Health & Diet
Rabbits can act as if they’re hardy creatures, but they are, in fact, extremely delicate-from their skin to their spines to their internal systems. Care must be taken to maintain their good health. The following basics are necessary to know in order to groom rabbits safely and to help keep them healthy. For information specifically geared towards the caring for long-haired rabbits, see the reprint of the House Rabbit Journal article, “The Well-Groomed Rabbit.” For an extensive rabbit medicine guide please see:
Ears: It is important to check your rabbits ears and make sure there is no waxy buildup. Lops are especially known for dirty ears. If you do see a waxy substance, you can take a q-tip with a little Chlorhexadine on it, dab the inside of the ear where the wax is. Let it sit, while the water breaks up the waxy build up, then you can clean the wax out with a dry q-tip.
For Ear mites, take your bunny to the vet. You can sometimes see bloody dots in the ear and/or a brown thick substance.
Mouth: Check bunnies teeth periodically, keep tabs on how long they are so you can compare with the next check. Rabbits teeth grow throughout their lives, it is necessary for rabbits to chew to keep the teeth grind down. The teeth check makes sure their teeth are grind down and bunny can chew and eat normally.
Eyes: Rabbits can build up sleep in the corners of their eyes just like humans. This is normal but if you notice lots of drainage from the eye, or it’s always wet and weepy looking you should take your bunny to the vet. Weepy eyes can be caused by teeth issues or many other complications.
Nails: It is important to trim your rabbits nails as they start to grow out. Very often people forget to do this and their bunny will catch its long nails and twist its leg. Long nails are also prone to painful breaks.
The process isn’t complicated but can be tricky.
- Get cat nail trimmers
- Try to work with a partner, one holding bunny (who is wrapped in a towel) & the other person ready to trim the nails.
- Push hair away from nails and look for the quik( red line, this part is blood).
- Then trim nail just above the quik. If you accidentally trim the nail to short, you can put a product called kwik stop on the nail to stop the bleeding.
Feet: If housing a rabbit in a cage try to get a plastic bottom cage. If you have a wire bottom cage put carpet sample, pieces of cardboard, or linoleum down for bunny to lie on. Wire bottom cages are abrasive to rabbits feet and cause sore hocks( red swollen abrasions).
Skin: Rabbit skin is very delicate and stretchy. If trimming mats or tuffs of fur be sure to keep the scissors away from bunny’s skin.
Brush bunnies hair the opposite direction it naturally flows to check for fleas or fur mites, you should consult your vet. If you see dry flaky patches, it’s a strong indication of fur mites. If you see black dots or fleas, you can treat it with the following products; Advantage, Program or Revolution. Always consult your vet before treating, they can give you the proper dosage and tips.
Shedding: Rabbits shed several times a year. When you notice mass shedding it is very important to brush your rabbit as frequently as possible until the shedding subsides. Unlike cats, rabbits can not spit up hair balls. The hair needs to naturally pass through it’s system. Brushing your rabbit minimizes hair intake and the possibility of a hair ball blockage.
Baths: NEVER give a rabbit a bath unless recommend by your vet. They are self sustaining and clean themselves. Baths can be very stressful and contribute to health issues. It also makes them prone to hypothermia.
In the wild rabbits generally eat a lot of grass. They need grass/hay as roughage to keep their stomachs moving. Timothy hay is ideal but there are lots of other grasses that can be used too. Alfalfa hay is NOT recommend for adult rabbits because it is high in calories it really is only good for babies. Here is a break down of an adult rabbit diet:
- Unlimited timothy, grass hay, oat hay or orchard grass.
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup pellets per 6 lbs. body weight (depending on metabolism and/or proportionate to veggies)
- Minimum 2 cups chopped vegetables per 6 lbs. body weight
- fruit daily ration no more than 2 oz. (2 TBL) per 6 lbs. body weight.
Rabbits need to eat leafy greens daily; about 2 cups a rabbit.
Some greens rabbits can eat:
Alfalfa, radish & clover sprouts Dandelion greens(no pesticides)*
Beet Green (tops)* Escarole
Bok Choy Green Peppers
Broccoli(stems & tops)* Mint
Brussels Sprouts Mustard Greens*
Carrot & Carrot tops* Parsley*
Celery Snow Pea pods(flat edible kind)*
Cilantro Peppermint leaves
Collard Greens* Radish tops*
Romaine Lettuce(no iceberg lettuce)*
* indicates vegetables high in vitamin A.