If you are thinking about getting a pet but don’t want to go for the most popular pets like cats or dogs? Then you may want to get a rabbit instead. While rabbits can make great pets, there are still some health problems to them. Being informed can help you make the decision and care for your new fluffy friend.
Rabbits are delicate animals that are prone to a variety of health problems, and it's important for rabbit owners to be aware of these issues to prevent them from occurring. As with any condition that affects your rabbit or any other pet, early identification of the problem and acting quickly to seek treatment can make all the difference to the outcome for your rabbit.
Rabbits are very good at masking pain and illness. This means that it can be hard for us as owners and carers of rabbits to easily identify when something is not right with our furry friend and learning about some of the early symptoms and warning signs of problems can provide a head start in being able to do so.
Top 10 Common Diseases That Might Be Affecting Your Rabbit
Below are some of the most common occurring rabbit health problems that can be hard to identify in the early stages and how keep an eye out for symptoms and to prevent them:
1. Dental Problems
Rabbits are particularly prone to suffering from problems with their teeth as their teeth grow continuously throughout their lives and do not reach and adult size and then stop in the way that occurs in people and most other animals. If they are not wearing down properly, it can lead to dental problems such as overgrown teeth, abscesses, and tooth root infections. These issues can cause pain, difficulty eating, and even death if left untreated.
To prevent dental problems, rabbits should have access to hay, which is high in fibre and helps wear down their teeth naturally. Fresh water should also be always available, as dehydration can contribute to dental problems.
Regular dental check-ups with a veterinarian are important to catch any issues early on. Your rabbit may need to have his teeth trimmed or maintained by your vet on a regular basis to keep them at a healthy length and in good condition. If your rabbit appears to be going off their food, has trouble eating, has any lumps or bumps on the face that might indicate a dental abscess, or seems to drop a lot of the food that they pick up with their mouths, take them along to the vet for a dental check-up.
2. Gastrointestinal Stasis
GI stasis occurs when a rabbit's digestive system slows down or stops working altogether leading to a build-up of gas and toxins in the gut. This can cause symptoms such as decreased appetite, lethargy, and bloating, and can be life-threatening if left untreated. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including a poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress.
The metabolism of the rabbit needs to be in constant motion to keep them alive, and this means having access to a constant source of food and grazing materials that should be uninterrupted and readily available. Not only is it dangerous for your rabbit when their digestive system grinds to a halt, but it is also difficult to re-start their digestive system once this has occurred, even for your Vet.
If your rabbit appears to be off their food, not eating, or not producing as much faeces as normal, this can be a sign that something has upset your rabbit’s digestive system. If you suspect that digestion has come to a halt, try listening to your rabbit’s stomach for the signs of digestion e.g. A gurgle. If digestion appears to have stalled, contact your vet for advice as soon as possible and be prepared to make a trip to the Vet clinic.
To prevent GI stasis, rabbits should have a diet that's high in fibre, such as hay and fresh vegetables. Regular exercise is also important, as it helps keep the digestive system moving. Minimising stress in a rabbit's environment can also help prevent GI stasis.
3. Ear Mites
Ear mites are tiny parasites that can cause ear infections and discomfort in rabbits. They can be transmitted from other animals, so keeping rabbits in a clean environment is important. Signs of ear mites include scratching at the ears, shaking the head, and a build-up of dark waxy material in the ears or any discharge from the ears. If you suspect your rabbit has ear mites, a veterinarian can prescribe appropriate medication to treat the issue. To prevent ear mites, rabbits should be kept in a clean environment and have their ears checked regularly by a veterinarian.
Flystrike occurs when flies lay eggs on a rabbit's skin, usually in areas that are soiled with urine or faeces. The eggs hatch into maggots, which can cause serious health problems and even death if left untreated. To prevent flystrike, rabbits should be kept in a clean environment and any soiled areas should be cleaned promptly. Checking a rabbit's fur and skin regularly for signs of irritation or wounds can help catch flystrike early on.
5. Parasite Infestation
Rabbits can suffer from fleas, ticks, and mite infestations the same as cats and dogs can, and pet rabbits can easily pass parasites between each other and even your other pets. Ensure that you use only a rabbit-safe veterinary approved flea treatment on your rabbit on a regular basis, and that your rabbit is checked over thoroughly for signs of parasites infestations. Be careful about what flea products you use on your rabbit, as not all products that are suitable for use on cats and dogs are also suitable for use on rabbits.
Finally, when your rabbit has been out in the garden or spent time in his run, check him over thoroughly for the signs of ticks on the skin, and keep a tick twister tool on hand to remove any that you might find.
6. Head tilt
Head tilt is the name of a condition that can be caused by a variety of factors, from a simple infection of the inner ear to more serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses such as Pasteurella or encephalitozoon cuniculi, both of which are extremely serious and require immediate treatment. If your rabbit’s head is held in an unusual position or you notice that your fluffy friend is becoming uncoordinated and their head is resting tilted to one side, contact your veterinary clinic straight away, do not wait until surgery hours if this happens during the evening or in the night.
7. Respiratory Infections
Rabbits can be sensitive to contracting respiratory infections, although they do not get colds in the true sense of the word. Rabbits are prone to respiratory infections, which can be caused by a variety of factors such as poor ventilation, stress, and exposure to other sick animals. Symptoms of respiratory infections and allergies of the upper respiratory tract are a particularly common problem in rabbits. Signs include sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and sometimes, a discharge coming from the eyes and nose.
If a rabbit shows any signs of illness, they should be taken to a veterinarian for evaluation and treatment. If your rabbit appears to be suffering from breathing difficulties, is breathing fast or noisily or has a discharge that indicates congestion, contact your vet right away. To prevent respiratory infections, rabbits should be kept in a clean and well-ventilated environment
8. Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections can be caused by a variety of factors, including a diet that's high in calcium or low in water, as well as poor hygiene. Symptoms of urinary tract infections include difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, and decreased appetite. To prevent urinary tract infections, rabbits should always have access to plenty of fresh water. A balanced diet that's appropriate for the rabbit's age and health is also important.
Rabbits groom themselves and each other using their tongues. During the grooming process, rabbits ingest hair that ends up in their digestive tract. Most hair is passed through the system and excreted in their poop. However, some rabbits have trouble passing the hair, and that hair builds up within the digestive system until it turns into a hairball. Rabbits cannot regurgitate their stomach contents.
If hairballs develop in a rabbit’s stomach, they can block the intestines and result in severe problems, including death. Therefore, it is important to understand what the symptoms of hairballs are so the problem can be identified and addressed before it is too late. The most common symptoms of hairballs in rabbits include a loss of weight, lack of appetite, disinterest in playing and chewing, loose droppings or a lack thereof, excessive hair in droppings, weakness and lethargy, a distended abdomen, and a dry, flaky coat.
A lack of fibre creates hairballs as rabbits will chew on their own hair, ingesting it. Boredom is another cause of hairballs. When a rabbit has nothing to do and no toys to play with, they will chew on themselves and each other to create their own engagement and activity.
Provide plenty of Farmer Pete’s rabbit toys to combat this issue. If any signs of hairballs become apparent, it is important to go to the Vet clinic as soon as you can. Here's some tips on what rabbits can chew on.
Obesity can lead to a variety of health problems in rabbits, including dental problems, GI stasis, and joint issues. To prevent obesity, rabbits should have a balanced diet that's appropriate for their age and health, as well as plenty of exercise and opportunities to explore and play. It's also important to monitor a rabbit's weight and body condition regularly and adjust their diet and exercise routine as needed.
Conclusion: Checkups and Staying On Top Of Your Rabbits Health Issues
These 10 conditions are by no means all the potential problems that rabbits can commonly suffer from, but they are 10 of the hardest to potentially identify during the early stages.
By being aware of the common health problems that rabbits can face and taking preventative measures, pet owners can ensure that their furry friends live long, healthy lives.
Regular veterinary check-ups and monitoring of your rabbit's behaviour and physical condition can help catch any potential health problems in the early stages. With proper care and attention, rabbits can make wonderful, beloved pets.