COMMON HEALTH ISSUES IN RABBITS

PARASITES
Fleas, ticks and ear mites are the most common parasites in rabbits, cats and dogs. Fleas and ticks are easy to see with the naked eye, while ear mites can only be seen with an endoscope. Scratching, head shaking and dark brown almost black-looking residue in ears are all indicators of ear mites. Get it treated, as ear mites can cause ear infections, which can result in headtilt. Ticks are easily removed by hand, if one knows how to do it. Make sure no body parts are left behind upon removing the tick. Fleas are also easily treated but not with any powder as it may cause health issues, like long term damage to the nervous system.

RED URINE
Red urine is no cause for alarm. Red urine is very common in rabbits and if you are not sure if there is blood, a dipstick test can easily determine if there is actual blood in the urine. So next time you see red, don’t let it get to your head. Stay calm and make sure it’s the norm.

BLADDER SLUDGE
Too much calcium and protein rich foods can cause bladder sludge. White, cloudy urine is a definite give away for bladder sludge. In severe cases the urine can become toothpaste like and kidney and bladder stones can develop.

MALOCCLUSION
Rabbit’s teeth grow continuously through a rabbit’s life. If teeth are not properly aligned and wear unevenly they become overgrown. Sometimes molar spurs occur, which are not visible from the outside, unless you get your bunny to say “Aaaah.” Molar spurs are painful and can cause abscess in the mouth, making it very painful if not impossible for bunny to eat. A skilled veterinarian can trim the teeth.

OBESITY
Obesity is a real serious and too often of a problem in pet rabbits. The biggest factor is the wrong diet, too rich in carbohydrates and protein, and no exercise. Do not put your bunny on a strict abrupt diet. Gradual changes are best to help your bun lose weight. Obesity is the reason for fatty liver disease and heart problems. A FAT RABBIT IS A DEAD RABBIT. Make sure your rabbit gets enough exercise, a lot of fiber, and a diet low in carbohydrates.

HAIRBALLS AND GI STASIS
It is no longer thought that hairballs are the primary condition, but rather occur secondary to gut stasis. If a rabbit is on a poor low-fiber diet then it can cause the hair to get stuck in the stomach and can cause slow down of food passing through. A well-balanced high fiber diet (with lots of hay and good, fresh veggies) would prevent hair from getting lodged in the rabbit’s stomach. Exercise is also a very important factor for keeping the rabbits “plumbing” in good working order. Exercise is not only good for the rabbit from an emotional standpoint but also for the health.

HEAT STROKE
Rabbits can cope with the cold better than the hot climate. This is a very important factor when planning their environment. They should be in the shade, not exposed to direct sunlight. Even an indoor rabbit must be placed in a suitable area; in front of a window is not a good place. Signs of a heat stroke are panting, weakness, depression, in-coordination and convulsions. Apply first aid by putting a cold wet towel around your bunnies’ ears, while you are bringing him/her to the vet.

FRACTURES
Rabbits easily fracture their legs. Their habit of stamping can cause broken or fractured bones in feet or legs. If not handled properly a struggling rabbit is so strong that he/she can break his/her own back. Teach children and yourself on how to properly pick up and hold a rabbit.

MYXOMATOSIS
Myxomatosis is a viral infection and was introduced deliberately to Australia around the 1950s. The disease gradually spread across Europe over to Great Britain where it is now endemic in the wild rabbit population. It is deadly, but not very common in the US.

There are so many more diseases and health issues in rabbits that we cannot even scratch the surface of it all. It is strongly advised to read books and be alert and aware of your rabbit’s normal and not so normal habits. Rabbits are Academy Award winning actors. That is due to them being prey animals in the wild, where a sick rabbit would easily be spotted and hunted. In order not to get eaten, they act as if nothing is wrong, which can make it much more difficult to spot if “Thumper” is not feeling well. Be in tune to your rabbit and watch for the tiniest signs. If your bun has never spent much time in his/her litter box, other then using the bathroom and all of a sudden is hanging out there from morning until night, watch out. This could be a sudden hint.


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