The idea of our beautiful pets getting sick is an unwelcome one and often the last thing we want to think about. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict the future and health issues can strike at any time.
So what are the most common health problems that our gorgeous pet rabbits can suffer from and how can you tell if your furry friend is sick? Let’s take a look at some of the most common rabbit health issues, what causes them and how they can be prevented.
Top 5 Rabbit Health Problems
- The snuffles. The common cold causes much annoyance and discomfort for people all year round, and our rabbits can also suffer from similar problems. Commonly known as “snuffles”, Pasteurella is caused by Pasteurella multocida bacteria, and often manifests itself after your rabbit has been through a stressful situation. It causes symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, discharge and redness around the eyes – hence the name of “snuffles”. Some particularly nasty strains of the bacteria remain dormant in your rabbit’s nasal tract until your rabbit is placed under stress, for example if they start a new diet, and then reappear. Preventing stress is the best way to stop this health problem in its tracks, while treatment involves a course of antibiotics.
- Overgrown teeth. We’ve written before about just how important it is for your pet rabbit to be given the right diet with all the nutrients he needs to stay happy and healthy. But did you know that the food your pet eats can also have a huge effect on his dental health? If your rabbit’s diet doesn’t include grass or grass hay, not to mention wooden toys to chew on, his teeth can become overgrown. This can lead to intense pain for your poor pet and can make it very uncomfortable for them to eat. Weight loss can result and is often a sure sign of this painful problem. Treatment involves your bunny going under a general anaesthetic to have the teeth flattened, while prevention is down to including enough fibre in your pet’s diet.
- Myxomatosis is a nasty disease that is transmitted from one rabbit to the next by mosquitoes and fleas, while it can also be spread when an infected rabbit comes into close contact with a rabbit with a less-than-perfect immune system. The disease leads to a sore and swollen nose, eyes and genitalia, as well as discharge from the eyes. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for myxomatosis in Australia and the disease is fatal. However, there are a couple of simple things you can do to protect your rabbit, including investing in a mosquito-proof rabbit hutch, staying on top of flea control all year round and also bringing your rabbit inside during the high mosquito activity times of dawn and dusk.
- Calicivirus. Another disease that is spread by mosquitoes and flies or by coming into contact with an infected rabbit, calicivirus is capable of causing rapid death. It damages a rabbit’s internal organs, particularly their liver and stomach, causing haemorrhages and bleeding. Signs of the disease including a depressed, quiet and lethargic rabbit who is uninterested in their food. While calicivirus can unfortunately cause rapid death, the good news is that there is a vaccination for this nasty disease. Speak to your vet about making sure your rabbit is protected against calicivirus and also consider making sure your hutch is mosquito-proof.
- Hairballs. Hairballs might not sound like the most serious of health problems but they can actually be quite dangerous for your pet. In most cases, hairballs can naturally be found in a rabbit’s gut – after all, our beautiful bunnies are such fastidious groomers that it should come as no surprise when they swallow some hair. But problems can arise due to the fact that rabbits are unable to vomit, so if a hairball is unable to pass through a rabbit’s gut then it can cause serious problems. They can lead to an obstruction in the gut and severe health complications, so keep an eye out for signs of lethargy or your rabbit being off his food. Feeding a high-fibre diet can help prevent problematic hairball, while treatment can involve surgery and sometimes medication.
If you know the signs and symptoms to keep an eye out for, you will be able to act fast if your rabbit ever suffers one of these common health problems.