SPECIAL PROBLEMS OF PET RABBITS
Rabbits have several unique problems; understanding these problems will allow
you to better care for your pet and minimize future health care problems.
Diarrhea is often seen in rabbits. While it can be due to coccidia (a one-cell
protozoan) or incorrect usage of oral antibiotics, often the cause can't be
determined. Rabbits eating a diet that is too high in carbohydrates (pellets
or alfalfa hay) are more prone to develop intestinal problems than rabbits eating
a high fiber (grass hay) diet.
Mucoid enteropathy is by definition a diarrheal disease of young rabbits than
can be fatal. The diarrhea has a mucoid or gelatinous consistency.
Treatment for diarrheal conditions of rabbits is controversial and varies
among veterinarians. As a rule, fiber in the diet is increased (often nothing
but hay is offered for several weeks). Fluid and vitamin therapy are used as
Cystic calculus (Bladder stones)
Rabbits, like many pets, can develop bladder stones. Signs include urinating
frequently, straining to urinate, and blood in the urine. Often the stones can
be palpated (felt) your veterinary surgeon during the examination. Radiographs
(X-rays) can confirm the diagnosis. Surgical removal of the stones cures the
problem. Rabbits that have been eating a diet high in pellets (this may contribute
to stone formation) can be weaned onto a diet lower in pellets and higher in
hay which may prevent stone recurrence.
Rabbits have sharp nails, and owners are easily scratched when handling their
pets. The back feet, which are the most powerful, are usually the culprits.
Scratches to owners most commonly occur when placing the rabbit back into its
cage or down onto the floor. Supporting the rear end of the rabbit during the
entire lifting, carrying, and replacing regimen will usually eliminate the problem.
Periodic nail trimming (have your veterinarian show you the proper technique)
Several references in the literature discuss antibiotic toxicities in rabbits.
Some of the reports warn against using ANY oral antibiotics in rabbits, whereas
others mention specific problems with oral drugs such as penicillin or lincomycin.
Antibiotic toxicity is one reason to make sure that your veterinary surgeon
is trained to properly treat pet rabbits. Feel free to discuss any concerns
you have with him about antibiotics for your pet. And if your rabbit develops
diarrhea while being treated with any medication, STOP the medication
and call your veterinary surgeon at once!
Rabbits engage in coprophagy, which means they eat their own feces. This occurs
at night, and these fecal pellets are different from the ones normally excreted
and seen by the owners. These pellets serve as a vital source of nutrients,
specifically vitamins, for the rabbit and allow them to make best use of the
fibrous diet they consume. Most owners never observe this behavior; if you do,
remember that it is normal and necessary for the health of your rabbit.
to Rabbit Information Index