Rabbits

Looking After Your Rabbit

rabbit clondalkin animal clinic

Housing

Rabbits need a secure hutch to live in, but also an outside run for exercise. Rabbits can be kept indoors as they are easily litter trained, but the house must be made rabbit-proof by lifting any electrical wires out of reach and removing any unsuitable plants.

Company

Rabbits are sociable animals and like company. Another rabbit friend is best. Make sure this rabbit is the same sex, otherwise you could end up with lots of rabbits! A guinea pig is not a suitable friend, as guinea pigs like to chatter which can be annoying to your rabbit. It’s best to buy a pair of rabbits together that you know will get on, but if you are buying a new addition then ask to have a meeting beforehand to see if they will bond.

Neutering

Neutering can be done from 4 months of age. We recommend neutering both male and female bunnies to prevent illness. Males can get testicular disease if not castrated. Unneutered females can develop aggression and also have a high incidence of ovarian cancer.

Neutering is a simple day procedure. Your rabbit will come into the hospital in the morning and will be given a full health check. Rabbits don’t need to have fasted before surgery as they can’t vomit so there is no risk of that during surgery. We recommend bringing some food with you as we will want to feed your rabbit as soon as they wake up.

Neutering for males involves removal of the testicles. For females, the ovaries and uterus are removed. Your rabbit will need a post op check 3 days after surgery and any stitches present will be removed 10-14 days later.

Feeding

Rabbits are herbivores, which means they eat only plants. In the wild, they live primarily off grass and your pet’s diet should reflect this too. Rabbits get most of their energy by fermenting the fibre in their food, so the best diet will be high in fibre and low in fat and sugar.

We recommend for 80% of your rabbit’s diet to be fresh hay. They should eat a bundle of hay roughly the size of themselves every day! The rest of the diet should be made up of rabbit pellets and fresh veggies. Old fashioned “muesli” type foods are not recommended. These foods are high in fat and low in fibre, and the muesli pieces mean your rabbit can pick out only the bits it likes. A complete pelleted food is more balanced and stops selective feeding behaviour.

Vegetables that your rabbit will love are kale, spinach, rocket, cabbage, parsley and dandelion leaves (make sure there is no weedkiller on them). Lettuce has a high water content and very little nutritional value, so this should be avoided. Carrots and fruit have a lot of natural sugars so these should be given no more than once a week as a treat. The same goes for any treats bought from a pet shop.

Never give your rabbit any human food such as breakfast cereal or granola. These are very high in salt and sugar and could make your rabbit ill.

Poo

Healthy rabbits poo a lot. Your rabbit will produce 2 types of faeces. The first are the dark faecal pellets that you will see in your rabbit’s hutch or litter tray; your rabbit should produce at least a hundred of these a day!

The second type is called a caecotroph. These are soft sticky pellets that are high in nutrients and coated in mucous. Your rabbit produces these at night and they are eaten directly from the anus and redigested to absorb maximum nutrition from the food. If you see caecotrophs in your rabbit’s cage or stuck to its bum it could be a sign of illness, so seek advice from your vet straight away.

Teeth

Your rabbit’s teeth grow continuously. They have 6 incisors at the front, and then a row of molars in the back of their mouth. These need to be constantly worn down by chewing. A high fibre diet is best for this. We also recommend a regular dental check up with your vet to make sure your rabbit’s teeth are in good condition.

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