Many health issues for rabbits arise from feeding an inappropriate or imbalanced diet.
A rabbit’s diet must consist of unlimited timothy hay and meadow grass with limited alfalfa. Vegetables are important but those that are high in sugar or calcium should be limited. Pellets are often overfed causing obesity problems therefore should be limited to 1/8 to ¼ of a cup per 5lb body weight per day (muesli diets are not recommended as they allow the rabbit to pick out the high sugar components and leave those with high dietary fibre). Fruits are high in sugar and should be limited to one to two very small (1”) pieces per day with no seeds. If treats are fed these should be one to two small pieces at a time.
There are two diseases against which rabbits can be vaccinated. These are myxomatosis and VDH (RHD1 and RHD2). Both diseases are fatal and so vaccination for all rabbits is strongly recommended. Vaccinations also give us the opportunity to fully examine your rabbit on a regular basis.
It is worth noting that rabbits are prey animals. This means that in the wild they will not want to give outward signs of illness as this would single them out as an easy meal for a fox!
They have a fantastic ability to hide illness until it may be too late to treat them. You should always be aware of the amount and type of food your rabbit is eating, how much it is drinking and the quantity and nature of the urine and faeces.
Regular handling will allow you to know your rabbit well and hopefully also allow you to pick up on subtle signs of ill health. Watch out for sticky eyes, nasal discharges, drooling, crusty ears, weight loss, coat changes, change in shape of tummy and dirty or wet bottom
Should you need to take your rabbit to the vet you need to consider the cost of this. Attitudes to veterinary care for rabbits are changing and more owners are keen for thorough investigations and treatments, should problems arise. For this reason, you may wish to consider getting your rabbit insured for accidents and medical problems.
Basic hygiene should be observed when handling your rabbit and cleaning out its living quarters. There are very few health risks from owning rabbits but people with compromised immune systems should take additional care.