A healthy rabbit will have lesser health issues as it ages. It’s important that we maintain a good diet for our rabbit and do not over pamper them. Obese rabbits will have higher chances of heart, liver, kidney and joint issues as they age.
As prey animal, rabbit hide their pain to prevent attacks from predators. Rabbit owners need to understand their rabbit’s usual behaviors to ensure early signs are caught early. We will monitor our rabbits’ appetite to ensure they are drinking and eating as they always do. We will also ensure they are enthusiastic about their playtime and treats to know they are feeling well. A good rabbit owner should also monitor their rabbits’ stool and urine production to ensure their quantity and quality remain consistent.
Below are some common health ailments in rabbits and prevention tips:
Skin Infections: The most common cause is mites. They can live on fur, skin and ears, causing itchiness, redness and fur loss. ‘Revolution’ is an effective treatment but as overdosing can be toxic, do consult a vet prior to administering. Other causes of skin infections include fungus (eg. ringworm) and bacteria (eg. syphilis). Such conditions require veterinary intervention to ensure a thorough treatment.
Gastrointestinal (GI) Stasis: When the digestive system slows down, it can cause painful gas in the intestines which can be fatal. The most common causes are fur ingestion (lack of grooming/overshedding), imbalanced diet (lack of fiber/water), pain (organ failure/dental/trauma) and stress. The fact that rabbits cannot vomit also complicates recovery. If your rabbit is not eating or pooping normally, veterinary intervention within 8 hours is key to ensure recovery. You can also consult our ‘First Aid’ section to learn supportive care prior to the vet visit.
Dental Disorders: Our rabbits have 28 teeth but only 4 are visible without a specialized scope. As they are ‘open root’, they are always growing and requires constant grinding (from chewing hay) to stay trimmed. Overgrown teeth can result in sharp spurs that can poke into gums, causing ulcers. Rabbits born with weaker teeth as well as aging rabbits can also develop decays, creating abscess under the gums. If you observe drooling, appetite loss or jaw sensitivity, veterinary attention within days will be key to identify root cause and ensure thorough treatment.
Parasitic Infections: The most common cause is Encephalitozoon Cuniculi. It is spread from spores which are released through urine or birth. Due to Singapore’s excessive breeding and congested farms, over 70% of our rabbits have been exposed to E. Cuniculi. A healthy and clean rabbit do not usually get affected but a weak or senior rabbit may display signs such as cloudy eyes (cataracts), head tilt (neurological impact), paralysis (vestibular impact) and appetite/weight loss (kidney infection). Immediate veterinary intervention is required to ensure prompt treatment. Unfortunately, E. Cuniculi cannot be cured but it can be kept under control.
Snuffles: The cause of this bacterial infection is Pasteurella. It affects the tear ducts and nasal sinuses so a rabbit with snuffles will often have teary eyes with/without fur loss, discharge around eyes and/or nose, and regular sneezing. In some rabbits, the fur around the front paws may also be wet and stained due to constant grooming. Symptoms of snuffles are also similar to eye infections, dental disorder as well as respiratory diseases. As such, veterinary attention within days will be required to identify the root cause and ensure thorough treatment.
As an owner, you will encounter variations of the above common health ailments during your caregiving. We strongly believe in early prevention which is most effective in keeping your rabbit healthy. We do recommend regular health checkup with a rabbit-savvy vet. The rule of thumb is at least once a year for a healthy rabbit aged 5 and below, and at least once a quarter for a senior rabbit aged 6 and above.
Any time your rabbit displays one or more of the following signs, IMMEDIATE veterinary attention will be required:
1. No food or water intake for at least 8 hours
2. Enlarged or bloated abdomen
3. Blood in urine or stool
4. Open mouth breathing
5. Limping due to sprain or dislocation
6. Uncontrolled body movement such as spinning or seizure
7. Head tilt