbits can be housed in a hutch or playpen, preferably in a sheltered area of the garden to protect them from the elements. Rabbits are very sensitive to extremes in temperature, especially heat. Rabbits are at high risk of heat exhaustion when temperatures rise above 28 degrees Celsius. On hot days, it is important provide access to plenty of water and to keep them out of direct sunlight. Frozen water bottles can be placed in the pen for your rabbit to lie against to expel excessive heat.

It is recommended that all outdoor enclosures are insect proofed with flyscreen or insect netting to prevent mosquito access. Mosquitoes can carry calicivirus and mxyomatosis which can be fatal if contracted by your rabbit. Rabbit enclosures should always be kept dry and clean. Newspaper flooring or hay bedding should be changed weekly at minimum to prevent build-up of toxic wastes (urine and faeces).

Indoors

Indoor rabbits can be set up in a designated room or have complete access to the house. Before allowing your rabbit to roam freely it is important that your house is rabbit proofed! Bunnies love to explore and are prone to getting up to mischief! This means in order to keep your rabbit safe in your home please be aware of the following: cover or hide all electrical wires and cables, avoid toxic household plants, supervise interactions with other pets with predatory instincts and block potential escape routes.

It is recommended to first keep your rabbit in small or restricted area to make sure they feel secure before allowing access to the rest of the home. This is also beneficial for toileting training. Litter trays should be large, easy to climb into and be lined with hay. One litter tray per rabbit plus one extra is ideal to prevent inter-rabbit aggression.

Once they are more comfortable you can slowly introduce them to other areas of the house. It is beneficial to keep rabbits on flooring that you can easily clean, but keep in mind tiles and floorboards can be slippery and lead to pressure sores on their feet with regular exposure. Bunnies love to play and hide! Providing multiple cardboard boxes, soft tunnels and ramps are great for mimicking burrows and for environmental enrichment.

Nutrition

Nutrition is imperative to your rabbit’s gastrointestinal and dental health. Most health problems commonly seen in rabbits are caused by feeding an inappropriate or poor-quality diet.

Recommended diet for rabbits

  • Ad lib access to good quality grass (orchard grass) or grass hay (Timothy, Oaten or Botanical grass hay). A 2kg Rabbit should eat a cat litter tray’s worth of hay daily. 70-80% of their total diet. Rabbits and guinea pig teeth continuously grow throughout their lifetime! Therefore, it is important they have access to dry food to help wear down their teeth to prevent overgrowth and dental disease.
  • Fresh vegetables and herbs e.g. Asian greens, cabbage, broccoli, coriander, carrot tops, celery leaves, silver beat, parsley, mint, basil, watercress, milk thistle, cucumber, cauliflower– 10-20%
  • Good high fibre pellet mix (tablespoon per rabbit per day) – 5%
  • Treats- e.g. fruits such as banana, apple, pear, strawberries, watermelon, grapes, capsicum. Handful of lucerne hay Hibiscus Flowers, Fennel, Carrots, Almonds (1-2), Sultanas (up to 5), Cranberries (up to 5) and rose petals (fresh or dried) – 5%

Things to avoid

  • Iceburg lettuce, onion, garlic, potato, meat, tomato plants, rhubarb, japalpenos, seeds, bread, oats, high starch foods.

Rabbits should have access to daily fresh water. Water can be dispensed in either a dripper bottle or via a water bowl. Make sure the water bowl is heavy so that it cannot be easily knocked over!

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