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How do I keep my pet rabbit healthy?

The following is a list of the most common ailments and diseases that can affect your rabbit. It’s very important to talk to your veterinarian about how to prevent disease and keep your rabbit healthy and happy.

  • Respiratory infections: rabbits are susceptible to respiratory infections similar to those of the common cold in humans but may develop into pneumonia. Often infection is caused by poor living conditions.
  • Skin Ailments: usually caused by inadequate cleaning of the hutch and removal of soiled bedding. Urine scald and faecal contamination of the coat is easily recognised. Skin irritation with balding can also be caused by mites and ringworm.
  • Skin abscesses: abscesses occur more commonly with male rabbits as a result of fighting. The abscesses can reach golf ball size before bursting. Veterinary assistance is required where skin irritation or abscesses occur.
  • Overgrown teeth: inappropriate diet that does not include grass or grass hay (and wood blocks to chew on) can cause overgrown teeth. This can cause your rabbit intense pain and discomfort and severe weight loss.
  • Fleas: like all animals rabbits are susceptible to fleas, talk to your vet about safe products for rabbits; only use products that have been recommended for rabbits by a vet.
  • Myxomatosis: this disease is transmitted from rabbit to rabbit via mosquitoes. Symptoms include dry sore eyes and nose, swollen earflaps and genitalia, and failure to eat or drink. The disease is usually fatal and no vaccination is available. Protect rabbits by making sure the rabbit house is mosquito-proof  (use mosquito netting, ensure adequate ventilation).
  • Calicivirus: this is a virus which is spread directly from infected rabbits or indirectly by contact with contaminated areas or by insects, including flies and will cause a rapid death. A yearly vaccination will protect your rabbit from this disease. However, more and earlier vaccinations may be required to help safeguard against a new, deadlier strain (RHDV2). Protect rabbits by bringing them inside the home, making sure the rabbit house is insect-proof (use mosquito netting, ensure adequate ventilation) and the yard is rabbit-proof.
  • Sore hocks (pressure sores): it is important to line your rabbit hutch with appropriate floor and bedding material (grass hay, straw or shedding paper) to provide some cushioning for your rabbit’s feet to prevent pressure sores developing.
  • Flystrike: this is a condition where flies lay maggots on rabbits and the maggots burrow into the rabbit (it is usually fatal). It is very important to protect rabbits from flies and maggots by making sure the rabbit house is both fly and mosquito-proof (use mosquito netting over flyscreen wire, ensure adequate ventilation).

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Updated on April 30, 2019
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