Information: General Rabbit Care
Your bunny is a very important member of the family and it is important to get to know your bunny and their littler quirks and behaviours! The following is a guideline of things to keep an eye out for every day to ensure your bunny is in tip-top condition!

A study in the UK in 2013 looked at various ways to score “fatness” in rabbits. They found that assessing the amount of fat over the ribs was the most accurate method of telling of a rabbit was overweight or underweight. The shape of the bottom and amount of fat over the spine were also useful tools in assessing obesity.

Daily bunny care

Just before feeding them, pick them up and give them a daily check over.

Ideally sit on the ground (if you put them on a table they can panic, jump off and damage themselves) and settle your rabbit between your legs or on your lap and give them a 5-minute check overlooking at the following things:

  1. Eyes – clear and bright, no discharge, puffiness or cloudiness noted

  2. Nose – clean and dry, no discharge or sneezing

  3. Teeth – no abnormal swellings on cheeks or jaws, no drooling or problems chewing

  4. Skin and fur – give their coat a brush and look and their fur and skin – any flaking, or bald patches should be checked by your vet. Matts will need clipping by someone experienced in rabbit grooming.

  5. Bottom – clean and dry – in warmer months especially look for signs of maggots or eggs – any concerns go straight to your bunny friendly vet.

  6. Feet – check your bunny’s claws – do they need clipping? If they are showing over the fur of their feet they probably do, and indoor rabbits often need their nails trimmed. Get your vet to do this, or get them to show you how to do it yourself.

  7. Hocks – large breed rabbits and rex rabbits are prone to developing sore hocks – check the soles of the feet (they can be sensitive to touch!) note they only have hair on their feet, not pads like cats and dogs. Any bald spots, ulceration or bleeding should be checked by your vet.

  8. General behavior – is your rabbit quieter than normal?

In addition:

  • Know your rabbits normal eating patterns – check every day how much and what types of food they are eating – any changes in eating habits should be discussed with your vet

  • Watch how much they drink – is it more or less than normal? Have they changed preference from a water bottle to a bowl?

  • Know your bunnies poos! Dropping should be firm and plentiful (a normal rabbit will produce 100-150 faecal pellets a day)

  •  Know your rabbits wee- rabbit urine can be very colourful and varied, but if it becomes red (this can sometimes be due to plant pigements) or chalky, contact your vet for advice

How to pick up and handle a rabbit

Always take care when picking up or handling your rabbit.

Rabbits can be very fearful of being picked up – in the wild most predators would come at them from above, so they have learned it is not a good thing to be picked off the ground.  A scared rabbit can lash out with its claws and big feet and cause injury to both the holder and themselves. However there are occasions where rabbits need to be picked up. It’s important to learn how to do this safely. Try this close to the ground, incase they jump or struggle, until you are more confident

  • approach the rabbit quietly and gently – hold out your hand so they can sniff you

  • give a few rubs over their head / nose

  • from behind, place one hand firmly over their shoulders, whilst sliding your other hand under their chest. Splay your fingers so that your thumb and first finger wrap around one front leg, and your 2nd and third fingers wrap around the other.

  • Now slide the hand that was over their shoulders back towards their bottom and cradle their bottom.

  • Lift the bunny with their legs facing out from you

You can teach your bunny to prepare themselves by using a command such as “lift” or “up” just before you pick them up. Following with a treat immediately once you place them back down again helps reinforce this technique.

Is my rabbit fat?

This is a commonly asked question and lots of people get it wrong. It is actually quite hard to assess is some rabbits particularly those who are very hairy.

Why is it important?

  • Obese rabbits cannot easily groom their fur and keep their bottoms clean, so this can lead to problems not eating their caecotrophes, which can cause a dirty bottom and the risk of flystrike

  • being overweight increases a rabbits resting heart rate and can predispose them to heart disease

  • they are more prone to developing liver problems if they suddenly do stop eating

  • they are an increased risk for surgical procedures

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