Raising healthy rabbits
It is important for a rabbit’s overall wellness that its caged area be kept free from debris or faecal matter
My rabbit has lately not been very active and is excessively tired most of the time. He seems very fat. What should I do?
Excess body weight, or obesity, is as much a problem in rabbits as it is in any other species, especially household rabbits. Rabbits that are obese are not able to function normally because of their large size and body fat percentage.
Although certain breeds of rabbit, including the dwarf rabbit, are more at risk for obesity due to their shorter stature and inactivity, it occurs most often among middle-aged rabbits that are caged, and this is independent of their gender. Typically, rabbits prone to obesity tend to be more than 20 to 40 percent overweight. An easy way to determine this is to give the rabbit a physical exam. If you cannot find the ribs under the layer of fat and skin, then it is probably obese. Other signs of obesity may include flaky dermatitis, as the rabbit has difficulty fully cleaning under its skin folds. The animal may also have difficulty breathing and be excessively tired. The causes for obesity in rabbits include being caged too often, along with excessive feeding habits. If it is fed too many treats or snacks during the day and not allowed to exercise it off, then it is sure to become obese.
Proper nutrition is the key to treating obesity. Often high-quality grass hay and fresh greens, including lettuce, parsley and carrot tops are generally recommended over an exclusive pellet diet. Fresh fruits and other non-leafy vegetables are not recommended during the obese period, as these can lead to other health problems in the rabbit. With proper education from the veterinarian, you will establish long-term, reachable weight loss goals that will guide the rabbit toward a healthier and more productive life. It is also important for the animal's overall wellness that its caged area be kept free from debris or faecal matter. Clipping excess hair and brushing matted hair will also help keep the rabbit clean.
Whenever I let my rabbit out of his cage, he runs to hide under the bed and refuses to come out. Is he scared of me? What can I do to get him out?
You have to slowly get him used to your touch over many weeks. Don't let his behaviour put you off touching him. If you avoid him, he will only become more afraid of you when you do touch him because you will continue to be unfamiliar. You need to touch him every single day to get him accustomed to you. Just start with a few short sessions of light petting with one or two fingers. Pet him when you put food in the cage so that he associates petting with a positive experience, like eating. Once he is more comfortable with that, use your whole hand to pet him. Eventually, you may be able to pick him up. But if you do, make sure his feet are not dangling – this makes animals feel like they will fall and they'll squirm to get down. They need to feel secure.
My rabbit has started snoring since the past few days. He makes rapid sounds while sleeping and doesn't have a very good appetite either. What should I do?
Rabbits snore as a result of blockage in the animal's airway. It can also occur if nasal tissues are weak or flaccid, or from excessive fluid in the passages. An extremely stressed rabbit, or a rabbit with a lowered immune system, may sound excessively hoarse while breathing. Other typical signs for rabbits include: Sneezing, rapid or loud wheezing sounds during breathing, nasal discharge (sometimes due to sinusitis or rhinitis), discharge from the eyes, lack of appetite, inability to chew or swallow, oral abscesses (especially in the teeth). Rabbits tend to be nasal breathers and any physical deformity or unusual nasal structure can result in a lower-pitched or higher-pitched sound emanating from the airway or nose.
There are many other causes. These include: Sinusitis and rhinitis; Abscesses, elongated teeth or secondary bacterial infections; Facial, nasal or other trauma affecting this region, including bites from other insects or animals; Allergies and irritants including inhaling pollen, dust or other insects; Tumours that lodge in the airway; Dysfunction of the neuromuscular system, which may include hypothyroidism or diseases affecting the brainstem; Swelling and oedema in the upper respiratory system; Inflammation of the soft palate or throat and voice box; Anxiety or stress. Treatment includes providing supplemental oxygen to the rabbit, when appropriate, and providing a quiet, cool and calm environment in which to live. A rabbit must also have a clear and unobstructed airway, keeping its ear and nasal cavities clean and debris-free.
To combat harmful bacterial infections from developing, the veterinarian may alter the rabbit's diet to include more leafy greens. Medications which are helpful to control bacterial sinusitis, rhinitis or other related infection include antibiotics. And while steroids may be used to reduce nasal swelling or inflammation, it can worsen bacterial infections and should only be used when absolutely necessary and under the direct care of a trained veterinarian.
Serious complications may arise. Pulmonary oedema, or fluid retention in the lungs or airway, is one such common example. It is, therefore, important to closely monitor the rabbit and bring it to the veterinarian's office for regular check-ups and follow-up care during recovery.
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