Rabbits can make wonderful pets! They can be taught to use the litter box just like a cat. However, you must “bunny-proof” the house prior to letting them run loose. Rabbits love to chew on everything and anything they can.
Their diets should consist primarily of fresh timothy hay, a small amount of alfalfa pellets, and the occasional fresh vegetable as a treat. There are pellets made from timothy hay and these are better for them than the alfalfa pellets. Rabbits that are fed primarily alfalfa are prone to medical problems, such as hairball impaction or gastrointestinal stasis (the intestines stop moving food through).
Rabbits should have full physical examinations done every year. A physical exam should include a thorough exam of the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, teeth, and body weight. Rabbits should also be checked for lumps and bumps on the skin, as well as the abdomen and the heart and lungs should be listened to. A fecal exam for intestinal parasites is also important. Rabbits have teeth, which grow continually, and as they chew they grind the teeth to a normal length and position.
They can develop a problem called malocclusion, where the jaw is no longer aligned properly and the teeth can begin to overgrow. Symptoms of malocclusion in-clude not eating or drinking and less than normal feces (bowel movements). This requires medical attention as soon as possible. If the incisors (front teeth) are the problem, they are cut back approximately every 4 to 8 weeks, depending on the rabbit. If the problem is the back molars, which can only be seen with a speculum (a long instrument put in the mouth), the rabbit needs to be anesthetized and the back molars are cut. This procedure can last approximately 4 to 8 weeks before it needs to be done again.
If your rabbit has less than the normal amount of feces, stops eating, has a discharge from the eyes or nose, or does not seem right, you should consult a veterinarian immediately. Waiting several days to weeks could be detrimental to the income of treatment. Never self medicate a rabbit. They have very sensitive gastrointestinal systems and cannot handle many of the usual antibiotics and medication used on dogs and/or cats.
Rabbits should be spayed and neutered. It not only reduces unwanted pregnancies, but it is very important for health reasons. Unspayed females can develop ovarian, uterine, and mammary gland cancer. Spaying and neutering will also help with aggression and spraying.
For more information, contact Marcie L. Engle, DVM,Brookeville Animal Hospital, LLC (301) 774-9698