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How To Care For Your Rabbit

Bunnies are fast becoming one of the most popular small animals, whether kept outside or living in luxuary as the more modern house bunny, they all need the same care to keep them in tip top condition and make sure that they are happy and as bouncy as can be!

Please make sure that wherever you are keeping your bunny it has enough room. As a general rule rabbits in hutches should have enough room to lay flat out, hop in a row 3 times and stand up without their ears touching the roof of the hutch. Unfortunately some of the hutches on sale in petshops do not meet these requirements. For more information on housing conditions please visit: The rabbit welfare website:


There are two different vaccinations that bunnies need and they can be given from as early as 6 weeks old.
The injections will help protect them from two really nasty and nearly always fatal diseases
  • MYXOMATOSIS is a severe viral disease of rabbits that decimated the wild rabbit population when it arrived in Britain 50 years ago.
    • Runny eyes in the very early stages
    • Swollen eyelids, nose, lips
    • Swollen genitals
    • Swellings on the head, plus lumps on the body.
    • Thick discharge from the nose and eyes
Its ideal that bunnies recieve a vaccination for Myxomatosis at 6 weeks of age then every 6 months for the rest of their lives, purely because Essex is a high risk area and its still such a predominant disease
  • VIRAL HAEMORRHAGE DISEASE (VHD); is a deadly disease that any rabbit can catch, and it kills most of those that get it. It first appeared in Britain in 1992 and was a notifiable disease until October 1996, when DEFRA lifted restrictions on affected premises - the disease had become so widespread that such measures were futile. The disease takes 24-72 hours to develop after infection with the virus; some cases may be rapidly fatal without prior indication of illness.
    • lethargy
    • Spasms
    • Anorexia,fever
    • Sudden death
Pink BunnyVaccination is recommended from 12 weeks of age and is then given annually.
If bun is an indoor rabbit we would still recommend vaccinations, purely because even if your bunny stays in, you still go out and can potentially be a vector in carrying the disease into the household and passing it onto your pet. Pest control is also essential as mosquitoes, flies,lice etc can spread the disease around too.


As the saying goes ‘breeding like bunnies’ its definately one thing you should consider if you don’t want to be snowed under with rabbits!

Neutering is normally considered from when bun reaches 6 months old, this gives them enough time to grow and develop.

Males are castrated from 6 months old, the operation removes their testicles to stop them being able to get a female pregnant, this also helps to stop them marking their territory (so hopefully we smell less!) and essentially humping everything! Obviously its not going to stop straight away it does take time for the hormones to get out of the system but it should calm them down!

Neutered males tend to be more chilled out, easier to litter train (ideal for indoor bunnies!) and can be bonded with girlies without the risk of pregnancy!

Females are spayed again from 6 months, the operation takes out the bunnies uterus so they are unable to reproduce. It should make those lady bunnies with a bit of a temper a little bit more chilled out! It also reduces chances of carcinomas (cancer to you and me!)

Oral Hygiene

Undetected dental problems in rabbits are a major cause of more serious illnesses which develop due to the pain and stress of sore teeth and jaw.

Rabbits are hypsodonts, meaning that their teeth grow continually, throughout life.

Normally rabbit’s teeth are aligned so that they wear against each other as bun chows down. This maintains even molars and relatively short, chisel-shaped incisors. The incisors are used only for cutting the food into manageable pieces that can then be prehended by the lips and tongue.

It’s the molars that do the grinding of food into small bits that are then swallowed and sent on for further digestion.

HOWEVER Tooth ache in rabbits is not uncommon! Normally the first thing owners notice is that bun hasn’t been eating his veggies like he used to then they pop them into the vets and find out he has toothache! There are many things that can cause dental problems in bunnies such as:
  • Teeth not lining up correctly, these quickly overgrow and can become unmanageable "tusks" which either poke up out of the mouth or curl back into the mouth, making eating nearly impossible.
  • Molar spurs are sharp points on the edges of the molars that result from uneven wear. These points can rub against the tongue and cheeks, causing pain and irritation, enough to put bun off his lunch!
In some very extreme cases, molar spurs have actually grown into the tongue or cheek, causing extreme pain.

Its worth while checking buns teeth every week or so and keep an eye in what he eats, if there is any change it may be worth popping him down for a check up just to make sure that we’re ok! Drooling, wetness on the inside of the front paws and refusal of favourite foods, or rushing towards food but then not eating it can all be signs of underlying dental problems.

Gut Stasis

Is an emergency situation…

Rabbits have very different digestive systems to you and me, they need to have enough fibre in their diet to maintain gut motility. If the gut stops their food can start to ferment, remember rabbits cannot vomit, the gases will build up and can eventually cause the stomach to rupture.

It is vital that bun has a decent diet. Pellets are much better than the museli type diets as they cannot pick and choose their favourite bits. It also makes sure that they get the right nutritional balance to keep them healthy.
Along with this they must have access to hay- this is the fibre that helps to keep their gut moving and help to keep their teeth in good condition.

Veggies can be given to bun but little and often as some veggies can cause upset tummies which is not ideal for bun as diarrhoea can attract flies.
If you notice that your bunny has slowed down or stopped eating make an appointment to see a vet as soon as possible as gut stasis is an emergency condition- the sooner its spotted and seen to the more likely your bun will pull through and recover.


Flystrike is an unpleasant and distressing condition which occurs in the warmer months of the year when flies lay their eggs around a bunny’s bottom or on faeces in the hutch. The eggs then hatch out into maggots which feed on the faeces and eventually on the bunny by burrowing into its flesh.

Sound horrible? It is and it can be so easily prevented that it shouldn’t happen!

If caught quickly enough most rabbits can be treated, but flystrike is unfortunately most often fatal due to the shock.

Hutch hygiene and good health care is by far the best defence to help make sure your rabbit isn’t at risk:

Cuddle your bunny daily- this will help build up a bond between you and your rabbit, it will also make bun easier to handle so you can check its bottom for any matts of fur or faeces and clip them off before they create a problem.

Flies are attracted to sticky bottoms and diarrhoea so best to keep the rear end clean. If there’s no sign of maggots then rinse the area with warm water and a drop of baby shampoo, wash out thoroughly and dry well. Keep bun in a warm place until he is completely dry. If there is signs of maggots pull the ones that you can see off and contact your vet immediately.

Good housekeeping! Dirty hutches act like magnets to flies and if it smells nasty to us just imagine how bun feels! Therefore it’s essential that the hutch is cleaned out regularly, dirty and wet patches are removed daily and topped up with fresh bedding to keep it as clean as can be.

Thorough disinfection should take place every few weeks, more often in the summer, again to help keep the smells and flies away and to stop any fungus or bacteria from building up which could give bun an upset tummy and cause him to have diarrhoea which then attracts the flies... increasing the risk of flystrike.

WormParasite Control

Believe it or not, just like cats and dogs bunnies need parasite control too!
Bunnies can suffer from E.Caniculi which can actually affect their balance and the way they walk, typically a bunny will have a head tilt if infected.

So whats the answer?
Simple! Get a bunny wormer and worm them! OK its a little fiddly and some bunnies don’t like it but if it stops them from becoming unwell then really there isn’t a compromise!

They also need to be treated for mites- which can be brought in from foxes, hedgehogs, cats, dogs and even bedding materials!

Again its a relatively simple way to treat, it can either be applied as a spray or ‘spot on’ and that’s it, bunnies done and treated for a month!
If you can, try to shut them away of a night so wondering wildlife can’t pass on their lodgers and if you think it may have come off of the bedding material, the advise is to try to freeze it before you supply bun with his fresh hay, just to kill off the little crawleys!


All Animals fully endorse the idea of pet insurance, as there is no NHS for pets veterinary treatment can prove costly, as essentially its private health care. Before you say it, yes some companies do provide insurance for pet bunnies!

We would fully recommend having a look at the policies available to see if it would suit you, just remember to read the fine print…. Unlike car or home insurance if you change your insurance provider they can exclude conditions that you have previously been able to claim for- such as arthritis.
Not helpful if your pet has a lifetime illness.