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So what do all those fancy words mean, exactly? Here's the insider guide to bunny-speak
rabbit's way of expressing happiness. It looks like a convulsion. Jumping
into the air and twisting around to face in a different direction. The
can be from standing or halfway through a run.
Another variation is the half-binky. The bunny turns its head quickly to one side and back. Again, it can be done from a moving or stationary position. Often the front paws are raised up, like a horse rearing.
Improperly aligned teeth. Most commonly seen as overgrown front teeth but
sharp spurs can occur on the molars at the back of the mouth. In untreated
cases the overgrowth can prevent the rabbit from eating. Death by starvation
can occur. Malocclusion is
usually genetic, but
poor diet and age are other factors.
Symptoms include failure to properly chew and swallow food, salivation, dribbling. Loss of appetite and weight loss follow. Death from starvation can occur if the problem goes untreated.
Treatment involves clipping of the incisors and the treatment of wounds caused by overgrowth. Clipping should be carried out by an experienced vet and must be done for the remainder of the rabbit's life. Rabbits with malocclusion should never be allowed to bred.
Myxomatosis is a viral disease
related to the pox viruses. It came to Britain in 1953. The virus is passed
by biting insects such as fleas, fur mites, and mosquitoes, although there
are fears that a rabbit-to-rabbit spread appeared in a new strain of the
disease that hit the South-West counties in 2000. Because domesticated
rabbits are separated from their wild relatives they have not developed a
resistance. There is a five to fourteen day incubation period.
What are the symptoms? Runny eyes and swollen genitals announce the beginning. If it develops into the typical full-blown myxi then the eyes will weep and crust causing blindness. The head and genitals can swell causing distortions, and lumps may appear over the body. There are two milder forms of Myxomatosis: one results in a pneumonia or snuffles type illness; the other produces lumps in the skin.
How can I protect my pet? Vaccination is your first line of defence. Until the outbreak of 2000, vets recommended that pets be vaccinated at least once a year, maybe twice a year depending on local factors, such as climate, and possible exposure to wild rabbits. Now, most vets are recommending that all areas of the UK should practice six-monthly vaccinations. The best time for a booster is late Spring or early Summer. Although vaccinated rabbits can catch the disease, the symptoms are much milder and the rabbit has a stronger chance of survival. Another preventative measure is the limiting of exposure to biting insects. Fit flyscreen to hutches and runs. Remove pools of water where mosquitoes can breed. Prevent contact with wild rabbits, or dogs and cats that may be carrying rabbit fleas.
Things your vet should know: Most vaccines are injected under the skin, but at least a tenth of the myxi vaccine should be injected into the skin itself: either the scruff of the neck or the base of the ear. This is to build up immunity in the outer skin, the usual entry-point for the virus. Ask your vet, beforehand, to remember the intradermal part. Second, the drug companies need to know when vaccinated rabbits have contracted the disease, your vet should contact them with details and severity of the case.
Can a rabbit survive Myxomatosis? The chances of survival for unvaccinated rabbits are very bleak (possibly around 10%). In a vaccinated rabbit the prospects are better, but intensive care over several weeks is required. The procedures involve warmth, regular washing of eyes and genitals, tempting foods, syringe feeding (get a vet to demonstrate), and antibiotics.
A good source on caring for a rabbit with the disease is The Myxomatosis Helpline
|Neutering / Spaying:||
Rabbit reach sexual maturity between 3 to 8 months. Once the hormones start working, expect to see behaviour changes. Some might be cute, and others unpleasant. A rabbit reaching sexual maturity can be expected to exhibit:
Unneutered rabbits often mount one another endlessly due to sexual frustration and to establish dominance. Same sex pairs who tolerate each other as babies can begin fighting when they reach maturity. This could result in serious injury.
Opposite sex pairs reproduce as soon as they are mature. In one year, a pair of rabbits and their unneutered offspring are capable of producing over 2000 rabbits! You may think you can find homes for your kits, but we have seen too many abandoned and dumped pets to know that this is unrealistic. For every kit produced by a casual breeder, another is put to death at an animal shelter, because there are not enough homes for them. Some people seem surprised to discover that brother and sister couples can mate. They can and do. There is no incest in the animal kingdom.
Unspayed does have a high risk of uterine, ovarian and mammary cancers. All connected to hormones. Some reports state that 80% of unspayed female rabbits will develop uterine/ovarian cancer by the age of four.
Upon reaching sexual maturity, male rabbits often displaying mounting behaviour (on your legs, the dog/cat, stuffed toys) marking territory with urine and producing a pungent odour. They can also get testicular cancer.
How spaying/neutering can help
1. Rabbits are less likely to display unpleasant hormone induced behaviours.
2. They are less likely to smell as much, due to lower sex hormone levels.
3. It increases their life expectancy. House rabbits live longer than those who are not. "Intact" rabbits live an average of five to eight years. The average spayed/neutered house rabbit lives 10 or more years. Many live into their teens (The record is 21 years!)
4. They can live with a rabbit of the opposite sex without the danger of unwanted litters. Rabbits of the same sex can usually learn to get along without fighting, with patience and TLC from their owners. Most rabbits are highly social, affectionate creatures, and thrive in the company of other rabbits. (They must be carefully introduced, to avoid fighting. The safest option is to allow your rabbit to choose his/her own partner from your local rabbit rescuer, since most rabbits are choosy about the company they keep. Then take 2-6 weeks only leaving them together while you are there to referee. Donít put them in the same cage and hope for the best. Where rabbits are concerned arranged marriages rarely work.)
5. They will never contribute to the terrible pet rabbit overpopulation problem. Thousands of rabbits are abandoned every year, when they outgrow their cuteness. You will never have to worry that your rabbit's offspring may suffer a terrible death after being abandoned in the wilds of suburbia, being dumped at a pet store, to be sold as snake food, or being put to sleep at an overcrowded animal shelter
6. Our pet rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) are derived from an ancient line of the wild European rabbit. European rabbits live in burrows (a series of underground tunnels excavated by family groups) in an established territory. A domestic rabbit, abandoned in a park that looks inviting and safe to a human, has been sentenced to a cruel death. She/he has no burrows in which to hide from predators or from the elements, she/he has no family to warn them of danger, and if there are resident wild rabbits in the area, she/he will most likely be attacked viciously because she/he is not a member of the family. If she/he survives the threat of predators, cars, humans walking their dogs and other immanent dangers, she/he will soon succumb to parasites, disease and starvation. Would you like to be dropped naked and vulnerable into a war zone? Don't consign your rabbit friend to such a fate.
∑ A PET RABBIT is domesticated and depends on human care. She/he will die if set loose, no matter how appealing the environment appears to a human.
∑ PLEASE don't abandon your bunny to "the wild" OR to a rescue when he or she matures into an adult. Give him or her a fair chance to be a true companion. You will experience one of the most delightful, intelligent, loyal, and affectionate friends you will ever know! They have as varied and entertaining characters as any cat or dog given the right stimulation.
∑ THOUSANDS of these wonderful companion animals are put to sleep every year. Be a part of the solution to pet over population and unnecessary euthanasia.
1. Spaying/neutering your companion does NOT make him/her "fat and lazy." Lack of exercise, wrong food, too many treats, boredom and illness do that.
2. Your rabbit's cute endearing qualities will NOT change but his/her hormonal behaviour usually will. The earlier you spay/neuter (at about 5 months for males, around 8 months for females), the less change you will notice in your rabbit's behaviour.
|An infection caused by the
bacterium, Pasteurella multocida. It is most often transmitted
between does and their litters, and is very common amongst pet-shop rabbits
(estimated at 60% infection rates).
The symptoms are flu-like and include snuffling when breathing. It causes the rabbit little distress and can remain dormant for many months or years. It is treatable with antibiotics but must be caught earlier for successful outcome.
The disease, although harmless, can cause complications when combined with age, stress, and poor living conditions.
|Tilt:||Also known as Head tilt,
Torticollis, or Wryneck. A mild to severe twisting of the head. The onset
may be gradual or sudden. The symptoms include: confusion, rolling,
inability to stand, moving in circles. Anorexia, lethargy, and depression
follow. Excessive dribbling, loss of facial control, and tooth grinding may
There are many causes for Tilt:
Caring for rabbits with Tilt
Depending on the cause, recovery may take weeks, and may never be complete, as damage is often permanent. Affected rabbits need specialist care to make them comfortable. Rabbits unable to move can develop bed sores. Encourage the rabbit to exercise. Flex and extend the limbs, several times each day; massage may help.
Tilt will affect appetite. Supply fresh vegetables and greens. Some may need syringe-feeding but a vet should demonstrate the procedure. If the rabbit is unable to collect his soft droppings, cecotropes, it is necessary to collect them and place them where the patient can eat them. Provide a heavy, shallow bowl for water
Some rabbits recover fully, others may not. Disabled rabbits are not necessarily unhappy. If he/she is eating, drinking, attempting to groom, and moving, they are showing signs of enjoying life. If there is no appetite, lethargy, depression, and unresponsiveness, you should consult your vet to determine what's best.
VHD or Viral Haemorrhagic Disease was first seen in the UK in 1992. It is easily spread between rabbits and contaminated bedding, hutches and food. It can also be passed on by birds and people. The virus surviving for up to three months on clothing.
The disease progresses rapidly and the symptoms include loss of appetite and nose bleeds. Blood clots can develop on the lungs and most infected rabbits die, often suddenly. It is a terrible disease to witness and is distressing to pet and owner.
There is a vaccine available, and the vet can administer a first dose in rabbits as young as twelve weeks old. An annual booster is essential. Keep your vaccination cards up-to-date as some boarding places need to see proof of vaccination. Your vet should have some available.