Run Rabbit Run! - Part 2
Last time, Vet Sue told us some important information about rabbit management. If you missed it, click here to catch up. In the spirit of Spring, let's expand our rabbit knowledge and improve their welfare by talking about diet, neutering, and other top tips.
Rabbits need ad-lib access to a good quality hay (such as Timothy hay) as they need a lot of fibre for their intestines to work properly. They can be fed some good quality complete food pellets, restricted to less than 30g/kg body weight, but never the cereal mix (the stuff that looks like granola with a mix of lots of attractive looking veg). This type of mixed feed used to be popular, but we don’t recommend it as rabbits tend to select out the sweet bits and therefore don’t grind their teeth enough or have enough fibre in this type of diet. They can also eat leafy greens and vegetables such as cabbage, kale, spinach, watercress and the leaves of root vegetables. Not lettuce! The greens need to be freshy picked with no mould and be herbicide and pesticide free. They can also eat chickweed and dandelions. To enrich their diet, treat items such as a small piece of carrot or fruit can be suspended from the roof of the pen to increase the time spent feeding. Don’t forget fresh water must be available from a water bottle and spout or a bowl and changed daily.
Rabbits are sexually mature from 4 months old, so neutering of males should be done by this time if a mix of sexes is kept. Females should also be neutered to prevent uterine cancer developing. Males can be neutered first if you have a mix of sexes.
These include spring bulbs, buttercups, lily of the valley, bracken, hemlock, foxgloves private or yew so beware of those in your garden (there are others too so watch out).
Two types of faecal pellets are passed from rabbits. The first is called caecotrophs, which are softer and covered in mucous and are eaten again directly from the anus, known as coprophagia. These types of pellets are produced late and night and early in the morning and allow the further breakdown of nutrients in the intestine. The other type of faeces is harder and drier and you will often spot these on the ground.
Final top tips to remember
- As we learnt from our discussions with Dr Burn, rabbits need company but should not be kept with a Guinea Pig as transmission of disease such as Bordetella, a respiratory infection, can occur between the species.
- Some breeds need a lot of grooming such as Angoras so consider carefully an appropriate breed for your family and whether you have the time involved cleaning out their pen regularly and giving them time to be sociable with you every day.
- Their teeth are continually growing and being worn down by grinding hay and grass so monitoring their teeth to make sure they don’t overgrow and cause problems eating, is very important.
- Speak to your vet about vaccinations against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic disease
- Check their claws regularly as they may need trimming if they grow too long.
- In the Summer check their anal area frequently in case of fly strike where flies pay eggs on any contaminated areas of skin and maggots can develop