Have a Hoppy Summer & Protect your Bunny
Summer brings fresh grass and warm, dryweather for our bunny rabbits to enjoy, but it can also bring the risks of heatstroke, disease and other health concerns. Here are a few things to help youto protect your rabbits.
Remember to make regular checks on your rabbitduring the summer months, particularly throughout the hot weather. Rabbits donot tolerate heat well and can actually die from being overheated. Each rabbitwill tolerate heat differently and it is important to observe your rabbitdaily. Ensure your rabbit has space to roam, access to shade and cool water atall times. Hutches and runs should be kept in the shade, away from directsunlight and at least partially covered to protect your rabbits from theelements; Run covers are available commercially and tarpaulin can be boughtquite cheaply from garden centres. Rabbits whose exercise run is on a lawn willenjoy access to grass every day, which is great for their teeth and digestivesystems and will keep them busy. Besure your bunny has access to water at all times, providing your bunny withfresh veggies will also help keep your bunny hydrated, eg: celery. Your rabbits’diet should consist of 15% fresh vegetables & herbs. Tip: Place a few icecubes in their water bottle or bowl or soak veggies in cold water.
As the wild rabbit population is peaking,unfortunately so is the spread of deadly diseases. Vaccinating our rabbits notonly protects them but prevents further spread of disease. There are currently two diseases wevaccinate against in rabbits: Myxomatosis and Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 1& 2 (RVHD1 & RVHD2). Rabbits can be vaccinated from 5 weeks ofage and a booster vaccination is required every 6-12 months. Myxomatosis is ahighly contagious viral, fatal disease found across the UK in rabbits.Myxomatosis is mainly spread by direct contact of fleas and other flying andbiting insects. Rabbits can also catch the disease through direct contact withother rabbits. Symptoms can take a few days to develop after contracting thevirus these include swelling of the eyes, skin of the ears, lips and genitals.There is no cure for myxomatosis so vaccination is vital to control thedisease. Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RVHD) causesinternal bleeding, in which most rabbits display no symptoms. Recently therehas been in increase in instances of this disease as a new variant has beendiscovered (RVHD 2). Again, there is no cure for RVHD 1 or 2 and vets can onlyoffer supportive treatment, in most cases the disease is fatal. Many rabbits inthe UK are not vaccinated against this deadly disease and are therefore atrisk. This year we are asking all rabbit owners in the UK to make sure thattheir rabbits are vaccinated to protect and prevent.
Warmer weather also increases the risks offlystrike. Flies can strike, laying eggs and kill a healthy animal who hastemporary loose stools, but at particular risk are aging, long-haired or overweightrabbits who are not able to clean themselves. Flies are attracted to themoisture, warmth and odour of sores or damp, soiled fur with urine or faeces tolay their eggs which hatch into maggots very quickly. Within 24 hours, rabbitscan enter a terminal state of shock due to maggot infestation. The chances are greater if the rabbit isoutside, but it only takes one fly indoors to do the damage. It's important tocheck your rabbit's coat daily, check for any soiling or matting. Rabbitsusually look after their own coat however some breeds require regular grooming.Matted and soiled fur can attract flies and other bacteria as well as causingdiscomfort for the rabbit and increase the risks of heat stroke if the coat ismatted. It is also important you rabbit's environment is kept clean not toattract flies in the first instance. Cleaning out your hutches and runs dailywill help keep risks of flystrike to a minimum.
Going on holidays? A bunny-babysitter is needed! Leaving therabbits in their own environment is less stressful for them, especially if theyhave a good set-up. However, it is important that you make sure that the sitter(be it a neighbour, friend or professional pet-sitter) is rabbit savvy. Yoursitter must have the knowledge and inclination to visit and check thoroughly atleast twice a day. That is a minimum: if they can come more frequently then allthe better, or have multiple bunny-sitters who come at different times of day.Creating a checklist for your pet sitter or sitter(s) would be useful to ensureall checks are made and nothing is missed, be sure to leave your vets detailsin case of any emergencies, rabbits can go downhill quickly as they are preyspecies and can be very good at hiding pain and illness.
Abbey Vets are offering free rabbit healthchecks throughout June to promote Rabbit Awareness Week (June 1st-9th). Ournurses at Abbey Vets can offer advice on behaviour, husbandry and diet, pleasecall to book you and your bunnies a free appointment: 01873 852391.
We are also collecting donations for localrabbit rescue charities, an estimated 67,000 rabbits a year go though rescue.Bedding, hay, food and bowls etc.. would be greatly accepted, the collectioncan be found in Abbey Vets reception area.
Hoppy Summer from all at Abbey Vets!
Further advice can be found at the following recommended Rabbitadvice websites: