Rabbits make intelligent and friendly pets. The following information is to help you enjoy a happy and healthy relationship with your new rabbit. In addition to this handout there are a number of excellent books on the topic of rabbit health care available from Petmania.

Vaccinations

Rabbits should be vaccinated against dis-eases including haemorrhagic viral dis-ease (HVD) and myxomatosis. These dis-eases are highly contagious and almost always fatal. Vaccination is done at 10 – 12 weeks of age and then annually.

Handling

It is very important to support a rabbit’s body, particularly the hind limbs, when holding it. Place one hand under the tummy and the other under the tail and hold it close to your body. Check your rabbit daily to get it used to handling. Examine the mouth, ears, eyes, coat and skin regularly, which will help recognise an abnormality if one occurs.

Diet

Rabbits are her-bivores and the best diet is grass and/or meadow hay with small amounts of pellet mix and mixed vegetables. This provides enough essential fibre. Lack of fibre leads to lack of wear on the cheek teeth and dental disease, and also causes the bowel to stop working properly. Introduce any vegeta-bles on a gradual basis to avoid bloat and diarrhoea. Occasionally fruit can be given as treats.

Neutering

Neutering is recommended for both males (bucks) and females (does) as rab-bits are prolific breeders. Neutering also makes does and bucks less aggressive and less territorial. Does have a very high risk of developing uterine tumours which can be prevented by neutering. Males and females can be neutered from 5 months of age.

Dental Care

Rabbits have open rooted teeth which grow continuously. This should not be-come a problem if your rabbit has a proper diet. Make sure the rabbit has some branches or wood available for chewing on to keep teeth trimmed down.

Housing

A large secure grazing run with a hutch attached for privacy is best. Rabbits need to be able to stand up on their hindquarters and hop around. Large pipes can be used to simulate burrows. Rabbits may also be kept indoors if provided with a large hutch and a litter tray.

Grooming

It is very important brush your rabbit daily. If not groomed, rabbits will groom themselves, ingesting the fur, which often leads to hairballs and possible intestinal obstructions. Nail trimming is also essen-tial as rabbits’ nails can get very sharp.

Socialisation

Rabbits are very sociable creatures and like other rabbits and hu-man company. It is best to house rabbits with rabbits. Do not mix rabbits with other small mammals such as guinea pigs as rabbits can seriously injure them when play-fighting or trying to mate. If you mix un-neutered bucks and does baby rabbits will be born in about 3 weeks. The doe can have several litters a year and early born does can also have litters in the same year.

City Vet was founded in 1991 and has been looking after and treating pets in the Limerick area since. The practice is now located in a hospital facility on Lord Edward Street where the caring and experienced vets and nurses cater for your pet’s veterinary needs.