Uralla Veterinary Clinic

116 Bridge Street, Uralla

Keeping Rabbits as Pets

Rabbits make excellent pets. They are suitable for most people; however, they should not be handled by young children without close supervision. They are easily frightened so may Exotic Animalscause scratch and bite wounds if they are spooked or poorly handled. Rabbits can also be easily injured by rough handling and most commonly present to a veterinary clinic with broken legs. When picking up a rabbit it is important to always support both feet and hold them close to your chest.

Bunnies come in many different sizes, colours and coat types. They can range in weight from 500 grams to over 7 kilos! They can have floppy ears or straight ears. Their coats can range from short and soft to long and dense and even be thick and wool-like (angora). Some coat types may require regular brushing. And some rabbits will benefit from having their nails trimmed as well.

Rabbits can be purchased from pet shops, breeders and the RSPCA and vary greatly in price. They can be anywhere from $10 to over $500. Rabbits purchased from the RSPCA can be great value as they come desexed, vet checked, flea treated and well handled for a reasonable adoption fee.

Rabbits are very intelligent creatures that benefit from socialisation. Having more than one desexed rabbit is a great idea. If handled often from a young age, rabbits can be extremely friendly and have close relationships with their owners. They can be trained to walk on a harness and even taught to use a litter tray like a cat!

When considering a bunny as a pet, like with any animal, it is important to consider your long-term plans before committing. It may not always be possible to take your bunny with you if you are moving as it is illegal to keep rabbits as pets in some states, including Queensland. There are some other important things to consider before making a decision. Although rabbits can be inexpensive to buy and maintain, there are some extra costs to factor in.

Rabbits are very simple and affordable to feed. Their diet should consist primarily of hay and include a small amount of fresh fruit and vegetables. They do not need pellets when this diet is given correctly; however, if you do wish to feed pellets they should only be given a product that is made entirely from compressed hay matter. They should not be fed clover or Lucerne as these are too in protein and calcium, excess of which can cause serious health problems.

Both male and female rabbits benefit greatly from desexing. 70-80% of adult, non-desexed female rabbits will develop uterine cancer, which is often fatal. Desexing also prevents unwanted litters and reduces aggression in female rabbits. The cost of the procedure is comparable to a dog of similar size, so this expense should be considered before the rabbit is purchased. Bunnies purchased from the RSPCA come desexed.

Just like cats and dogs, bunnies need to be vaccinated. It is particularly important that they are vaccinated for calicivirus. Calicivirus is rampant in wild rabbit populations and is highly infectious. Most infected bunnies will die from the infection and there is little that can be done to save them once symptoms are present. The disease does not require direct contact with another rabbit to be spread, although rabbits that are housed outside in cages placed directly on the ground are at the most risk. The disease can be spread through fleas, mosquitos and indirectly on clothing and shoes. Myxomatosis is another disease that infects rabbits. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine available for this disease. Flea and mosquito protection are the only preventives available. Because of this disease it is recommended that rabbits are housed inside, at least at night time, and when they are outside they should be kept in a raised coup. There are several different products available for the prevention of fleas in rabbits, including sprays and spot-on treatments, that are safe and effective. When used correctly these products provide good protection from diseases and parasites.

Finally, rabbit’s teeth grow constant throughout their lives. Consequently, bunnies must be provided with chew toys to wear their teeth down. There are many fun commercial products available that come in a range of different sizes, shapes and varieties of wood. It is important to note that some plants are toxic to rabbits, including branches from most fruit trees and redwood. If inadequate chews are provided a rabbit’s teeth can grow out of control and become malformed. This can lead to occlusion problems (where the jaws no longer line up correctly), teeth growing through the lips, abscesses and server pain. In extreme cases, the teeth may need to be cut back and corrected by a veterinarian under a general anaesthetic. This can be risky and expensive so it is best avoided.

If you have any questions about bunny ownership or would like a quote to desex your rabbit, please give us a call on 6778 3133.