Common problems with rabbits

If you have or you are thinking about keeping a Rabbit, you need to be aware of problems and issues that can occur.

Before it leaves Wood Green, your rabbit will have been vaccinated against two deadly diseases: myxomatosis and VHD (viral haemorrhagic disease). We will give you a copy of your Wood Green rabbit’s vaccination record, advising you when boosters are due.

It’s not only wild rabbits that contract this serious disease: domestic rabbits can get it too. Symptoms include: red, swollen eyelids, swelling around the genital area, small but extensive red lumps around the ears and face.

If you suspect that your rabbit has myxomatosis, you must take it to your vet immediately.

VHD (viral haemorrhagic disease)
This disease is very difficult to detect because there are few signs of infection. Often, sudden death is the only indication that a rabbit has contracted the disease.

Vaccination against VHD should begin when the rabbit is twelve weeks old; thereafter, boosters are needed annually.

Fly strike
This common and unpleasant condition is caused when flies, attracted to faecal material around the rabbit’s rear, lay their eggs inside the rabbit’s anus. The eggs are visible and are about the size of a grain of rice. If left to hatch, the emerging maggots eat away at the surrounding flesh, causing severe discomfort. Untreated, fly strike can be fatal. If you notice any soreness around your rabbit’s bottom, take it to the vet straight away.

Prevention is better than cure. Fly strike commonly affects obese and elderly rabbits who cannot groom their backsides. You’ll need to wash your rabbit’s rear end if it can’t wash itself. Lack of space is also a contributing factor because active rabbits are more likely to groom themselves regularly.

Encephalitozoon cuniculi is a microscopic parasite that can cause severe illness in rabbits. The most common symptoms of infestation include the head swaying to one side or is tilted, rolling eyes; urinary incontinence; loss of balance; cataracts.

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should consult your vet immediately. Symptoms can flare up rapidly and delay can prove fatal.

Since the parasite can be spread through infected urine and faeces, regular, thorough cleaning can help to protect your rabbits against e.cuniculi. Simple preventative steps include providing your rabbits with a water bottle rather than a bowl of water, removing faeces from the accommodation every day. Encouraging your rabbits to use a litter tray will make this task easier, regular worming at three-monthly intervals.

Nail clipping
If your rabbit doesn’t have a hard surface to walk on, it may need to have its nails clipped. Overgrown nails make walking very uncomfortable and can lead to back and joint problems.

Nail clipping is a simple procedure and Wood Green staff will be happy to show you how to do it.

Dental health
Rabbits’ teeth grow continually so it is vital to keep a close eye on their dental health.

Dental problems can affect the incisors (front teeth) and (more commonly) the molars (back teeth).

Your rabbit cannot tell you that it has toothache, so watch out for signs such as unexplained weight loss, weepy eyes, difficulty eating, grinding of the teeth, sitting hunched and still.

Take your rabbit to the vet if you notice symptoms like these.

Feeding your rabbits the fibre-rich diet that we recommend and providing them with plenty to gnaw on will help to keep the teeth worn down. You should also ask your vet to check your rabbits’ teeth when you take them for routine treatments and vaccinations.

Read more about rabbits at The Woodgreen Animals Charity website

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