Congratulations on your new member of the family. Having a new rabbit will bring much joy into your life but there is a little work you will have to do to reap such joy.
Rabbits are defined as prey species. This is horrible to contemplate but they are a hunted species. This in turn makes them somewhat different to our pet cats and dogs which are defined as hunters.
Firstly this puts the onus on you to provide secure, safe housing for your pet. If your pet lives outdoors this also behoves you to check that it is securely locked away each night. Rest assured that Mr. Fox will check every night so please make sure that you do it first. Also, because making a fuss about injury or illness brings attention to the sufferer, rabbits tend to keep rather quiet about themselves if they are ill or injured. This makes it more difficult for us to tell if they are well or not so please spend some time each day both enjoying your pet's company but also checking all the signs of wellness are there; i.e eating, drinking, urinating and defecating, moving around normally and behaving normally, and having no smelly or soiled bottom etc. Doing this everyday will ensure you are doing your duty by your rabbit and you will pick up on illness and injury early and this makes our job easier.
Any time after 6 weeks of age, you should have your rabbits vaccinated against Myxomatosis and two forms of Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD1 & VHD2 – a new variant of VHD). We currently use a vaccine containing Myxomatosis and VHD1, and then a separate vaccine for VHD2 with a 14-day gap between. Myxomatosis is a terrible disease which is almost always fatal, it takes a long time to be fatal and rabbits suffer a lot before dying. VHD can cause sudden death in rabbits.
Myxomatosis is spread by biting insects and obviously midges and mosquitoes can get into any housed rabbit so never think your house rabbit does not need vaccination.
We will give your rabbit a full check over before we vaccinate and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Rabbits are usually shy retiring animals. When you first obtain your rabbit handle it very gently but also as much as possible to get it used to people and to enjoy our company.
Worming is not as important in rabbits as say pups and kittens but we have the very best wormers available and you will never do any harm by worming.
Rabbits often have fleas and the use of a spot on called Advantage, which we can supply is to be recommended to treat for fleas.
Available for your rabbit as it is for any other pet.
Rabbits are grazing animals. They have eaten grass for all eternity. The idea of concentrated rabbit food i.e. rabbit pellets and mixes is of recent origin and these diets are really designed for farmed rabbits who we want to grow quickly and put on weight not really for our pets.
Feed your rabbit on as much grass and grass product (e.g. hay) as possible. They need large volumes of digestible and indigestible fibre for their guts to work properly. Their teeth grow continuously throughout life and all the biting and chewing that grass and other highly fibrous foods require will stop the overgrowth of these teeth (teeth problems caused by overgrowth are common in rabbits).
Keep your rabbit on as natural a diet as possible. Try to avoid sugary treats and highly concentrated foods which require little chewing but supply much energy and tend to make bunnies fat.
As with all pets any change you want to make in the feeding of your rabbit should be done gradually.
Rabbits require access to clean water at all times. Every day supply fresh, see that waterers are flowing and in winter make sure the water is not frozen.
Rabbits eat to live and live to eat so any change in their eating habits especially going off their food requires urgent veterinary attention.
Rabbits pass two types of faeces. A soft form which they eat again (termed coprophagia) and a dry hard type which is their waste product. They should pass lots of faeces each day. A lack of faeces from your rabbit should alert you to trouble.
We recommend neutering for both sexes. Neutering prevents disease of their reproductive organs, usually improves temperament and allows groups of rabbits to be kept together.
Fly strike occurs when fly eggs are laid on soiled rabbits- especially soiled rear ends- which then hatch and become maggots and eat away at the poor rabbit's flesh eventually killing the animal in the process. It is unfortunately common in warm weather when flies are about. Check your rabbit at least daily to see there is no soiling and if there is clean and dry thoroughly . Often you will not see maggots but the rabbit will obviously be agitated and there is usually a bad smell. We treat fly strike as an emergency situation.
Fly strike is a vile and awful disease but we can consign it to history if we are vigilant.
In cold weather protect your pet against the elements. Possibly move the hutch into a building or at least against a house wall. Supply extra bedding and possibly more food as more energy may be required to keep warm.