New Rabbit

To help get your rabbit off to a healthy start, Brimbank Veterinary Clinic is open seven days a week to assist you with your pet.

Vaccination - Guarding against disease

All pet rabbits should be vaccinated against rabbit calicivirus every 6 months. Vaccination should be administered from 12 weeks of age.

In Australia calicivirus is widespread in the wild rabbit population.

The virus is transmitted by biting insects (e.g. mosquitoes, fleas) and is almost always fatal. Death occurs rapidly (12-18 hours) and there is no known treatment.

 

Myxomatosis

Myxomatosis is a virus which was introduced into the Australian wild rabbit population in an attempt to control population numbers. The virus is spread through biting insects and is nearly always fatal.

Young rabbits are most susceptible and there is no vaccination currently available in Australia.

The only effective protection is to cover the rabbit hutch with mosquito proof mesh.

 

Good food, good health

To ensure optimal gastrointestinal function and dental health the following diet is recommended

  • 80% hay, grass or oaten hay (lucerne hay is not recommended)
  • 20% fresh leafy greens- asian greens are recommended- e.g. bok choy (1.5 cups per kg per day)
  • Fresh water should be available at all times

Carrots and apple are treats only and should not be fed on a daily basis.

Pellets and grain mixes are not recommended. Many of them contain highly fermentable sugar additives (eg molasses) which can cause fatal bacterial overgrowth in the bowel if the rabbit is stressed.

 

Housing

  1. Indoor housing

An indoor rabbit can be either caged and let out for frequent supervised exercise or can be given free range of a rabbit proofed room (e.g. no electrical cords or other low-lying objects that can be chewed).

If a rabbit is given free range in a house it should still have a cage to retreat to.

The cage should be large and divided into two functional spaces- a space for lying/sleeping and a space for activities.

A cage with a plastic bottom and a wire top is ideal as it provides good ventilation and an easy base to clean.

The base of the cage can be covered with a layer of straw/shavings and should be changed daily.

Care should be taken when housing multiple rabbits together- fighting is common.

  1. Outdoor housing

Outdoor rabbits should be housed in properly constructed hutches that provide shade, shelter and insect protection. Rabbits are temperature sensitive especially in hot weather. Space to move within the hutch is important- ideally the rabbit should be able to complete at least three hops within the hutch (approximately 2m) and stand up on their hind limbs.

It is recommended to line the hutch with fly wire to prevent biting insects from gaining access and spreading fatal viruses such as myxomatosis and calicivirus.

 

Parasites

Regular worming of rabbits is generally not needed.

The most common parasite seen is ear mites which generally affect young rabbits.

Clinical signs include itchy ears with a discharge from the ear canal and scabs/sores on the inner surface of the ears.

These can be easily treated once diagnosed by your veterinarian.

 

Dental Care

Rabbits teeth grow continuously and require constant grinding to prevent overgrowth. Insufficient wearing of teeth results in elongated cheek and/or incisor teeth. This interferes with chewing and can cause significant discomfort. Once established the problem tends to self perpetuate and develop into life threatening infections of the jaw and mouth.

 

Feeding a diet of 80% hay/grass and 20% fresh leafy greens helps avoid many dental problems.

 

Some rabbits require regular trimming of teeth. This is best done with a high speed dental drill which we have available at

our clinic. A dental examination is an important part of the health check and vaccination.

 

Desexing

Rabbits reach puberty at 12 weeks so sexes must be separated at 10 weeks of age!

Desexing rabbits offers multiple benefits in both males and females.

Benefits include;

  • decreased aggression
  • eliminate phantom pregnancy in females
  • eliminates the possiblilty of pregnancy
  • decreased cancer rate (especially in females- uterine cancer occurs in 80% of un-desexed females)
  • facilitates house training
  • permits multiple rabbits to be housed together (need to be cautious initially- always supervise to ensure no fighting occurs)

 

Microchip

A microchip ensures permanent identification of your rabbit. The microchip is implanted under the skin in the shoulder area and can be done at any age. If your rabbit is picked up by the council or animal shelter they will scan for a microchip and give you a call.