RABBITS AND RABBIT HEALTH CARE
Most people think rabbits are rodents but that is not true; rabbits are “lagamorphs.” There are many breeds and varieties of rabbits and their coat comes in various colors and lengths. Rabbits usually make nice, quiet pets. They are commonly docile and non aggressive. Rabbits rarely make any sounds. When they are frightened they may make a panic scream or occasional warning growl. They may thump their back legs as a warning signal. Most pet rabbits can be harnessed, leashed and litter box trained. Recommended litter box material includes pelleted paper, or pelleted grass products. Litters should be non-toxic and digestible if consumed. Corncob, walnut shell, shavings or clay litter should not be used.
With regard to diet, rabbits are strict herbivores that feed continuously. The following diet is recommended:
- Rabbits can be fed grass hay or timothy hay. Although young rabbits may be fed alfalfa hay adult rabbit should not be fed alfalfa hay because it is too high in calories. Rabbits should be fed no more than one eighth of a cup of high fiber alfalfa based pellets for every 5 pounds of adult rabbit.
- A minimum of 1 cup of dark green, orange or yellow veggies should be fed for for every 4 pounds of adult rabbit. Such vegetables include broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots, collard greens, parsley, and romaine lettuce, kale, squash and dandelion leaves.
- Small amounts of fruit equal to 1 tablespoonful per every 5 pounds body weight. The higher fiber fruits. Apple, peach, pear, pineapples, strawberries, and blueberry are acceptable. However, avoid grapes and bananas which are too high in sugar.
Rabbit hutches should be built with a partially solid floor and not a dirt or wire floor which results in foot ulcers. Feces should not be allowed to accumulate under the cage floor because such a practice attracts flies and other animals. The rabbit house should be strong enough to prevent the rabbit from chewing his or her way out. The enclosure should provide protection from snow, rain, wind, sun and extreme temperatures. Any electric cord should be kept out of the rabbits reach. If the rabbits are kept in an outside hutch the construction must be such that it protects the rabbit from predators.
Preventive home care for rabbits includes routine hygiene. A weekly home exam should include at the very least checking the rabbits ears, teeth, nails and coat. If left unchecked front incisors can overgrow and prevent eating. Lift the rabbit’s tail and make sure that feces has not dried and pasted the anus closed. Stool left on the fur can attract flies which then lay eggs that hatch into maggots. Weighing your rabbit weekly will detect a loss of appetite or a serious health problem. Twice weekly grooming will help detect skin parasites, as well as wounds, sores, scabs and tumors. Rabbits should be dusted with a natural organic insect powder every 2 weeks during the warmer months to repel flies, fleas and other insects.
Professional health care for Rabbits includes:
- Semi annual physical exams
- Semi annual stool check for intestinal parasites
- Neuter females to prevent uterine cancer
- Base-line blood screens
It is very important that children are taught how to interact with their rabbit. Carrying a rabbit is something only adults should do. Of course picking a rabbit up by the ears is to be emphatically discouraged. When picking a rabbit up, the back end must never be allowed to dangle in the air. The rabbits back and back legs must always be supported when the rabbit is carried because allowing the rabbit to kick against nothing, in mid air, can result in a broken back and hind leg paralysis.