The domestic rabbit originates from the European wild rabbit.
There are now 61 different breeds in the UK.
They are very social animals and like a companion.
- Heart rate 180-300 beats/minute.
- Life expectancy: 5-10 years (maximal 16 years).
- Body temperature 38.5-40 °Celsius.
- Sexual maturity:
-Does (female) 3-5 months
-Bucks (male) 4-8 months
- Pregnancy 30-32 days.
- Birth weight kittens 30-80 gram.
- Weaning 4-5 weeks of age.
Rabbits are essential grazers, they require a high fibre diet. Feeding the correct diet to rabbits is fundamental to maintaining health, particularly of the dental and gastrointestinal systems.
The best diet for rabbits is grass/hay with a small amount of high quality high fibre pellet (1-2 table spoons per day). Green foods are also important and a variety should be fed daily to rabbits of all ages. Examples are broccoli, cabbage, chicory, chard, parsley, kale, carrot and dandelion rabbit with overgrown teeth
Many rabbits are selective eaters, they favour grains and pulses from the mixed, muesli type, food. This can lead to bone problems, dental disease (see picture: rabbit with overgrown teeth) and obesity. A pelleted food should be given.
It is not advisable to give fruit as it has a high sugar level. For training purposes raisins can be used.
Bucks (male rabbits).
We advise you to castrate your rabbit.
Rabbits who are not castrated can:
- become aggressive.
- spray urine up the side of his cage or even in your house.
- start a deadly fight if kept with another male rabbit.
- start breeding if kept with a female rabbit.
- develop certain type of tumours.
- Castration is possible from the age of 4-5 months and your rabbit will be ready to go home the day after the operation.
Does (female rabbits)
Some rabbits can become aggressive after they have reached sexual maturity; this is caused by female hormones. Neutering is the only solution.
Neutering does also prevent pseudopregnancy, uterine infections and cancer.
Your rabbit is always at risk of picking up a life threatening infectious disease. Fortunately it is possible to vaccinate your Rabbit against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic disease.
- Viral Haemorrhagic Disease
This is a new disease, first seen in the UK in 1992. It kills most of those that become infected.
It is caused by a virus which is very resistant and survives a long time in the environment. It can spread very easily on clothing and footwear. Birds and insects can also transport the virus and therefore the contained "house rabbit" is at risk.
The acute form of the disease can be very distressing, attacking the liver and cause severe internal bleeding which kills the rabbit. The incubation time is usually 1 to 3 days. There is at this moment no effective treatment available.
This is a disease many people will have seen, affecting both wild and domestic rabbits. Unlike Viral Haemorrhagic Disease, affected rabbits can be ill for some time.
The virus that causes the disease is spread by bloodsucking insects e.g. fleas and mosquitoes. The virus multiplies in the skin of the face, ears and anus and causes large swelling. These swelling make it difficult for the rabbit to see, eat and drink. The incubation time can be anything from 5 to 14 days. Death takes about 12 days but a small percentage may recover.
The vaccination can be given from 5 weeks of age onwards. The single injection will protect against Viral Haemorrhagic Disease and Myxomatosis for 1 year. Annual boosters are required
Rabbits can, just like dog and cats, suffer from parasites.
Flystrike is an unpleasant and distressing condition which occurs in the summer when flies lay their eggs which turn into maggots which feed on the rabbit, burrowing into its flesh. Prevention is better then cure - some rabbits can be succesfully treated, but flystrike is often fatal.
To prevent flystrike take the following precautions:
Your rabbit can pick up fleas from wild rabbits or hedgehogs if he lives outdoors. But also your dog or cat can give your rabbit fleas. A monthly application of the spot on Advantage® will prevent any fleas burden.
E. Cuniculi is an emerging disease in pet rabbits. It is a tiny single celled organism called a protozoon which is potentially zoonotic (can spread to immunocompromised humans).
It can cause neurological disease (head tilt, unsteadiness, weakness of the hind legs, neck spasm and urinary incontinence), kidney disease and eye disease.
Sadly treatment is not always succesfull but treating your rabbit 2-4 times a year with Panacar Rabbit ® will help to prevent E. Cuniculi.