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Pet care: simple steps for a happy and healthy rabbit

A few simple, preventative measures could stop your rabbit from needing costly care from a vet, says Rebecca Davies from Which? Local-recommended Victoria Veterinary Centre in Glossop.


1. Diet: hay, nuggets and greens – not grains

Problems prevented or controlled:

Dental disease; obesity; flystrike.

Although a rabbit’s diet may be supplemented by nuggets and greens, it’s important they have a good supply of clean, fresh hay. Alfalfa or Timothy hay is best.

Alfalfa or Timothy hay is best for rabbits, says Rebecca

Nuggets should be extruded pellets (baked biscuits containing all of the nutrients needed by the rabbit in bite-sized pieces). Don’t buy mixtures of different grains as rabbits will choose the tastiest, high fat seeds and ignore the others.

2. Vaccinations

Problems prevented or controlled:

Myxomatosis; viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD).

Vaccinations are essential. They cost around £20 and will also give your vet a chance to check your rabbit’s general health.

Annual boosters are usually required, although in myxomatosis risk areas, a rabbit may need vaccinations twice a year.

Myxomatosis and VHD prevention is considerably cheaper than treatment and these diseases can be fatal.

3. Hutch hygiene

Problems prevented or controlled:

Coccidiosis; flystrike; bacterial infections.

Coccidiosis (a disease of the intestines or liver) is often caused by a dirty environment, so soiled bedding should be removed every day and all bedding should be changed once a week.

In warmer weather, flies are attracted to unsavoury smells which can lead to a maggot problem. Fitting a fly mesh to the hutch is a good idea. In winter, make sure that the hutch doesn’t become damp and mouldy.

4. Protect against parasites

Problems prevented or controlled:

Fleas; worms; E. cuniculi.

Checking your rabbit for signs of illness or injury every day is important, as is spotting the signs of parasite infestation.

Symptoms to look out for include: coughing, weight loss, dehydration, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, blood loss or a ‘pot-bellied’ appearance.

Rabbits are particularly susceptible to E. cuniculi – a fungal parasite which can cause neurological impairment and death. Worm your rabbit regularly.

Insuring your pet

These measures could lessen the likelihood of veterinary intervention being needed. But Rebecca still recommends pet insurance to all of her clients.

Pick the right policy for your pet with our insurance advice guide.

5. Take time to tame

Problems prevented or controlled:

Behavioural problems.

Because rabbits are usually kept in an outdoor hutch, they’re often less tame than indoor pets and not used to handling.

Life will be easier for you and your rabbit if you take the time to handle it when young. This avoids unnecessary stress when essential health checks are needed throughout its life, and will also make pet ownership more rewarding!