Our final article about Healthy Pets 2019 deals with our pet rabbits. As with our other pets it is important that you can recognise the signs if your rabbit is not behaving ‘normally’. Let’s once again adopt the ‘Nose to Tail’ approach as I explain the warning signs to look out for and the effect it could have on your bunny.
Have a look at your rabbit’s eyes and watch out for discharge, redness or blinking. These can all be signs of infection, pain or serious issues like scratches on the eye. With any eye problems it is best to get your rabbit checked as soon as possible.
Your rabbit has tear ducts which sit in the corners of their eyes, closest to their nose. These should drain down into your rabbit’s nose but if they are blocked there can be creamy discharge present. Your vet can try to perform a tear duct flush to clear the blockage but sometimes it can be an indication of dental disease and tooth root problems.
Rabbits have 28 teeth in total as adults. Dental disease can be a major problem with malocclusion (teeth not lining up) or irregular wear causing spurs and spikes. Signs of dental problems can include a reduced appetite, drooling or eye problems. Your vet can look at the back of your rabbit’s mouth to check the teeth there which may be causing a problem. Sometimes they may need filing down or removing under a general anaesthetic.
Rabbits have amazing senses to help them if they need to pick up on a danger and get away quickly. Their big ears help them to detect even quieter sounds which can be much further away. With such large ears, rabbits can be prone to ear infections – just like cats and dogs. Ear drops can be prescribed by your vet to clear these up. Most rabbits tolerate having their ears cleaned and these solutions applied. If your rabbit develops a head tilt it might show a problem within their inner ear. This can be caused by a parasite called E.cuniculi which if caught early can be treated. If untreated the damage can be severe, leading to rabbits having difficulty coordinating movements and going downhill rapidly.
Rabbits, like other small animals, are quite prone to pasteurella infections which can cause wheezing and breathing problems. Most of the time a course of antibiotics, sometimes with anti-inflammatory medication can clear these infections up for your rabbit.
Rabbits must constantly eat and pass faeces. If they stop doing this then their guts will slow down or stop moving. This in turn leads to gas build up within their intestines and stomach leading to a condition called bloat. This is an emergency. If you notice your rabbit’s appetite is reduced, you could tempt them with greens or some vegetables. If they do not quickly start eating, it is best to seek urgent veterinary attention. Your vet will probably give your rabbit medication to get the guts moving again and may need to keep your rabbit in for close monitoring. If left untreated, bloat can be fatal so must be treated as soon as possible.
Rabbits are more prone to their guts slowing down after an anaesthetic or if they have pain from dental disease or other areas. It is always safer to get your rabbit checked so they can receive treatment if needed.
Your rabbit is covered in lots of fur but sometimes it can fall out, contain scurf or lead to skin irritation and sores. This can be due to behaviour, parasites, infection amongst other causes. Your vet may take hair plucks to examine for parasites such as mites but if found these can be cleared up relatively easily.
When it comes to flystrike season from April to October, you should be checking your bunny’s bum twice a day. Rabbits may get fur and faeces matted around their back end which can lead to sores, infections or even fly eggs being laid and growing into maggots. Fly repellent sprays or foams are available and regular cleaning can help keep your rabbit safe.
Monitor for urine scalding too which may appear as pink skin over your rabbit’s hocks or back end. If your rabbit is older this may be a sign of arthritis and being less active. Your vets may prescribe some pain relief to help keep your bunny comfortable and active. It’s important to keep the bedding changed regularly too to prevent the build-up of urine or faeces for your rabbit to sit in.
We hope these guides help you to know what’s normal in your dogs, cats and rabbits.
Next week, we’ll talk about what to do when it’s not normal or something goes wrong.