Housing:

  • Cage:
    • 2×3 feet footprint for small breeds and 3×4 feet for large breeds.
    • Solid cage bottom of plexi-glass, hard plastic, or stainless steel.
    • If the cage has a wire mesh bottom, cover half with a solid surface otherwise the rabbit may get pressure sores on the feet.
    • Line the bottom with newspaper and/or towels, as rabbits feel insecure and can injure themselves on slippery floors.
    • We do not recommend housing outdoors.
  • Cagemates:
    • Rabbits should be housed separately or carefully paired with another rabbit.
    • Like people, not all rabbits get along, and un-bonded rabbits may fight and injure one another.
  • Litterbox Training:
    • Rabbits are fairly easy to litterbox train.
    • A litter box should be available at all times.
    • Encourage your rabbit to use it by putting a few fecal pellets inside, and then placing the box in the rabbit’s favorite place to eliminate.
  • Bedding/litter:
    • Use only paper pulp products (i.e. Carefresh, Yesterday’s News), newspaper, or computer paper in the litter box and cage.
    • Clay/clumping cat litter and natural wood shavings can cause eye, skin, and respiratory problems.
    • The cage and litter box should be kept clean, with feces and dirty/wet bedding removed daily.
  • Cleaning:
    • A thorough cleaning of the enclosure should be performed daily to every few days, depending on the size of the enclosure and your pet’s personal habits.
    • Your rabbit should be moved to a separate location, and the cage components washed with hot soapy water or dilute bleach (approximately 1:30 bleach to water ratio).
    • Rinse everything well before returning your rabbit to his/her enclosure.
    • Contact with waste and associated aerosolized debris can cause skin and respiratory tract irritation, therefore keeping your pet’s enclosure clean is vital to promoting his/her health.

 

Diet:

  • Timothy Hay:
    • Offer as much as desired (free choice).
    • Orchard grass, oat hay, or meadow grass can be offered as alternatives for pickier rabbits and/or as treats.
    • Hay should be a minimum 75% of diet.
    • Avoid alfalfa and other hays high in calcium in animals over 6 months, as these may predispose to development of bladder stones.
  • Pellets:
    • While not strictly necessary, timothy hay-based pellets may be offered to supplement the diet of hay.
    • Avoid alfalfa-based pellets or pellets mixed with seeds (high in fat).
    • The following are guidelines for feeding, and may be adjusted based on your pet’s exercise level/body condition:
      • Daily pellet ration (based on pet’s healthy weight):
      • 2-4 lbs………..1/8-1/4 cup
      • 5-7 lbs………..1/4-1/2 cup
      • 8-10 lbs………1/2-3/4 cup
      • 10-15 lbs……….3/4-1 cup
  • Fresh greens:
    • Offer 1-3 cups daily.
    • Good choices include the following: romaine lettuce, red/green leaf lettuce, escarole, watercress, clover, Swiss chard, bok choy, endive, and turnip tops.
    • Avoid dandelion, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, kale, and broccoli due to their high calcium content, which may predispose to development of bladder stones.
    • A good rule of thumb is that darker greens tend to have higher calcium levels and should be avoided.
  • Water:
    • Offer access to fresh water at all times in either a bottle or spill-proof dish/bowl.
    • Change the water daily.
    • Water bottles should be checked often for continued function, as they can easily become jammed or stop working.
  • Cleaning: Dishes and water bottles should be cleaned with hot, soapy water, dilute bleach (1:30 bleach to water ratio), or in a dishwasher daily to every other day.

 

Socializing:

  • Playtime:
    • Rabbits should be allowed supervised time out of the cage daily both for exercise and to interact with family members.
  • Safety:
    • Supervise your rabbit when it is outside of its cage, and do not allow your rabbit to chew on household items, such as carpeting, furniture, or wires.
    • Safe items, such as cardboard, unvarnished baskets, safe wood, etc., can be offered to encourage healthy chewing.

 

HEALTH AND PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE:

  • Examinations:
    • It is recommended that all newly acquired pet rabbits receive a complete physical examination.
    • Thereafter, you should have your pet examined by a veterinarian every 6-12 months or anytime signs of illness/disease are noted.
    • Beginning at the age of three years, annual blood work is recommended in order to assist with early detection of disease.
    • Early treatment of disease processes is essential to promoting a long and healthy life.
  • Spaying and Neutering:
    • In addition to preventing unintentional breeding of animals, spaying and neutering has significant health and welfare benefits in pet rabbits.
    • Although it can be performed in healthy animals of any age, it is ideally performed between 4 and 6 months.
    • Spaying is one of the most important measures of preventative health care to be performed in female rabbits.
      • Approximately 80% of unspayed female rabbits will develop neoplasia (cancer) associated with their reproductive tracts as adults. Spaying reduces this risk considerably.
    • Neutering of male rabbits helps curb aggressive and territorial behavior, such as urine spraying.
  • “Hairball” Prevention:
    • As a preventative measure, it may be beneficial to give 1-3 mL of a hairball preventative supplement (e.g. Laxatone) by mouth two to three times weekly.
      • This can be increased to once daily administration during times of heavy shedding.
    • Frequent brushing/combing, or use of a “sticky roller” to remove excess fur, can also help reduce fur ingestion.
    • Feeding a high fiber diet of mostly timothy hay is always the most important part of promoting GI tract health.
  • Nail trims:
    • Rabbits need to have their nails trimmed on a regular basis.
    • If they get too long, they may become caught and break off, causing pain and bleeding.
    • Nail trims may be scheduled as technician appointments or performed during routine physical exam appointments.
  • Preventing heat stress:
    • Temperatures over 85°F are uncomfortable to rabbits, and may result in overheating.
    • Because of the climate in this region, we recommend that all rabbits be kept indoors.
    • Signs of heat stress include increased respiratory rate/effort, fever, lethargy, etc.
    • If you suspect heat stress in your rabbit, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Cecotrophs:
    • These are soft, mucus-covered bowel movements that are also known as nighttime or first pass feces.
    • Rabbits usually eat these soft pellets directly from their rear, allowing the digestive tract the opportunity to break down plant material more completely the second time through.
    • They provide essential proteins, vitamins, and minerals, and replenish normal bacterial flora.
    • Overweight or arthritic rabbits often cannot reach their rear in order to eat cecotrophs, which can result in matting/fecal pasting of the fur on their hindquarters.
    • Other rabbits will neglect to eat their cecotrophs when they are ill.
    • A physical exam is recommended in any rabbit with hygiene issues.
  • Urine:
    • Normal rabbit urine contains a lot of sediment (mostly calcium), and the color often varies from white to light brown.
    • Under certain circumstances, such as when stressed, sick, or receiving medications, the urine may appear orange or red-tinged (sometimes mistaken for blood) due to the excretion of a normal pigment.
    • Because rabbits can develop urinary tract infections resulting in blood in the urine, it is recommended that you contact us to perform a urinalysis in any situation in which blood is suspected.
  • Signs of Illness:
    • It is important to always monitor your pet at home for signs of illness/disease. The following are common disease conditions in rabbits. Should you notice anything worrisome, contact us immediately.
      • Changes in appetite: Reduced appetite/anorexia or reduced/no feces is usually considered a same day medical emergency in rabbits.
        • There may be a primary GI tract problem or an underlying disease or issue, such as molar overgrowth or an infection.
        • If not addressed in time, GI stasis can lead to hypothermia (low body temperature), severe dehydration, or even death.
      • Dental disease:
        • Drooling, spitting out food, pickiness, and/or weight loss are signs that may indicate dental problems.
        • Dental disease can lead to ulcers, infection/abscesses, or reduced appetite and GI stasis if not appropriately addressed.

Molar overgrowth/malocclusion is often a recurrent issue requiring regular anesthetized dental trims.