Giving your rabbit daily attention and handling and a healthy diet and exercise can prevent many diseases. But even though we take care of our little thumpers, there are common illnesses and diseases that can occur.
Some signs of illness may include irregularities in bowel movements, runny nose and eyes, dark red urine, loss of fur, and red and swollen skin. The most common conditions include hairballs, snuffles, parasites, uterine cancer, sore hocks, and overgrown incisors. Always contact your veterinary clinic with any questions and concerns, and be sure to bring your rabbit in for vaccinations and a check-up once a year.
Here is a list of common rabbit health issues:
Hairballs are common in rabbits. While grooming, the hair swallowed forms a ball in their stomach. Signs of a hairball are loss of appetite and lethargy. Rabbits cannot pass the hairball by regurgitation, so it is important to go to the vet as soon as symptoms are detected. The veterinarian will give an injection and administer fluid therapy. Prevention is simple. Feeding your pet high fiber diets helps prevent hairball issues and other intestinal tract problems. Daily or regular brushing will aid in excess hair removal.
Snuffles are a common bacterial infection in bunnies. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes. If not treated promptly it can cause ear infections, abscesses, and uterine tract infections. Most cases are mild, but death can occur, so don’t keep an eye on your pet. Your vet will prescribe antibiotics, and eye or nose drops. Snuffles are easy to treat, but extremely difficult to cure; most cases become chronic.
Parasites come in two different types: internal and external. Annual fecal examinations are essential to the well being of your rabbit, and will allow your vet to prescribe medications depending on the results. External parasites—fleas, ticks, mites, and mange—can also be a problem, but are easily managed by proper treatment and monthly preventives from your vet.
Uterine cancer is the most common cancer in female rabbits. Spaying your female rabbit is strongly recommended to prevent uterine cancer. Some breeds have a 50-80 percent chance of having uterine cancer. More reasons to spay your pet are to prevent unwanted pregnancy, reduce aggressive behaviors, and aid in social behavior.
Sore hocks (soles of their feet) are open sores that develop when housing conditions are dirty, or wire floors are not bedded. Red sore areas become ulcers on their hocks and are extremely painful. Prevention is simple by providing enough bedding, solid areas, and keeping the cage clean. Your vet will prescribe antibacterial medicine for the wounds, and instruct you to provide adequate bedding. Treatments can become difficult if the sores are advanced.
Overgrown incisors (front teeth) occur when rabbits do not have enough to chew on to keep them at a normal length. Their incisors grow continuously, and even though they may chew on their food or wood blocks, it may not be enough and they become overgrown. This causes your pet to be unable to properly eat and groom. Signs will include an uneven or ragged coat and drooling. Your vet will file down the incisors while your pet is under anesthesia. Clipping their teeth can result in fractures and infection, so it is important to have it done by your veterinarian.
Contact your veterinary clinic with any questions and concerns to help keep your pet happy and healthy!