Home Rabbit Care
Home Rabbit Care

Home Rabbit Care

Domestic rabbits are becoming more popular pets and can be kept as house pets or outside in a suitable hutch. Generally they are social animals and like human company. They can easily be toilet trained to use a litter tray or to use a cat door!

There are a number of important factors to be aware of when keeping a pet rabbit as they are quite different to a cat or dog.

Vaccinations

All rabbits must be vaccinated against the fatal disease rabbit calicivirus disease.

Rabbit calicivirus disease is caused by a virus that causes severe haemorrhagic disease and ultimately death in all rabbits that become infected. There is no known cure and it is always fatal.

A new strain of Rabbit Calicivirus (RHDV K5) was released in Australia in March 2017. The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) has updated its recommendations regarding protecting pet rabbits from the various strains of calicivirus in Australia. Please note that the new vaccination protocol is “off label” which means it is not the protocol set out by the manufacturer of the vaccine. Also, there is no guarantee that the vaccine will be 100% protective against all strains of calicivirus in all rabbits.

Current Vaccination Recommendations:

  • Baby Rabbits (kittens) 4,8,12 weeks of age then 6 monthly for life
  • Adults (Not up to date with vaccine): 2 vaccinations 1 month apart, then 6 monthly for life
  • Please contact the clinic immediately if your rabbit has not been vaccinated in the past 6 months.

Other ways to protect your rabbit:

Calicivirus is spread by mosquitoes and flies. Therefore it is important to minimise your rabbit’s exposure to these by keeping them in well protected hutches or indoors especially at dusk and dawn (when mosquitoes are most active).

Also restrict contact between your rabbit and wild rabbits – including any grass areas where wild rabbit are suspected to have been.

Teeth

Rabbits teeth grow continuously and they wear down during eating. The correct diet high in fibre is vital to ensure adequate wear and prevent dental problems. Signs of dental problems include dribbling of saliva, reluctance to eat, weight loss, lack of grooming and discharge from the eye.

Diet

Rabbits in the wild eat a diet of grass! Rabbits must have adequate fibre in their diet. Many commercial rabbit foods do not contain the right fibre content which should be above 18-20%. This is best provided as fresh hay and grass daily. Examples of suitable hay varieties include Timothy, Wheaten, Oaten, Pasture, Meadow, Paddock and Ryegrass hays. A supply of fresh grass is also important. Hay or grass should make up 80% of the rabbits diet. Vegetables are great to feed too but chose the right varieties. Choose from broccoli, cabbage, celery, beet tops, carrot tops, bok choy, spinach leaves, endive, other Asian greens, dark leafed lettuce varieties and herbs such as parsley, mint, dill, basil, coriander and dandelion. Concentrate pellet foods can be used as treats only but are not suitable to use as a main part of the diet as they are generally too low in fibre. It is best to avoid “rabbit mixes” as rabbits will feed selectively and often avoid eating the fibre in the loose mix. Fresh water must be freely accessible and is best supplied in a water bottle dispenser.

It is normal for rabbits to eat some of their own faeces and it is an essential part of their diet. It is important to leave some faecal pellets in the hutch for this reason.

Housing

Rabbits can be kept as indoor pets. They can be toilet trained to use a litter tray. This can be initially achieved by putting some of their droppings in the litter tray to encourage them to use it. Wood or paper-based litter should be used. Rabbits will also readily use a cat flap to gain indoor/outdoor access. Remember that rabbits will chew so it is important that they do not have access to power cords etc. An old telephone book is a good chewing aid for them.

Outdoor rabbits must have a suitable hutch which provides protection from the elements as well as being elevated off the ground. It should have a waterproof roof. It is important to avoid extreme temperatures as heat stress and heat stroke occur easily. Fly and mosquito control should be considered in the summer months to minimise fly strike and transmission of myxomatosis.

Desexing

Rabbits reach puberty at 4-6 months of age and are prolific breeders!

Smaller breeds mature faster than larger breeds. Desexing rabbits helps to reduce aggression between pets and also towards humans! It also eliminates the risk of uterine cancer in older female rabbits.

Rabbits can be desexed from 14-16 weeks of age.

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