Top five Common Conditions in Rabbits
Fly strike is a condition that affects rabbits and occurs predominantly in the hot summer months. Any dirt around the rear end of a rabbit attracts flies which then lay their eggs on the fur and skin. The hatching maggots burrow into the skin and underlying soft tissues. Not only is this condition very painful, but if not treated promptly, it can also be life threatening if the maggots burrow too deep.
Luckily fly strike is easily preventable by checking your bunnies’ rear end daily to ensure it is clean. Most rabbits have very good hygiene and clean themselves regularly to prevent any dirt accumulating. A usually clean bunny becoming dirty around the anus is a good early indicator of a problem. Older rabbits may struggle to clean this area and need bathing regularly.
A rabbit which is suddenly becoming dirty around the rear end or has a bad odour should be checked by a vet immediately.
3Overgrown incisors/Dental problems
Dental problems in rabbits are frequently missed by owners until the bunny becomes unable to eat and starts to lose weight. Rabbit teeth are open rooted and this means they grow continuously throughout the rabbit’s life. A healthy rabbit grinds the teeth down eating grass and hay to keep them at the correct length. Insufficient or incorrect feeding can allow the teeth to overgrow. In some young rabbits there can be problems with the shape of the jaw which can also prevent the correct wearing of the teeth.
Wylie Vets, a recommended rabbit vet in the UK, advises rabbit owners to check their rabbit’s front teeth weekly. The teeth should have a squared off end and be in good occlusion with each other.
Rabbits rely on bacteria in their guts to digest their food, which is a very different process compared with people and our gastric secretions. This means that rabbits have fairly strict nutritional requirements and the most common problems rabbits present to a rabbit vet all relate to incorrect diet.
To maintain healthy guts, rabbits need a high fibre diet with 80-90% being grass or hay. Overfeeding of pellets or vegetables can cause digestive upset resulting in diarrhoea or gut stasis both of which are potentially fatal. Sudden changes in diet should also be avoided.
Exercise is also important as a rabbit’s stomach only has a little motility and instead relies on the rabbit being active to help digestion. Any inappetance or diarrhoea can be an emergency and advice would be to seek veterinary attention.
Myxomatosis is a viral disease affecting domestic rabbits originating from South and Central America. Infection results in swelling of the eyelids and genitals, a milky ocular discharge, lethargy, inappetance and anorexia. Sadly, it is almost always fatal around 10 days after symptoms start. Treatments are very limited and the best protection for your pet is regular annual rabbit vaccination, starting from when the rabbit is around 8 weeks of age. Myxomatosis is spread through rabbit fleas and mosquitoes, meaning even indoor only rabbits are at risk.
Skin diseases are common in rabbits but are easily spotted by owners. Treatment for skin diseases in rabbits can be difficult, due to their fastidious cleaning habits that result in the rabbit licking off any topical treatments!
Fur mites are common and can be caught from other rabbits or hay. They cause itching and a skurfing of the coat along the rabbit’s back and quarters and can be transmitted to people. Ear mites cause intense irritation in the ears, as well as visible scabs. It is not recommended to try and remove any scabs or crusts. Both conditions are completely curable after two injections of ivermectin given 10 to 14 days apart.