Rabbits – Our Standards of Care
Rabbits should have a full health check once a year at the time of their Calici Vaccination.
For all rabbits that ever have access to outdoors, are properly vaccinated against Rabbit Calici Virus. This can be done first from 12 weeks of age, and then is done every 6 months.
Rabbits may be microchipped, but it is not routinely done at our hospitals.
We recommend all rabbits are neutered or spayed at 4-6 months of age, unless owners intend to breed with them. This helps to prevent disease, particularly in does. Some breeds have a 50-80% incidence of uterine cancer by the age of 5 years. Desexing can also be of benefit in avoiding territorial soiling and other behavioural problems.
Generally rabbits in our region do not have problems with flea infestation, and do not require routine flea treatment.
Rabbits that do have flea infestations should be treated monthly with Revolution or Advantage. Do NOT use Frontline as this product can cause a fatal reaction in rabbits.
Poor diet is a leading cause of health problems in pet rabbits, leading to dental problems, gut problems and obesity. Many commercial diets are inadequate.
In the wild rabbits eat primarily grass. It is recommended to provide pet rabbits with a constant supply of fresh grass and grass hay. Grass hays include meadow, pasture, oaten, wheaten, timothy and paddock hays. Avoid legume hays such as lucerne and clover as they are too high in protein and calcium. We recommend Oxbow Timothy Hay.
In addition to hay, rabbits should be provided with at least 3 different vegetables or herbs daily. Suitable vegetables include; broccoli, cabbage, celery, endive, carrot tops, Brussels sprouts, spinach leaves, Asian greens and dark leafed lettuce. Suitable herbs include; parsley, dandelion, coriander, basil, dill and mint.
A premium quality commercial pellet mix, such as Oxbow Bunny pellets should be offered in small amounts. Pellets should make up approximately 5% of the diet for a healthy rabbit.
Treats can be offered but only in small quantities (maximum of 1-2 tablespoons per rabbit per day). Suitable treats include; most fruits, root vegetables (carrot, sweet potato) and capsicum.
Dental problems are very common in pet rabbits. A combination of genetics, diet and housing contribute to the complex of dental problems that are seen.
Rabbit teeth grow constantly and there is an ongoing need to wear them down though chewing. If a rabbit is born with dental occlusion that does not wear appropriately they will develop overgrowth of the teeth. Flat faced or brachycephalic rabbits are more likely to have problems than the more ‘wild type’ conformations.
Diet has a big influence on dental wear and health. Rabbits naturally chew very high fibre, tough grasses with a side to side action. As pets they are often fed low fibre diets or diets that are chewed up and down. This can lead malocclusion through inappropriate wear of the teeth. This is just another reason why it is so important for your rabbit to eat mostly grass hay and green leafy veggies!
The constant dental wear and rapid turnover of dental tissue in rabbits means they have a high calcium requirement. Rather than needing a high calcium diet, rabbits rely on vitamin D, which they can produce following exposure to direct sunlight. Vitamin D allows them to be very efficient at absorbing calcium from their food. Rabbits housed indoors may not get sufficient exposure to unfiltered, natural sunlight and vitamin D deficiency may contribute to their dental problems.
A good quality diet rich in long strands of tough hay that require side to side chewing and time spent outdoors will go a long way towards preventing dental disease. Once dental problems develop they often require ongoing care and management as the teeth keep on growing and changing.
Thank you to our Friends at Inner South Veterinary Centre for their input and expertise in the creation of these recommendations.