As part of the Leporidae family, rabbits are found in many parts of the world both in the wild and in family homes as pets. Similar to cats and dogs, rabbits make wonderful pets. Each rabbit having their own personality and the ability to learn tricks and play games. They also have some particular home and veterinary care needs which are discussed here.
Calicivirus and Myxomatosis are diseases that have been introduced in Australia to help control the wild rabbit population. Whilst there are no vaccines available to prevent myxomatosis, rabbits should be vaccinated against calicivirus which is spread by insects.
Rabbits are vaccinated against calicivirus at 10 - 12 weeks of age and then every 12 months to maintain immunity throughout life.
The following are some guidelines for parasite control in pocket pets.
Rabbits can attract dog fleas. There are some excellent, easy to use flea control products available including Advantage and Revolution.
Rabbits can be infected with either fur mites or ear mites. Fur mites usually cause a dandruff type skin condition over the shoulders of the rabbit. It is normally not itchy. Rabbits with ear mites frequently scratch at their ears and earwax may be visible. If your bunny has any of these signs a vet should examine him/her so the condition can be treated and your pet made more comfortable.
Rabbits are not susceptible to heartworm disease which normally affects dogs and cats.
Rabbits have teeth that continually grow hence overgrown incisors (front teeth) and molars (cheek teeth) can occur. We often see rabbits with overgrown teeth due to poor diet or hereditary factors. Spurs may form on their molar teeth if they are not worn down naturally by chewing roughage. Some rabbits need their teeth burred down regularly under anaesthetic if they suffer from spurs.
The basic diet for a rabbit is simple. Rabbits require 70% grass/oaten hay (not lucerne) and 20% leafy green vegies, and 10% high quality pellets. A high percentage of fibre also helps control teeth growth. Rabbits groom themselves like cats and therefore develop hairballs - a healthy diet prevents hairballs becoming a problem.
Rabbit fed on a high carbohydrate/low fibre diet can suffer from a condition called gut stasis
. This can also be brought on by stress, lack of exercise or fur ingestion. This causes the gut to stop fermenting food and no faeces are produced. Rabbits suffering from gut stasis will stop eating, become depressed and stop producing faeces. This condition can become serious after just a few hours so if you notice changes in your rabbit you should have him/her checked as soon as possible.
Not all commercially available rabbit food are good for rabbits. Some are not balanced and can cause severe problems for rabbits with gut stasis.
If you are not planning to breed from your pet, desexing is recommended. It ensures a calm temperament and reduces the likelihood of some serious diseases.
Male and female rabbits are usually desexed from 4-6 months of age. The main reason for desexing female rabbits is the prevention of uterine cancer (it’s reported that 60-80% of rabbits may develop uterine cancer if left entire).
Rabbits have continuously growing nails that need to be trimmed regularly.
Housing for rabbits can include hutches, cages or even free run of the home. They can be raised outdoors or indoors. Whichever option is most suitable for your home and rabbit. All should provide shelter from the extreme weather conditions and predators as well as a resting retreat.
Rabbits have a very active mind and can get bored quickly so keep them entertained by supplying them with lots of toys to play with.
Life span – 6 to 14 years
Average adult body weight – 2 to 6 kgs
Heart rate - 180-300 beats per minute
Respiratory rate - 30 - 60 breaths per minute
Gestation – 31 days
Litter sizes – 1 to 12
Weaning - 4 to 6 weeks
Puberty – 4 to 5 months
Breeds - over 45 recognised breeds
Female rabbit - doe
Male rabbit - buck
Young rabbit - kits
Rabbit ears - can measure up to 10cm long
When it comes to celebrities, there are numerous famous bunnies. Here's just some of our favourites:-
- Bugs Bunny - the animated Looney Tune character with the famous phrase "what's up doc?"
- Easter Bunny - the one that brings the end at that special time of year
- Roger Rabbit - the fictional cartoon character with the famous phrase "pppppppppleeeease"
- Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh - the sensible animated character who loves to garden!
- The White Rabbit - featured in the popular "Alice in Wonderland" story written by Lewis Carroll
- Peter Rabbit - the naughty rabbit from the Beatrix Potter tale
- Duracell Bunny - the original battery bunny
- Energizer Bunny - always put to the test against the Duracell Bunny