Rabbit Awareness Week! 4th – 12th May

Next week is Rabbit Awareness Week which is a nationwide scheme that hopes to improve rabbit welfare. Rabbits make very rewarding pets! Rabbits are intelligent, fun and inquisitive creatures.  However, they do live up to 10+ years and so are a long term commitment.  They also have complex nutritional and behavioural/care requirements that many people don’t realise.  For this reason we are supporting RAW week by offering free rabbit health checks from 4th – 12th May.  We also have some great free information packs to give away and there will be lots of educational material at the barn for you to come and have a look at. Interesting rabbit facts! Did you know that rabbits must eat their own faeces to digest their food? In fact rabbits actually excrete two types of droppings.  This is due to the rabbit being able to separate indigestible fibre from digestible within the bowels.  The digestible fibre is broken down and fermented by the large population of gut bacteria that a rabbit needs to survive – it is excreted as a Caecotroph generally at night and then re-eaten and digested!  Caecotrophs are soft droppings whereas the normal rabbit faeces are excreted as the hard small footballs that you normally see. Rabbits have one set of teeth that continue to grow throughout their lives! When bunnies are born they grow their teeth and do not loose their ‘baby’ teeth to develop a set of adult teeth.  They have an ‘open rooted’ system which means that their teeth never stop growing.  Because of this it is essential that rabbits spend most of their day chewing grass and hay. The chewing constantly wears the teeth but if rabbits are not fed an appropriate diet the teeth continue to grow and become distorted resulting in sharp hooks and spikes which damage the tongue and cheeks. Feeding muesli type diets can actually damage your rabbits health. They pick out the bits they like and do not get the appropriate level of digestible and undigestible fibre.  This leads to digestive problems, mucky bottoms (which in turn can lead to fly strike), obesity and dental disease.  The best diets are those that look like ‘all bran’ where the pellets are all the same. Your rabbit should be consuming its own body volume in hay or grass a day! This ensures well worn healthy teeth! Rabbits and guinea pigs do not make good hutch partners! Rabbits and guinea pigs have completely different diet requirements often leading to problems if they share food.  Keeping rabbits in pairs is the best way to keep them happy. You can neuter rabbits! Everyone knows that rabbits are very good a breeding!  These days with advances in anaesthetic techniques we routinely recommend neutering rabbits, females from 16 weeks of age and males as soon as their testicles have descended and they are large enough.  This reduces any risk of fighting, frustrations and obviously additional rabbits!!! The two most common veterinary rabbit problems that we see are easily preventable. Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic disease are easy to protect against by a single vaccination given by injection every year.  Fly strike is a summer condition where flies can lay eggs around your rabbits bottom, these hatch and develop into maggots.  This extremely distressing and often fatal problem is easily prevented by using a suitable fly repellent called Rear Guard that you can pick up from your local vets. If these few facts have wetted your appetite for more information then feel free to contact the practice on 01483 455355 or email hello@oakbarnvets.com;  at the same time why not book a free rabbit health check next week too?