An important responsibility of life with a bunny is keeping your bunny healthy and knowing what to do when your bunny appears unwell. Rabbits are prone to certain health concerns that their caretakers must be aware of, since very serious issues can arise suddenly.
It is crucial to identify a rabbit-savvy veterinarian who can see your rabbit for both regular health checks and in case of emergency. For recommendations around the New York metro area, visit the tab Vet Care. Please note that some practices will have multiple veterinarians, and our recommendations are for specific veterinarians at each practice. If you cannot get an appointment with a recommended vet at one practice, do not assume (no matter what you are told by the practice) that other vets at that location can help your rabbit. Instead, check our list for another recommended veterinarian.
In the United States, rabbits do not receive annual vaccinations (there are no FDA-approved vaccinations in the US). Healthy rabbits must still have annual health exams, and past the age of 5, rabbits should have health exams every 6 months.
** RHD2 has now been confirmed in several US states in both domestic and wild rabbits. Click HERE for the latest developments and important information about keeping your rabbits protected.
Gastrointestinal Stasis is common and deadly. Read this article by Dr. Dana Krempels to familiarize yourself with the signs of GI stasis, and the immediate measures that must be taken if your rabbit is exhibiting symptoms.
If your rabbit is refusing food, this must always be treated as an emergency. There are a number of possible causes for refusing some or all types of food, which your veterinarian will investigate. Watch your rabbit's behaviors carefully so you can give your vet information that will help with diagnosis.
Gas pain can cause rabbits terrible discomfort and quickly lead to GI stasis. Should your rabbit have gas after vet office hours, the following supplies are necessary to have on hand in order to mitigate symptoms until you can reach your vet:
A digital thermometer and Vaseline
Your veterinarian will show you how to take your rabbit’s temperature. Ideal temperature for a rabbit falls between 101 and 103 degrees. Both elevated and depressed temperatures are an emergency.
Over the counter gas relief medication called “Mylicon infants gas relief,” or a generic brand of Simethicone 20mg suspension.
A 1cc dropper/syringe
A microwavable heating pad
This article by Mary Cotter explains immediate actions you can take until you can get to the vet:
It is important for rabbits to be spayed or neutered. In addition to preventing unwanted litters, spaying and neutering have significant benefits for the rabbit's health and behavior. Unspayed females are at an extremely high risk of developing reproductive cancers, with estimates reaching reaching a rate of 50%-80% as the rabbit ages. Spaying and neutering will encourage better litter box habits and mitigate hormonal behaviors like biting, lunging, spraying, and other aggressive or territorial behaviors. Rabbits that are spayed and neutered can be bonded with a companion; whether same or opposite sex pairings, both rabbits must be spayed or neutered prior to bonding.
While rabbits are excellent self-groomers, a regular grooming routine is necessary in order to keep your rabbit healthy and alert you to any changes that could indicate a medical issue.
Feel for changes in your rabbit's weight that may not be visible just by looking at your rabbit, especially if your rabbit has long fur that might obscure a weight change. Obesity is a serious health concern that interferes with a rabbit's ability to move freely, reach for cecotropes, groom themselves, and more. Weight loss could indicate an underlying health issue. More information about overweight and underweight rabbits can be found HERE.
Brushing away excess fur, especially during times of heavy shedding, will help keep fur out of your rabbit's stomach and aid in preventing digestive issues. Choose brushes and combs that your rabbit tolerates so that grooming is always stress-free.
**Rabbits should never be given a full-body bath. This is extremely traumatic for rabbits and can be fatal if the rabbit goes into shock. Your veterinarian will advise if a health issue necessitates a "butt bath," which uses very shallow water to gently clean only the affected areas.**
Rabbits' nails should be trimmed regularly. Before trimming your rabbit’s nails, watch this demonstration! The technique shown in this video uses your rabbit’s feedback to know when you are too close to the blood vessel so that you always avoid injury.
Older, arthritic rabbits or those with sore hocks or special needs may need special flooring materials to reduce pressure on their feet and joints. Rex rabbits are particularly prone to hock issues and benefit from extra padding as a preventative measure. We recommend Palace Pet beds: