Medical

Veterinary Disclosure

This page covers the most common diseases and medical conditions of rabbits along with suggested treatments. Please take note that in no way should you substitute these articles for a licensed vet but use this page as a simple resource for diagnostic aid. Consult your local exotics vet before administering any medications or if you suspect your rabbit of being seriously ill.  If you take your rabbit to a vet that only specializes in cats and dogs, which most vet offices do, then they may not be able to properly diagnose and/or treat your rabbit. This could lead to disastrous consequences. Rabbits are hindgut fermentors, something they share in common with horses and other non-ruminant herbivores.  They react to medications, surgeries, and stress in entirely different ways. What may be a perfectly normal and safe antibiotic for a dog, could very easily kill your rabbit. You must take your rabbit to an EXOTICS vet, one who has EXPERIENCE in treating rabbits and has a good knowledge of rabbit anatomy and treatment. This is especially important if your rabbit is going in for surgery, as rabbits are very sensitive to anesthesia.  Be sure to search around and find a good vet ahead of time, so when emergencies do come up with your rabbit, you'll know where to take your rabbit right away without wasting any time.

Anatomy and Physiology

Skeletal System:

  • Entire skeleton makes up only 8% of total body weight

  • There are 46 bones that make up the spinal column alone, 7 cervical (the neck), 12 thoracic (the chest), 7 lumbar (the lower back), 4 sacral (the pelvis) and 16 coccygeal (the tail).

  • A rabbit's bones have extremely thin cortices and are easily shattered.

  • The lumbar vertebrae are elongated to allow for considerable flexion and extension during hopping, but this makes them susceptible to fracture.

  • The powerful hind limb musculature and light skeleton enable powerful jumping over long distances.

  • The hopping movement is made possible due to the hind legs being longer than the forelegs. Most of the elongation is below the stifle (the knee) in two bones, the tibia and fibula. The tibia is also prone to fracture.

  • Rabbit's hind legs can kick out with extreme force and if they struggle when they are picked up, or even when they stamp their feet violently on the ground, they are prone to fracture of their backbones (usually the 7th lumbar vertebra) and damage their spinal cord.

  • Rabbits have 7 tarsal bones (the ankle) and 4 digits on both hind legs, and 9 carpal bones (the wrist) and 5 digits on both fore legs.

  • Associated congenital deformities of the skeleton include hemivertebrae, spondylosis, kyphosis, and lordosis 

The Respiratory System:

  • The rabbit has a small chest cavity compared to the size and weight of its digestive system. It should never be held in such a way that the abdominal contents press on the chest, as the rabbit will find it difficult to breathe.

  • Rapid breathing may sometimes be a symptom of pain elsewhere in the body, and is seen in rabbits with bladder stones or womb cancer.

  • The nasal passages are in close proximity to the maxillary dental arcade, and changes in either the nasal passages or molar tooth roots may affect each other adversely

  • The air passes through the external nares into two large respiratory passages, which are hollow cavities present above the plate. The respiratory passage is divided into right and left halves by the mesethm bone. Each side, the respiratory passages is divided in to two regions.

  • An anterior nasal chamber.

  • A posterior respiratory tube.

  • The nasal chamber is bounded dorsally by nasal bone and ventrally by hard palate. The turbinals, very much folded scroll kike bones, are present within the nasal chambers. The turbinals are covered by richly vascular, glandular and ciliated epithelium. One respiratory tube opens behind the soft palate through the internal nares into the pharynx directly and that too very close to the glottis.

  • The nasal chambers serve as very efficient filters, i.e. it removes fine and coarse dust particles, germs etc. through mucous covering the turbinals. It helps to warm up the air before it is to be inhaled and enters the lungs. Due to the covering of sensory epithelium, it also helps in the detection of smell.

  • The pharynx opens into a larynx or sound blood through the glottis. The larynx lends into a trachea. This is the anterior end of the windpipe or trachea.

  • The larynx is a cylindrical box-like structure. Inside the larynx, there is a cavity known as the laryngeal chamber, which contains vocal cords. These vocal cords can be set into vibration by the passage of air over them to produce the ‘voice’ – in rabbits mainly a squeak. 

  • After larynx, the trachea is a long respiratory tube extending through the neck into the thoracic cavity. It is lined internally by ciliated cartilaginous rings. These ‘c’ shaped cartilaginous rings help to prevent the collapse of the trachea and to keep it expanded allowing free passage of air to and from the lungs.

  • The mucous glands present in the wall of trachea help keep its inner surface moist and hold dust particles and bacteria. Thus only the clear air is allowed to pass into the lungs. The dust particles are swept towards the pharynx by cilia.

  • The rabbit trachea is deeply recessed within the oral cavity behind the torus of the tongue. The trachea itself is narrow relative to body size.

  • Bronchi
    The thoracic cavity is small in comparison with the large abdominal cavity. Because of the small thoracic cavity, rabbits have more referred upper airway and bronchial sounds and may sound somewhat harsh.

  • In the thorax, the trachea divides into left and right bronchi which enter the lungs. The bronchi possess the similar structure as the trachea. After entering into the lungs, each bronchus divides into many thinner branches, called bronchioles.

  • Which again divide into finer bronches of less diameter known as respiratory bronchioles. Each respiratory bronchiole divides again into many finer branches, called alveolar ducts or infundibulum. The alveolar ducts end in small hollow air sacs, known as alveolar sacs. Each alveolar sac is formed of many small thin-walled hollow alveoli or air cells.

  • The respiratory bronchiole alveolar duct, alveolar sac and alveoli are devoid of cartilaginous rings but their walls possess ciia.

  • There is a network of capillaries of pulmonary artery and pulmonary vein around each alveolus. This complicated branching increases the total respiratory surface and allows the air to penetrate into every portion of the lungs.

  • The lungs are soft compact and spongy mass of tissues lying in the pleural cavity within the thorax. Each lung is covered by a fold of coelomic epithelium, which is in contact with the organ (visceral pleura). Each lung is divided into lobes. The right lung has four lobes. But left lung has got two lobes.

  • Significant respiratory compromise may occur if a rabbit is placed in dorsal recumbency for surgery when the stomach or cecum is greatly distended.

  • Positioning the patient on a tilt table or elevating the thorax with towels or pillows can decrease the risk of respiratory compromise at surgery.

The Digestive System:

  • Rabbits possess abundant gut-associated lymphoid tissue which is located in the Peyer’s patches, sacculus rotundus, and lymphoid appendix. These structures comprise of nearly 50% of the total mass of lymphoid tissue in the body.

  • Hind-gut fermenters

  • The primary microflora in the stomach is called Bacteroides

  • The stomach holds up to 15% of the volume of the gastrointestinal tract

  • The stomach has thin walls, is J-shaped, and lies left of the midline

  • An adult healthy rabbit should maintain a PH level of 1-2 in the stomach

  • Rabbits under 8 weeks of age should maintain a PH level of 5-6

  • The bacteria in the stomach of a young kit is kept in check by octanoic and decanoic fatty acids found in the mother rabbit's milk

  • Hematopoietic System

  • The erythrocyte measures 6.5 to 7.5 um in diameter. Polychromasia is a normal finding. Retriculocytes are 2 to 5% and the life span of the erythrocyte is 50 days

  • Heterophils are the counterpart of the neutrophil and measure 9 to 15 um in diameter and possess distinct acidophilic cytoplasmic granules

  •  Eosinophils measure 12 to 16 um in diameter and have large cytoplasmic granules that stain dull pink-orange with conventional hematology stains

  •  Lymphocytes are usually the predominant leukocyte in circulation. Small lymphocytes measure 7 to 10 um in diameter and larger ones measure 10 to 15 um. Lymphocytes may contain a few azurophilic cytoplasmic granules

  •  Basophils may be numerous and represent up to 30% of the circulating leukocyte poplati

  • Gastric transit time is approximately around 3-6 hours

  • The low gut retention time of 17.1 hours

  • The small intestine makes up 12% of the gastrointestinal volume

  • The cecum makes up 40% of the intestinal content and holds up to 10 times the capacity of the stomach

  • The particles that are not broken down in the small intestine enter the caecum after less than 2 hours. There they have to stay for about 2 to 12 hours, while they are attacked by bacterial enzymes

  • The small intestine is about 3 m long and nearly 1 cm in diameter. The contents are liquid, especially in the upper part. Normally there are small tracts, about 12 cm long, which are empty. The small intestine ends at the base of the caecum. This second storage area is about 40-45 cm long with an average diameter of 3-4 cm. It contains 100-120 g of a uniform pasty mix with a dry matter content of about 20 percent.

  • The digestive process of the rabbit appears to be highly dependent on adrenalin secretions.

  • Hypersecretion associated with stress slows down digestive activity and entails a high risk of digestive ailments.

  • The fibrous material is usually passed, while the more nutritious material is encased in a mucous and passed as a cecotrope, or night feces

Urinary System:

  • Calcium and magnesium are excreted primarily via the urine

  • Urine may be pigmented dark red to orange which is an incidental finding and may indicate increase ingestion of dietary porphyrins or elevated urobilin

  • Hematurai may be seen in the following conditions: uterine adenocarcinoma, uterine polyps, episodic bleeding from endometrial venous aneurysms, cystitis, polyps in the urinary bladder, pyelonephritis or renal infarction with hemorrhage

Cardiovascular System:

  • The chamber of the right side of the heart is relatively thin and frequently a quantity of clotted blood will be found in the right ventricle with no evidence of contraction

  • The right atrioventricular valve is bicuspid instead of tricuspid

Reproductive System:

  • Male Genital:

  •  Gonads begin to differentiate on the 16th day after fertilization

  • The testes develop less quickly than the body

  • Spermatogenesis begins between days 40 and 50, becoming active at around 84 days.

  •  Spermatozoa are present for ejaculation at around 110 days

  •   Semen volume is 0.3-0/6 ml.

  • Female Genital:

  •  Just as in the male, sexual development does not occur until the 15th day after fertilization

  • Ovogonail division begins on the 21st day of fetal life and continues until birth

  • First follicles appear on the 13th day after birth

  •  First antrum follicles at about 65 to 70 days

  •  Able to mate at 10 to 12 weeks, but this will not produce ovulation

Dental System:

  • Monocotyledonous plants such as grasses contain large numbers of phytoliths, highly abrasive silicate deposits which cause marked wear of the teeth

  • Rabbits are diphyodont, having two recognizable sets of teeth. A set of small or deciduous teeth, which erupt in utero, are replaced by a fuller set of larger teeth by about one month of age.

  • The deciduous dental formula is: 
    2 x 2/1 0/0 3/2= 16. 
    The deciduous incisors are often shed before or around the time of birth, whilst the last of the deciduous premolars are replaced by permanent teeth by Day 35.

  • The adult rabbit dental formula is: 
    2 x 2/1 0/0 3/2 3/3 = 28

  • The mandibular cheek teeth of rabbits grow and erupt at approximately 3 to 4 mm per month. Maxillary teeth grow and erupt at a slightly slower rate. This wear is dramatically faster than occurs in large grazing animal such as the horse whose cheek teeth wear and erupt approximately 3 mm per year.

  • In rabbits the cheeks fold in behind the incisors separating the front of the oral cavity from the more caudal section, thereby permitting separate function of the incisors and back teeth.

  • Premolars and molars are commonly referred to as “cheek teeth” since they tend to have similar structures and work together as a functional unit.

  • The cheek teeth consist of three maxillary and two mandibular premolar teeth on each side, with three molars in each jaw quadrant.

  • They are aligned to form nearly straight dental arcades, with oral surfaces of adjacent teeth contacting to create a continuous chewing surface. This chewing surface wears to create a serrated pattern due to the folded structure of the teeth, parallel layers of enamel and dentine in upper and lower teeth wearing at different rates as the jaws are moved side to side during chewing.

  • Adjacent teeth are kept in contact by the converging arrangement of the teeth, those towards the extremities of the arcades tending to move inwards.

  • This creates problems when a tooth is lost or extracted from the middle of an arcade, as the adjacent teeth tip into the defect creating gaps and irregularities in the occlusal surface. These gaps become packed with food leading to progressive periodontal disease, and the occlusal surfaces no longer wear normally promoting malocclusion.

Sensory:

  • Intense light blinds a rabbit, as he has restricted contraction of his pupils. Rabbits have limited color perception, although it is widely thought that they can distinguish between red and green.

  • Rabbits have over fifty million receptor cells in their nose

  • Olfactory sensory cells detect ordinary airborne odors, while a specialized group, the Jacobson Organ, pick up heavy moisture-borne molecules and pheromones. (Moist air carries more scent).

  • When rabbits breathe in, their split top lip parts and moisten the air as it passes.

  • 190-degree field of vision, leaving their only blind spot directly under their nose

  • Their eyes are eight times more sensitive to light than human eyesight.

  • A rabbit's large ears are not only great for gathering sound, but they also help cool the rabbit off by blood circulation, much like a fan circulates air

  • A rabbit's only sweat glands are located on its lips.

Vision:

  • Lateral eyed animals. Eye on each side of head & slightly above the midline

    • Visual field of nearly 360 degrees for a few breeds that have the same body type as a true wild European rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus.

    • 10 degree blind spot directly in front of their nose

    • Monocular - Two wide angles of view with eyes "2D"

    • Binocular - Narrow field of view with some depth perception

    • A few blind spots

    • 'Limited' near vision but sensitive to movement.

    • Hyperopia, aka farsighted/longsighted (difficulty focusing on near objects) - opposite of Myopia (nearsightedness/shortsighted)

    • Horizontal area of high photoreceptor density - concentrate on all points of the horizon at one time

    • Don't have standard concentric types of ganglion cell, they have 'brisk-transient' & 'brisk-sustained' cells

  • Protanopic animals. Color vision

    • Dichromat. Can see combinations using two colors (green [520nm] & blue [425nm])

    • Reduction of color axes in red and yellow parts

    • Most likely rabbits don't see colors the same as humans. They do see many of the same color-wavelengths combinations and can tell many of them apart.

    • Retina (Fovea Centralis not indented)

      • Cones detect color under well-lit conditions (photopic vision). Rabbits have about 18,000 per sq. mm at peak density. About 10x less than humans.

      • Rods detect less detail & no color, but they are much more sensitive to light (scotopic vision). Rabbits have about 300,000 per sq. mm. at peak density. About 2x the amount of humans.

      • Majority of retina has green sensitive cones - Small area with no green but many blue cones.

      • Densities of photoreceptors vary systematically, depending upon the size of the eye and age of the rabbit

  • Acuity & Light - Crepuscular: see best at dusk and dawn

    • Rabbit's optics are better than those of many primate species.

    • Rabbit's have a higher ratio of rods than cones. Allow the rabbit to see in dim light situations

    • Rabbit's eye is eight times more sensitive to light then a human eye

    • Can not see well with very bright & very low light.

    • Fovea Centralis (Minuscule cone-shaped depression in the retina) not indented - less resolution.

    • No Tapetum Lucidum - a reflective structure that lies beneath the retina, acts like a mirror; reflecting light back through the retina increasing the light available to the photoreceptors. Same as humans.

    • Rabbits vision is somewhat grainy (vs humans)

  • Albino rabbits

    • Lack pigment in their iris & choroids, gives a ruby'ish reflection from within the eye

    • Some albinos will tend to do more "scanning", both ruby (REW) & blue (BEW) albinos

  • Development & Other Issues

    • Rabbits are born with their eyelids closed

    • They will normally open their eyes at about 10 days

Rabbit First-Aid

You should have an easily accessible box with all of the below supplies in them. Keep it in your rabbitry and make sure it is well supplied at all times. If you can, keep a small fridge in the rabbitry as well. This way, you can store a large supply of medications and herbal remedies without them quickly expiring.

You should also create your own dosage chart. Keep track of the weight of all of your rabbits. By using a chart, documented weights, a scale, and a calculator on hand; you'll be able to quickly access and administer medications in emergencies when the timing is everything.

Another good idea is to keep a smaller first aid kit with you when you're going to rabbit shows. Accidents and illnesses do happen on the road and at shows. Having medical supplies on hand could save your rabbit's life.

You should also keep certain herbal supplements on hand as well. You can read more about herbal remedies and their uses/proper dosages towards the bottom of this page. Certain plants, fruits, vegetables, seeds, grains, and flowers contain very powerful properties, and in many cases, will help your rabbit out better than any medication can.

Rabbits can be very sensitive to certain medications and ointments, so try to stick to the exact brands listed below. Keep in mind, that any kind of ointment applied directly to the outside of the rabbit may be licked off and digested, so don't use anything containing pain relievers or other harmful toxins. As a general rule, since rabbits are much like horses, most horse products are safe to use on rabbits.

 

Rabbit vitals:

 

Heart Rate:  130-325 beats/minute

Respiratory Rate:  30-60 breaths/minute

Temperature:  101.3ºF-104ºF (38.5ºC-40.0ºC)

 

 

  • Nail Clippers

  • Injectable Penicillin

  • Alcohol Pads/Chlorhexidine or Betadine

  • Scissors

  • Sterile saline solution

  • Vet Wrap

  • Tweezers

  • Popsicle Sticks-to act as splints

  • Quick Stop - stops toe nail bleeds

  • Syringes and needles

  • Hydrogen Peroxide - disinfectant for wounds

  • Antibiotic Ointment

  • Terramycin Eye Ointment

  • Terramycin -Powder and Injectable - a broad spectrum antibiotic

  • Bag Balm- for sore hocks, dry cracked skin

  • Acid Pack

  • Injectable Dextrose

  • Bene-Bac/Pro-biotic - gut bacteria replacement

  • Nutri-Cal - Calorie Replacement

  • Esbilac - Milk Replacer

  • Simethicone-For minor gas relief

  • Blue Kote

  • Iodine Spray

  • Mineral Oil

  • Aspirin-81mg

  • Rectal Thermometer

  • Stethoscope

  • Heating and Cooling Pads

  • Super Glue-for wounds

  • Durapen-Given via sub q fluids to treat many types of infections. Must be given 1:1 with diluted water.

  • Ivermectin - Often used to treat parasite problems. The correct dosage of ivermectin should be given as 1/10 cc per 5lbs of body weight. (Do not give to Mini Rex, German Angoras, Flemish Giants, Dutch, Silver Fox, Hotot breeds, or any rabbits that are Blue-Eyed Whites/ Vienna Carriers. These rabbits have a genetic mutation (MDR1) in a protein that is a part of the blood-brain barrier, thus allowing the medication to travel to the brain and cause severe neurological damage, seizures, blindness, and/or death.)

  • Acid 4-Way - Helps replenish the probiotics in the rabbit's gut that have been killed off by antibiotics. 

  • Oxbow Critical Care - helps to quickly correct nutritional status after illness or surgery

Signs of Illness

Since rabbits are by nature prey animals, they feel it is necessary to conceal their ailments. Because in the wild, a sick and weak rabbit, means an easy meal for a predator. So if your rabbit is acting normal, it doesn't always mean that he/she is feeling fine or in good health. Your rabbit could seem fine one day-eating, drinking, playing as normal, then suddenly and quite literally drop dead the next day, all the while your rabbit could've been hiding a very painful disease. It is very important to closely monitor your rabbit's behavior, and take into serious consideration if something is wrong, no matter how slight. Only in VERY serious situations, will your rabbit actually display weakness or being in pain, and it is at that point that you must act quickly.

If a rabbit shows any sign of ailment, immediately separate it from the rest of your rabbits and put it into quarantine. Do not touch the ill rabbit then touch your other rabbits or pets. Keep the area, yourself, and the sick rabbit as clean as possible.

 

Here are some signs to keep a close eye out for in a sick or injured rabbit:

  • Abnormal hunched position with squinty eyes and standing on toes

  • Alert but reluctant to move

  • Moves around slowly or with much effort

  • Depression/lethargic disposition

  • Loss or change of appetite (climate change is usually a common cause)

  • Increase of water intake

  • Excessive teeth grinding

  • No interest in surroundings

  • Squealing when moving around, being handled, or defecating/urinating

  • Unkept, greasy, pitted, patchy, and/or matted coat condition

  • Excessive shedding (this is usually a sign of stress)

  • Taking a very long time to eat

  • Uneven, chipped, wavy, or peg teeth

  • Matted scent glands 

  • Tremors

  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain

  • Food being dropped out of the mouth

  • Diarrhea

  • Worms/Larvae in feces

  • Not defecating or urinating as much or more than usual

  • Abnormal size, color, and/or texture of feces

  • Feces clumped and/or stuck around anus

  • Lumps (if cancerous, these will be very firm and hard)

  • Abscesses (these will be soft and very warm to the touch)

  • Puss (puss in rabbits will appear as a thick "tooth paste" like substance)

  • Excessive salivation/drooling (ptyalism)

  • Excessive sneezing

  • Flaky dry and/or crusty skin, including inside the ears

  • Pimples or tiny bumps

  • Head tilt (also known as wry neck)

  • Nystagmus (rapid involuntary eye movement)

  • Slow heart rate (normal heart rate should be 220 beats per minute)

  • Slow respiratory rate

  • Shaking head excessively

  • Disorientation

  • "Wild" or frightened look in the eyes, dilated pupils

  • Presence of third eyelid (usually a sign of extreme stress/discomfort)

  • Entropion (when the eyelids fold inward)

  • Unusual mental behavior such as aggression

  • Any type of discharge from any orifice (mouth, eyes, genitals, nose, ears)

  • Lack of proper motor skills

  • Recumbence (inability to rise up)

  • Paralysis (particularly of the hindquarters)

  • Strong pungent odors

  • Wounds such as gashes, scratches, bites, burns, insect stings

  • Seizures

  • Tachycardia (abnormal/fast pulse)

  • Blood pressure fluctuation

  • Coughing-will appear as if the rabbit is trying to vomit, however, rabbits are incapable of actually vomiting. This may be caused by a piece of food/hay/hair that has gotten stuck in the rabbit's throat, air passage, or in its teeth. The throat could also be inflamed or injured- preventing swallowing of food or proper air flow. The rabbit will have excessive salivation (pytalism) with mucus and may be heaving to expel any lodged object.

  • Low body temperature (to take a rabbit's temperature, apply lube to a baby thermometer, gently insert it into the rectum and keep it there for about one minute. Normal body temperature should be between 101 F -103 F)

Drug Safety and Dosages

The below information is for veterinary surgeon use only.

 

Unlike other animals such as dogs and cats, rabbits do not handle most antibiotics very well. Some antibiotics are safe for rabbits only if they are injected, but deadly if given orally, or vice versa. The reason for this is that rabbits have a very unusual digestive system which is inhibited by a variety of essential microorganisms that work together to digest food properly. The balance of these microorganisms is influenced by many factors such as diet and medications. Some antibiotics can affect the intestinal flora, killing off the natural bacteria and allowing resident pathogenic bacteria to overgrow. This, in turn, will create toxins that can kill your rabbit. This process can take up to 10 days after you have given your rabbit antibiotics which can obscure the original illness to vets who are not familiar with caring for rabbits. So it's extremely important that if your rabbit gets ill and needs to be taken to a vet, make sure you have done your research ahead of time to find a proper vet who specializes in rabbits and can properly diagnose and treat your rabbit

Minor Procedures and Administering Medications

Rabbits can be notorious for being unmanageable when it comes to administering meds. The two most common ways of medicating rabbits are either orally or through injection. It is extremely important that you get a vet to show you how to do this if you haven't before because if you mess up, you could seriously harm your rabbit.

 

Firstly, when preparing to administer medications, place your rabbit on a flat secure surface, such as the floor or counter top. You may need to wrap your rabbit up in a towel to prevent it from squirming around and/or kicking out. Have all of the needed supplies ready before you start anything. Try to keep your rabbit relaxed and calm. Don't move around frantically and forcefully, this will just cause your rabbit to become further stress.

 

For oral medication in tablet form, simply try to offer it out of your hand. Surprisingly, your rabbit may take it willingly. If not, you can crush the tablet to a powder form and hide it in a treat, such as a banana, applesauce, or veggie baby food. If again that doesn't work, then you'll have to dissolve the crushed tablet in some water. Let it sit for a while to fully dissolve, then shake it up before administering. It's very important that you keep your rabbit flat on the floor, not upside down or against your chest. If you hold your rabbit this way while administering fluids orally, your rabbit will aspirate (choke and possibly get the fluid in its lunges). When you are ready to administer the medication, stick the syringe or eye dropper it in the back corner of your rabbit's mouth and slowly push the plunger down (or squeeze the end if it's an eye dropper). Do this a couple of times, not all at once, so that your rabbit has time to breathe and swallow the medication. Other liquid medications can be placed in a dish and some rabbits will willingly lick it up. You can also mix it with juices and teas to make it more desirable.

 

The same method for administering fluids and soft foods by syringe can be used to force feed. Just always remember to go slow and allow time for the rabbit to swallow and take a breath. Otherwise, the rabbit could very easily inhale its food. This can sometimes be messy so keep a small towel nearby to clean up around your rabbit's mouth. When practicing force-feeding, you usually only need to do this about 2-3 times a day (give or take depending on the medical condition) with only about 1 inch of food in the syringe each time.

 

Injecting medication takes a little more skill and practice, however if you are a breeder, it is an essential skill you'll need to know since being a breeder means you'll have to play vet more often since money will be an issue and going to the vet may not always be an alternative in minor situations. Again, keep the rabbit on a flat surface and keep it calm. Your vet should've shown you how to properly prepare the medication into the syringe and how to let all the air bubbles out before you administer the medication. If not, hold the syringe, needle side up, turn the medication vile upside down and penetrate the top of the cap with the needle and draw back the syringe to expel the liquid. After this, flick any and ALL air bubbles in the syringe to the top near the needle and slowly push the plunger up to expel them. It is extremely important to get all of the bubbles out. If you don't, you could easily inject an air bubble into a vein which could block blood flow to the heart, thus killing your rabbit. Always use fresh new needles for each and every administration of medication. After the needle is prepared you can now administer it. Gently lift the scruff of the neck between the shoulder blades of the rabbit. There will be a small indentation in the middle along the spine on this flap of skin you're holding up. Insert the needle into this area (but not directly in the center as there's more of a chance of penetrating a vein) until you feel it puncture the skin, and then slowly administer the medication by pushing the plunger down. Once all of the medication has been administered, gently pull the needle out, safely and properly remove it from the syringe and immediately dispose of it.

After injection of antibiotics such as antibiotics like penicillin or enrofloxacin (Baytril), some rabbits may develop skin irritation or abscesses at the injection site. When the antibiotic is dissolved in a water-based solution, e.g., enrofloxacin, the formation of sterile abscesses can be avoided by diluting the amount to be given by the same amount of a sterile saline solution.Using  Baytril over longer periods of time may lead to muscle necrosis.

Fluoroquinilone antibiotics can moreover lead to cartilage damage of the cartilage and damage of joints (arthropathy) when used excessively on younger animals.

 

INJECTION SITES:

 

SC

between shoulder blades or loose skin over chest

IM

quadriceps

IO

tibia/humerus

IP

caudal to the umbilicus, avoid liver, kidneys, and caecum (right ventral abdomen)

IV

jugular or lateral saphenous .Cephalic in adult hare

PO

in food

 

 

Eye and Ear Medication Administration

Other medications you may have to administer are eye and ear ointments. For eye ointments, gently pull down the lower eyelid to form a small pocket and gently squeeze a ribbon of eye ointment into that area. Do not touch the rabbit's actual eyeball. After this, gently close the eye and softly massage it to melt and disperse the ointment over the eye. Failing to do this last step may allow the ointment to form into clumps and/or fall out of the eye. Administering ear drops can actually be a little more difficult as most rabbits will immediately protest to this by kicking and squirming the moment they feel liquid touch the inside of their ears. So it's best to wrap your rabbit up in a towel. Squeeze the liquid into the ear at the base, but do not penetrate the deeper sensitive parts of the ear. Allow your rabbit to shake its head to let the liquid run down. This too can sometimes be messy, so make sure you prepare for it.

 

Lancing an abscess 

It's not terribly uncommon for rabbits to get abscesses. However, it's important to remember that most of these abscesses (especially if they are consistently located around the jaw and neck) are a sign of systematic Pasteurella. If this is the case, culling the rabbit may be the best course of action, as Pasteurella is extremely contagious and can be fatal to animals with poor immune systems. Other, less common causes for abscesses are other bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus sp., Pseudomonas sp or Fusiformis sp., nasolacrimal or tooth problems, or glands. Abscesses are usually firm, warm, and contain pus, dead phagocytic white blood cells, necrotic cells, and live or dead bacteria.  If an abscess is left untreated, it continues to grow and the tissue will rupture either inside the body or on the surface of the skin. This can be fatal to your rabbits, as the liberation of bacteria and their toxins enter the blood circulation. The best and only option is complete surgical excision (lancing) of the abscess cavity, necrotic tissue, and the surrounding fibrous capsule. This treatment can, however, not be done when several abscesses are present, or when the bone is affected (e.g., osteomyelitis, jaw bone infection by a tooth root). Using a sharp, sterile scalpel, slice one clean incision through the tissue until you reach the infection. Squeeze the surrounding tissue to extrude the material. The puss will the thick and toothpaste-like. It is important to check that no fibrous channels leading to abscess cavities deeper in the tissue remain. If present, the cavities must be flushed with antiseptic solutions (e.g., chlorhexiderm or iodine povidone) by means of a catheter tube. A drain can be placed to facilitate this procedure. The empty cavity should be packed with an antibiotic-impregnated dressing. Systematic antibiotics (such as Pen-G) should be subcutaneously administered for the next 5-10 days (recommended dosage is .1 cc per pound of rabbit).

Subcutaneous Fluid Administration

Recovery Care:

Once your rabbit has been properly diagnosed by a vet and has been given a scheduled treatment, your rabbit may need to be confined or quarantined for a certain period. After any stressful or physically trying event, your rabbit will need plenty of fluids and rest. Always stick to the doctor's order, but generally, keeping your rabbit in a climate controlled, safe, and quiet area with a constant supply of fresh clean water is what's best for recovery. Don't allow your rabbit around other animals nor allow it to have excessive amounts of exercise (unless that's the treatment needed). Keep a constant eye on your rabbit for any changes in its behavior, appetite, or bowel movements. If there are any changes, consult your vet as soon as possible.

Annual Vaccinations:

Currently in the United States, rabbits do not require any vaccinations. Many diseases of the domestic rabbit have been strictly limited to the United Kingdom. There, rabbits are required to be vaccinated against RVHD and Myxomatosis. 

However, in 2018, two rabbits in the United States were found to have RVHD. Currently, the USDA considers these cases to be isolated and not an outbreak. Officials are working to determine how exactly these rabbits contracted the disease.

Home Remedies

Rabbits in the wild will eat a variety of plants in order to balance out their diets and aid in any ailments. Keeping rabbits in cages removes them from their ability to self-medicate with herbs.  Many breeders choose to use herbal and home remedies over antibiotics in minor situations. In many cases, natural whole, and beneficial foods may be the only option since rabbit medication isn't always readily available or always effective.  Natural remedies can have profound effects on rabbits and can treat and heal many ailments-from minor cases of allergies, fertility boost, skin irritations, burns, hairballs, and cuts-to severe cases such as pregnancy problems, diarrhea, bloat, internal parasites, infections, kidney stones, dehydration, and much more.

 

However, though home remedies *can* be effective, they are not always "cure-alls". When your rabbit is seriously ill, please do not substitute your vet's college degree for a google search or herb in your kitchen cabinet.  Serious situations call for advanced medicine and professional knowledge.

 

In dire health emergencies, it is highly advised to take your rabbit to a licensed vet that specializes in exotics. As a general rule of thumb, if a rabbit appears to have a minor illness, attempt herbal remedies and if the problem persists or gets worse within the next 24 hrs, take the rabbit to the vet. Again, this is a suggestion. Be sure to notify your vet before giving any supplements or remedies to your rabbit as this can alter any drugs your rabbit may already be taking.

 

When rabbits do become ill, monitor their temperature, food intake, eliminations, temperament and keep them hydrated which means no sugary foods. Below are a few natural solutions to help treat common rabbit health problems.

 

 When you use any type of natural remedy, it must be organic, unprocessed, and fresh. Never feed anything that is spoiled or wilting. Any alterations, chemicals, processing, filtration, etc actually removes the beneficial nutrients and may cause further health problems. You don't want your rabbit ingesting deadly poisons, pesticides, and fertilizers. And you don't want to waste your money on something that isn't going to work. So stick with all natural and all organic fruits, vegetables, and plants.

Agrimony

Agrimony is an astringent, tonic, diuretic, vulnerary, cholagogue

 

Almonds

Almonds are high in arginine which is good for increasing male fertility, but should only be given in small quantities.

 

Apple Cider Vinegar 

Apple Cider Vinegar is full of all of the healthy prebiotics, probiotics, and enzymes essential to the flora of a rabbit's gut. Increases fertility in both bucks and does. Helps increase appetite in young kits. Also helps prevent hindgut problems.

 

Apple

Apple pulp is rich in pectin as is applesauce. It helps treat diarrhea and constipation as it acts as a gentle stool softener. It's amphoteric, which means that it can work in either direction, plugging up the bowels when loose or loosening them if constipated. Do not allow rabbits to eat the seeds from apples as they can eventually build up as poisons in the rabbit's stomach.

 

Asparagus

Asparagus large amount of zinc that will help make a buck more fertile.

 

Avens 

Avens is an astringent, styptic, diaphoretic, and heart tonic. Good for minor mouth and throat ailments.

 

Barley

Barley is a very good supplement for coat conditioning.

 

Basil

Basil leaves can be rubbed onto insect bites to reduce inflammation and itching. They can also be used as a warming tonic for nervous exhaustion or for cold conditions. By mixing the juice with an equal quantity of honey can be used for ringworm and itchy skin. An infusion tea of basil combined with wood betony can be given orally to a doe immediately after giving birth as to prevent a retained placenta or afterbirth. Do not use as an essential oil externally or internally. It also aids in the inflammation of the eyes.

 

Berries

Berries such as bilberries and blueberry if dried will help relieve diarrhea as they are rich in tannin and pectin. Blackberry and raspberry leaves if fresh or dried are also high in tannin. The leaves of raspberries also aid in male fertility and help calm uterine irritability in females. Strawberries (and excellent source of iron) also help prevent miscarriages, as well as treat inflamed areas and rashes. Blackberries can aid in pregnancies, help circulation (good for cooling a rabbit down), and diarrhea.

 

Birch Leaves

Birch Leaves are used as pain relief, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic

 

Borage 

Borage is a diaphoretic, removes mucus from the respiratory system, tonic, anti-inflammatory, galactagogue for does

 

Broad Beans

Broad Beans are high in arginine which is good for increasing male fertility, but should only be given in small quantities.

 

Brussel Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts have a large amount of zinc that will help make a buck more fertile.

 

Carrots

Carrots that are cooked can be used to not only treat diarrhea but they also soothe the digestive system by providing nutrients that have been lost. Carrots also aid in healthy eyesight.

 

Chamomile

Chamomile can be used to treat conjunctivitis or stained eyes. Dissolve 5-10 drops of tincture in warm water and apply gently to the eye with a q-tip. Also helps reduce pain and stress.

 

Chickweed

Chickweed is an anti-rheumatic, vulnerary, emollient, astringent and stops itching

 

Cleavers 

Cleavers are a diuretic, alterative, anti-inflammatory, tonic, astringent, may prevent the spread and growth of tumors

 

Collards

Collards have a large amount of zinc that will help make a buck more fertile.

 

Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot is a respiratory expectorant

 

Comfrey

Comfrey is a vulnerary, demulcent, astringent, expectorant.

Comfrey is used to help digestion and very good in helping to aid the passage of hairballs or wool blocks. It can also aid the formation and healing of bones and be used as a respiratory expectorant. Another use is to relieve stress. In large doses, it can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration.

 

Cornsilk 

Cornsilk increases urine production, soothes internal body surfaces

 

Cowpeas

Cowpeas have a large amount of zinc that will help make a buck more fertile.

 

Cucumbers

Cucumbers have a large amount of zinc that will help make a buck more fertile.

 

Dandelion

Dandelion can be given in unlimited quantities. Do not give in the form of fermenting or wilted plants as they can cause bloat. They are very rich in protein and poor in fiber. It stimulates the working of all glands in the body including milk glands. Works as a laxative and astringent and regulates constipation and diarrhea. Also prevents osteoporosis, bladder infections, lactating problems, liver problems, swelling, tonsillitis, warts, blood clots, and pneumonia. Will also aid in the speed of molting and increase good fur condition. It's also very effective against pneumonia, bronchitis, and other upper respiratory infections. The leaves, flowers, and roots can be dried and made into a tea for consumption. The roots especially can be used to cure bladder infections.  It is also very high in vitamin K which can help treat minor cases of poisoning.

 

Echinacea

Echinacea is an immune system stimulant and antibiotic with anti-viral properties

 

Elder Flower

Elder Flower helps the respiratory system

 

Elecampane 

Elecampane is a digestive, expectorant, induces sweating, antiseptic

 

Endive

Endive has a large amount of zinc that will help make a buck more fertile.

 

Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus as a dried powder form, it can help repel fleas

 

Fennel

Fennel can help treat bloating and gas as well as encourage milk flow in does

 

Fenugreek

Fenugreek is high in arginine which is good for increasing male fertility, but should only be given in small quantities.

 

Flax Seed

Flaxseed is a very good supplement for coat conditioning. Flaxseed oil is good as a laxative and weight gain. 

 

Garlic

Garlic is an antiseptic, anti-viral, diaphoretic, cholagogue, helps bring down fevers, vermifuge, antispasmodic, reduces blood pressure

 

Ginger

Ginger has been known to help prevent "fading kit syndrome". Just sprinkle a couple of tablespoons over daily feeding after the young have been weaned.  Ginger also increased sperm count, so it can be given to bucks in small quarter sized amounts before breeding. Another use for ginger is that it is good for painful muscle conditions.

 

Goats Rue

Goats rue helps milk flow in does

 

Golden Rod

Golden Rod can be used as an anti-inflammatory

 

Grapefruit Seed Extract 

Grapefruit Seed Extract is an antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial. Can be crushed into a powder form and added to the water supply. Very good for preventing any kind of infections.

 

Groundsel

Groundsel can be used as a laxative and can also assist in molts

 

Honey

Honey can be directly applied to minor wounds or burns to ease pain.

 

Kava Kava

Kava Kava aids in chiropractic adjustments

 

Lavender

Lavender has a direct effect on the uterus in helping to expel the contents, dead or alive, as well as being a diuretic. So essentially, it helps speed of delivery, especially for does who are straining or having trouble in labor. The flowers can be used as mild tranquilizers, acting upon the heart to ease blood pressure and tone down stress. Use VERY sparingly and with caution, however. Lavender cotton can be used to treat internal worms and also assist in the kidneys in cleansing and breaking up any stones. It also helps reduce swelling is applied outwardly and it will help the liver, chest, and uterus if taken internally. Common lavender is analgesic or pain-relieving, anticonvulsive, antidepressant, antimicrobial, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitoxic, gas-relieving, bile-stimulating, deodorant, diuretic, insect repelling, relaxing, circulation-stimulating and tonic. It is effective against burns, scalds, and neutralizer of venom from insect bites and stings. Lavender oil if inhaled or ingested helps to treat respiratory conditions. Orally, it relieves nausea, prevents flatulence, alleviates cramping, improves digestion and clears urinary tract infections. Applied to the skin and coat, it helps insects and treats abscesses, fungal infections, ringworm, lice, scabies, sores, sunburn, dermatitis, earache, wounds, and inflammation. It reduces anxiety and lifts the spirits as well. It can be combined with apple cider vinegar or water or given directly in small quantities with daily feedings.

 

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is an anti-bacterial and antiviral treatment It helps bloating, gas, diarrhea, and reduces stress.

 

Lentils

Lentils are high in arginine which is good for increasing male fertility, but should only be given in small quantities.

 

Licorice

Licorice helps to treat coughing and gastric inflammation.

 

Linseed

Linseed is used as a laxative and aids in molts

 

Marigold

Marigold helps to heal bruises, contusions, strains, slow healing wounds, skin problems, slow healing wounds, and minor gall bladder problems.

 

Marjoram

Marjoram is a diuretic, it opens obstructions of the liver and spleen, is good for colic pains and disorders of the head as well as settles the nerves. Wild marjoram is good for colds, coughs, pleurisy, and minor obstructions of the lungs and uterus. If it is crushed and applied directly, it will help control swelling, eruptions, and bruising. The distilled oil will also ease minor toothaches.

 

Marshmallow 

Marshmallow root is demulcent, diuretic, emollient, vulnerary.  The leaves are demulcent, expectorant, and helps with urinary problems, and emollient.

 

Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet can be used to treat conjunctivitis and any other eye problem. Use a cooled and strained infusion and apply gently to the eye with a q-tip.

 

Meat Tenderizer

Meat Tenderizer aids in digestion, especially during the molting season when rabbits will occasionally ingest hair during grooming. Just add a small amount to their water every day.

 

Melilot 

Melilot is an antispasmodic, also aids as a mild sedative

 

Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle removes ammonia from the body as well as protect the liver and kidneys. Also helps milk flow in does

 

Mint

Mint can be used for colds, eye inflammation, liver stimulant, and to relax the muscles of the digestive tract and stimulate bile flow. Reduces milk flow. Do not give in large or prolonged doses. Feed mint only when it has been harvested right before flowering.

 

Molasses

Molasses is best used to improve coat condition and speed up the molting process. The second use is to help weight gain. For either use, it should be given in small amounts as it is highly fattening and not good for the teeth.

 

Motherwort

Motherwort can be used to treat mild cases of conjunctivitis, sore, or tired eyes. Use as a weak decoction and apply gently with a q-tip.

 

Nasturtium

Nasturtium is used as a very strong antiseptic

 

Nettles

Nettles are an Astringent tonic and help with urinary problems

 

Oats

Oats are considered to be a male sexual energizer and help boost fertility. Give 1-2 tablespoons a day for a week and then once or twice a week after that. Oats also aid in good fur condition. They can also be given in small quantities to young kits that are experiencing diarrhea (large quantities could actually make the harmful bacteria in the stomach of a kit worse). Oatmeal soaked in liquid horse coat supplement can help weight gain.

 

Oleander

Oleander helps aid in heart and circulation problems

 

Oregon Grape Root

Oregon Grape Root is used as an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent

 

Papaya

Papaya contains enzymes that help digest the material that holds hair together in the stomach, thus preventing harmful hairballs. Papaya can be given fresh in small amounts or as tablet crumbled up and fed with daily pellets.

 

Parsley

Parsley is a diuretic which helps prevent and treat kidney stones. It can be made into a tea of dried root, which should be given orally 2-3 times a day. Always make sure it is fresh when providing it. Parsley is also known to help dry up milk in does who are weaning their young or have suffered a miscarriage.

 

Peanuts

Peanuts are high in arginine which is good for increasing male fertility, but should only be given in very small quantities.

 

Pedialyte

Pedialyte can be given to drink when the rabbit is constipated, about 5ml an hour.

 

Peppermint

Peppermint aids in flatulence, gallbladder problems, and minor upset stomachs

 

Pineapple

Pineapple, much like papaya, pineapple contains enzymes that help get rid of hairballs and can be given in the same form as papayas as well. Pineapple juice works best, but it must be fresh, not canned, as canned does not have the ingredients to help break down hair blockage.

 

Plantain

Plantain helps respiratory problems and reduces fevers. It is also an antimicrobial, antispasmodic, and helps heal cuts. The leaves are a relaxing expectorant, tonify mucous membranes, reduce phlegm, antispasmodic, and soothe urinary tract infections and irritations, and topically healing. Pressed juice of plantain leaves can be given orally for inflamed mucous membranes in cystitis, diarrhea, lung infections, inflammations, sores, and wounds.

 

Prunes

Prunes have a large amount of zinc that will help make a buck more fertile.

 

Psyllium

Psyllium helps severe respiratory problems such as bronchitis and coughing. It also aids in digestive problems and relieves constipation. Can be used as an application to soothe skin problems.

 

Pumpkin

Pumpkin seeds and their extracts can immobilize and aid in the expulsion of intestinal worms and other parasites. The seeds are also very good in flushing out excess calcium through the urine. They can be given in large quantities. Pumpkin Puree can be given to a rabbit with intestinal blockage or minor cases of G.I. stasis. The paste is also a good supplement for rabbits that need to be on a soft diet (usually rabbit's that no longer have teeth)

 

Purple Coneflower

Purple coneflower helps heal wounds, abscesses, and burns. Can also help treat cold chills.

 

Raspberry Leaves

Raspberry leaves prevention and treatment with labor problems. Helps safely and quickly expel retained kits. Improves condition during pregnancy. Feed during the last week or two of pregnancy as a great preventive prenatal supplement. Also good for digestive ailments including diarrhea, infertility in a buck, fevers. and a safe introductory green for young kits.

 

Raw Bacon

Raw bacon can be given in a small amount on the night before kindling to a pregnant doe that has had a history of eating her young or is a first-time mother. This will give her an extra boost of protein at the last minute and more importantly, trick her mind into thinking that she has satisfied her need to cannibalize her young.

 

Red Clover

Red Clover can be used to treat conjunctivitis. Use 5-10 drops of tincture in 20ml of water or a well-strained infusion and apply gently to the eye with a q-tip. Do not use sweet clover as it may cause excessive internal bleeding, especially for pregnant does.

 

Rosemary

Rosemary is ideal for treating exhaustion, weakness, and depression. The stems and leaves help to invigorate circulation, stimulate digestion and are also good for cold conditions.

 

Sage

Sage reduces lactation when the doe is weaning or has just suffered a miscarriage. It is also a good stimulate for digestive and uterine problems. It should not be given to pregnant does or epileptics as it contains thujone. When dried up, sage can be crushed into a powder and sprinkled in a rabbit's surroundings to help prevent fleas.

 

Sassafras

Sassafras when dried into a powder form, it can be used to repel fleas

 

Scotch Pine

Scotch Pine helps treat bronchitis, sinusitis, neuralgia, rheumatism

 

Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds are high in arginine which is good for increasing male fertility but should only be given in small quantities.

 

Shepherd's Purse

Shepherd’s Purse helps treat uterine disorders & hemorrhage as well as diarrhea

 

Smooth Leaf Elm

Smooth Leaf Elm treats hemorrhage, hemorrhoid, throat and mouth inflammation

 

Sorrel

Sorrel treats neuralgia

 

Soybeans

Soybeans are high in arginine which is good for increasing male fertility, but should only be given in small quantities.

 

Spinach

Spinach has a large amount of zinc that will help make a buck more fertile.

 

St. John's Wart

St. John’s wart treats neuralgia and rheumatic problems, uterine problems, gastritis, climacteric problems, as well as relieving nerves.

 

String Beans

String Beans have a large amount of zinc that will help make a buck more fertile.

 

Sunflower

Sunflower seeds are a good source of phenylalanine which is a chemical involved in pain control. The sunflower contains the amino acid arginine and can be given to bucks with low sperms counts. Do not give any more than 1/4 of an ounce a day so as not to allow for unwanted weight gain. Black oil sunflower seeds are absolutely great as an added conditioning supplement. The seeds are also good in helping the rabbit retain heat in colder months.

 

Tea Tree Oil

Tea Tree Oil his can be used to treat fungal infections, cuts, or sores. Mix about 20 drops to 1-1/2 cups of water and spray it directly on the skin or surrounding environment. Mites can also be controlled with tea tree oil. Just mix about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to 3-4 drops of tea tree oil and lather the inside of the rabbit's ears with it. The ears should start to clear up in about 48 hours. Do not allow rabbits to digest it.

 

Thyme

Thyme stems and Leaves are ideal for deep-seated chest infections masked by thick yellow phlegm. It can also be used as a digestive remedy, warming for stomachaches, chills and associated diarrhea. It also expels worms. It must be diluted well and used before and during flowering in summer as it can irritate the mucous membranes. Garden thyme if mashed and pounded with vinegar, can be applied to a swelling abound with dressing.

 

Uva Ursa

Uva Ursa is used as a diuretic and urinary antiseptic that is recommended for urinary tract infections and kidney problems.

 

Valerian

Valerian relieves anxiety, anti-spasmodic, lowers blood pressure, febrifuge, vermifuge. Also a great sedative.

 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is used to relieve stress. It can be given in the form of a 100mg tablet dissolved in water or as rosehips.

 

Walnut Leaves

Walnut Leaves can be used to treat conjunctivitis. Use a strained infusion or 5 drops of tincture in 20ml of warm water and apply gently with a q-tip.

 

Watercress

Watercress is high in arginine which is good for increasing male fertility, but should only be given in small quantities.

 

Wheat Grass 

Wheat Grass is an Appetite stimulus

 

Willow Bark

Willow bark contains salicin, which is a very effective pain reliever for nearly everything and helps with intestinal inflammation. Start with a low dose of bark tea given orally. You may also give your rabbit's willow leaves in small quantities.

 

Yarrow

Yarrow heals minor wounds and cuts

De-Worming?

Sometimes you will have to deworm rabbits. It's usually no big problem if they have worms as they can be easily treated. There are 13 separate parasites that rabbits can be affected by. The most common are tapeworms, threadworms, and coccidia. The first two can be seen with the naked eye.  Other parasites can only be recognized under a microscope with a fecal exam. Protozoans will need to be diagnosed by means of serology (blood tests). Sometimes the symptoms don't even show until months or years later after the rabbit has contracted them, usually when the rabbit becomes stressed, weak, or any suppression of the immune system. 

 

Technically, a parasite is an organism that interacts or lives either on or within another organism for shelter and other physiological needs (nutrition, metabolism, etc.). A parasite usually causes harm to its host and may eventually cause the death of the host.

According to Parasitologists, there are two main kinds of parasites; the protozoans and the Metazoans. Prokaroytes and Virus basically act as parasites but are not treated under the context of Parasitology.

Protozoans are unicellular organisms that fall under the Kingdom Protista. Protozoans have diverse groups of organisms: flagellates, the amoebas, the cilliates, the sporozoans, etc. They are eukaryotic too.

Most protozoans are symbiotic and some are free-living.

Protozoans become parasites if they relate with their hosts through parasitism.

Examples of protozoic parasites:

  1. Plasmodium sp.

  2. Balantidium coli

  3. Entameba histolytica

  4. Trypanosoma sp.

  5. Giardia lamblia

  6. Leishmania sp.

  7. Endolimax nana

  8. Trichomonas vaginalis

  9. Babesia bigemina

  10. Toxoplasma gondii

 

Rabbits can contract worms in a variety of ways:

 

  • Hay or fresh garden greens might be responsible for bringing the parasites or eggs to the rabbits.

  • They can also become infected by cats or raccoons if they are scratched, bit, or consume/inhale particles of animal's feces. 

  • They can get worms from being on the ground (whether they are permanently housed on the ground or only spend an hour in a playpen, they are exposed)

  • Eating plant/vegetable/fruit matter that came directly from the garden

  • Being exposed to new rabbits from other rabbitries

  • Consuming/inhaling the urine/particles from contaminated rabbits


It is suggested to de-worm and coccidia treat any incoming stock. Some meat raisers prefer to also treat their litters for coccidia a week or so after weaning.  Many show breeders will de-worm twice a year (Spring and Fall) to prevent/treat the potential for rabbits picking up parasites from shows.

Medical Concerns with Kits

As a rabbit breeder, you WILL encounter many occasions in which there will be a problem with the newborn kits.

 

Issues and Treatments:

 

Abandoned Kits 

Sometimes rabbit mothers abandon their kits and owners must step in to help the young. Usually, the cause of this abandonment is either from an inexperienced or stressed mother. In any case, action must be taken quickly to ensure the life of a kit.  Mother rabbits produce a nutrient and antibody rich milk, called colostrum that is *only* available within the first 24 hours after giving birth. If the kits don't get this milk, they miss out on establishing beneficial gut bacteria, which will lead to a potentially permanently poor immune and digestive system.To recognize an abandoned kit, the mother will usually give birth to them on the cage floor when a nest box has been provided, but a sure sign that she has no intentions on caring for her young is if she hasn't pulled any of her fur out. Or sometimes, the mother simply produces little if no milk. If this is the case, the young will not have full bellies and will quickly become lethargic.  Before you try hand feeding, place the doe on your lap and put the kits under her belly to try and get them to feed. Make sure you have all of the kits doing this, as they will stimulate each other to attempt feeding, as individual feeding is far more trying. You can also gently flip the doe on her back (trance) while keeping her stabilized with your legs and place the kits on her stomach.Or, you may place the kits in a box that is the EXACT same size of the doe with a wire lid on it. Place the doe inside with some food such as hay, and keep her in there for about 10 minutes. The box will prevent her from moving around and allow the kits to nurse.  If the doe did not build a nest and is kicking the kits all over the cage or attacking them, transfer them to a warm, insulated nest box away from the doe.  Only have the doe and kits together for forced feedings. If after you have tried all of these and the doe still either refuses to take care of the kits or simply can't supply milk, your next best option is to foster the kits off to another doe-one who is lactating with a litter the same age. If you don't have another nursing doe available, your last option is hand feeding. It's very important to make sure that you have no other choice, because removing kits from a nursing mother can not only cause milk build up and stress for the doe, but mother's milk is filled with far more nutrients and antibodies than formula. It's extremely important for the kits to receive colostrum within the first few hours of life. Because of a young kit's severe stomach sensitivity, they have a much higher chance of surviving on their mother's milk. If you do find yourself in the dire situation in which you MUST hand feed a kit before its eyes are open (when the stomach is most susceptible to harmful bacteria), keep in mind that the chances of it avoiding death will be slim. At that young of an age, hand fed kits have a 90% mortality rate.To hand feed, use a kitten feeding bottle. Eye droppers are not recommended as they allow too much liquid for the babies to swallow, which can cause aspiration or pneumonia as they may inhale the liquid. Since babies lose their suckling instinct within roughly 48 hours, it is important to get them on a nursing bottle quickly. Canned kitten formula from a pet supply store can be used along with other specialty formulas made for rabbits. Goat milk is also a good substitute. Lactobacillus Acidophilus can be added to the formula. It will not hurt the babies and may help some of them. Feed daily total quantities in either two larger feedings: Newborn - 5 cc KMR formula and ½ cc Acidophilus 1 week - 15 to 25 cc KMR formula and 1 cc Acidophilus 2 weeks - 25 to 27 cc KMR formula and 1 cc Acidophilus 3 to 4 weeks - 30 cc KMR and 2 ccs Acidophilus. Wash the babies’ faces and bottoms with warm water and cotton after each feeding to stimulate elimination. Babies can nibble on dry alfalfa or a few pellets as soon as they show an interest. Formula consumption levels off at about 6-8 weeks, but do not rush weaning. And remember to never allow the kit to get a chill. Young kits can’t retain their body temperature, so keep them in a well-padded box with a heated bottle or blanket at all times. They will become adaptable to temperatures as they near 4-6 weeks of age.

 

Frozen Kits

Occasionally you'll come across frozen kits. Either the mother had them on the wire outside of the nest or the nest wasn't adequately insulated, kits can freeze very quickly. When kits freeze, they may appear ice cold, very stiff, colorless, and seemingly dead. Look for blood collection in the toenails. If the nails are a deep dark red-purple color, then the kits are already dead. If you don't see the dark nails, then the kits may be revivable. Bring them inside and place them either in your shirt, under a heat lamp, on a heating pad, or in an airtight baggy submerged in a bowl of very warm water for a few minutes. Keep a constant eye on them. After about 15 minutes they should be warm to the touch and start moving around. If after two hours of attempted reviving they do not snap out of it, then it's safe to assume they are already dead. 

 

Fading Kits/Kits with Loose Stool

This is sadly a very common problem among young kits. They will be perfectly healthy and active up until about 3 weeks of age. Then, some or all of the kits will suddenly and without warning, become less active and alert, though they may continue to eat and drink. As the time goes by, they will seem to get worse, losing weight and becoming progressively lethargic, until they eventually die. This can happen within as little as a few hours to just a few days. This is known as fader kit syndrome or wasters. No one knows the exact cause of this. Some think it may be caused by parasites, dietary needs not being met, genetically weak breeding, enteritis, coccidiosis (in which case this must be proven by a fecal float by a vet and then treated with sulfadimethoxine for 15 days), mucoid enteropathy (when a diet is lower than necessary in long fiber and the kit's cecum gets blocked by fine food particles which leads to dehydration), or simply the switch from mother's milk to pellets. Some breeders believe that rationing pellets and giving an unlimited supply of grass hay and oats to the young, can potentially increase the probability of them living. Some breeders put a bit of Terramycin in the kit’s drinking water once they hit 14 days old to help prevent the mortality rate.

 

To attempt to combat loose stool, take these following steps:

 

1. To arrest diarrhea quickly (of critical importance): Imodium (loperamide) at 1 mg/kg Q 4-8 hours (depending on severity). This is available over the counter at most pharmacies.

2. Hydration: Subcutaneous Lactated Ringers Solution (10ml/kg total in 2-3 boli over 24 hours. This can be increased if the diarrhea is severe, to prevent dehydration and keep electrolytes at normal levels. Consult your veterinarian about the proper dosage.

3. Antibiotics: a. ciprofloxacin at 20 mg/kg Q 12 hours – PO (oral administration) only. Oral administration provides immediate contact with intestinal pathogens that injections will not handle as quickly or directly. 

4. Anticoccidial medication: 1. Ponazuril/toltrazuril (20mg/kg Q 24 hours) OR 2. Trimethoprim sulfa or Albon (sulfadimethoxine) (Note: We have found that ponazuril (Marquis by Bayer) is far superior to the sulfa or potentiated sulfa antibiotics for killing coccidia. My own (unpublished) data show complete parasite eradication (as determined from sequential fecal exams showing progressively more shrunken and vacuolated sporocysts) in three days of treatment.

5. Helminthicidal medication: Panacur (fenbendazole) at 20mg/kg Q 24 hours

6. Recommended analgesia (pain relief): 1. pediatric simethicone suspension (0.5 – 1.0 cc Q 6-8 hours) for gas relief 2. sulfasalazine (30 - 50 mg suspended in clean water Q 12 hours) 3. barium suspension (0.5-1.0 ml Q 12 hours) (also helps arrest diarrhea) 4. meloxicam (0.1 – 0.3 mg/kg Q 24 hours) OR 5. Banamine (flunixin meglumine) (not both! Use only one NSAID!) 6. Tramadol (2-6mg/kg Q 12 hours) (Note: If Banamine is used, famotidine (antacid) is also recommended, but should not be administered for an hour after other medications have been given.)

7. General immune support and bacteriocidal action: colostrum (contents of 2 capsules dissolved in about 10cc pasteurized goat milk). Administer small amounts over several hours, about 1-2 cc at a time, or as much as the baby will accept.

8. Absorption/adsorption of intestinal toxins: Questran (cholestyramine resin) - by prescription at most major pharmacies DO NOT ADMINISTER THIS AGENT FOR AT LEAST ONE HOUR AFTER ALL OTHER ORAL MEDICATIONS HAVE BEEN GIVEN, AS IT MAY INTERFERE WITH OR INACTIVATE THE OTHER DRUGS. Suspend about ¼ teaspoon in 10 ml of water, and allow to hydrate for approximately 10 minutes. Give 1-2 cc of this suspension every 12 hours, but DO NOT give it within an hour of other medications, as it may absorb them. DO NOT give any other medications for 4-6 hours after Questran dose, as Questran will continue to absorb/adsorb substances from the gut lumen, reducing or eliminating their efficacy.

 

Pellets may also be to blame for loose stool in kits. Commercial pellets are formulated for adult rabbits, not young kits. Kit’s stomachs and digestive make up are entirely different than an adult rabbit. Most pellets, especially brands directed towards lactating does, contain high amounts of grain, grain by-products, and soybean meal. These three ingredients alone are not healthy, even for an adult rabbit, and are certainly lethal for young ones. Unfortunately, pellet manufacturers use these ingredients because they are a cheap way to replace the lack of fiber in the feed in order to make room for energy supplements. However, this leaves a low protein feed, which is then again supplemented by soybean meal. So my personal resolution? I only allow the kits to munch on grass hay and a few dandelion greens for their first week out of the nest box. I then allow them to very slowly consume a few pellets with powdered ginger with their hay as time goes by. A soft high fiber only diet seems to be the best answer for easing their stomachs from weaning without causing any problems. I strongly believe that the combination of ingredients and the solid hard form of pellets is what causes the kit’s stomach to become imbalanced and upset.  Again, this is just my own method and understanding, and so far it has been working for me. The main thing to focus upon is hydration and feeding fiber to the kits. Leave out bowls of lightly flavored (Gatorade, tea bags, etc.) water for them. In any case, as a breeder, you WILL experience the loss of kits, whether they are runts, peanuts, max factors, or succumb to fader kit syndrome. As a breeder, you must understand and accept this, and move on.

 

Retained Kits

In some rare cases, a doe may not kindle on the day she is due. Usually, this is just a sign that she wasn't actually pregnant. But sometimes it means that she may have a problem in which all or some of the kits are stuck inside her (termed as dystocia). In order to determine this for sure, you must palpate her. When does retain their kits, they will usually show signs of stress (straining, grinding her teeth, lack of eating/drinking or caring for kits that were born early). The most common cause of retained kits is excess fat in the doe. That's why it's important to keep her on a strict diet while she's pregnant. Other causes may be from previous litters with extrauterine or calcified kits. The second most common cause is because the kits may actually be too big or deformed to pass through the birth canal. This is why it's important to know what you're doing when you're breeding rabbits; (If the buck is bigger than the doe or if both the buck and doe carry the Dwarf gene, then these will be the issues you'll experience with your breeding programs). Once a doe has issues with retained kits, chances are she'll continue to experience these issues with future litters. If you are absolutely sure that your doe may be retaining kits, you will have to take her to the vet immediately as she may need to have surgery or an ejection of oxytocin (if you are self-administering oxytocin, please use caution as your doe must be physically and hormonally able to take a dose. Otherwise, the uterus will rupture and your doe will die an excruciating death.) In some rare cases, the kit may be retained but the placenta may be passed through. This obviously causes death to the kit and it may either be passed through later on or absorbed. The cause of this is still unknown, but it has been suggested as Abruptio Placenta. The doe may or may not be affected by this as it may or may not cause severe blood loss, so taking her to the vet is the best option. The kits will be lost, but at least her life may be spared. In minor cases, you may try some emmenagogues herbs such as blackberries, raspberry leaves, parsley, ginger, yarrow, feverfew, rosemary, and sage to aid in contractions and flush the uterus.  Herbs such as Tansy, Mugwort, Juniper berries, Chamomile contain Thujone, which is a volatile oil found in several plants known to be a uterine stimulant.  Calcium, in the form of Tums, drench, or tablets dissolved in the doe's water, may aid the contractions as well. Herbs such as Angelica, Black Cohosh, Ginger, Horseradish, Queen Anne's Lace Seeds/Root contain a great deal of estrogen, and though they will help expel uterine contents, they can be antispemotic and contain abortive properties. Lop-eared and big headed breeds such as Hollands are especially prone o retaining kits when kindling as the doe's pelvis may sometimes not be wide enough. Once the first kit is retained, the chances of all the other kits being born alive are greatly decreased, as their supply of oxygen runs out in the birth canal. If you see a kit that is stuck, you can use mineral or vegetable oil and a warm wet cloth to gently and slowly pull them out of the doe.

 

 

Wild Rabbit Kits

If you happen upon wild rabbit babies, the best thing to do is leave them alone. Most North American rabbit and hare species give birth in shallow dugout impressions on top of the ground. Cottontail kits will be mostly hairless, a dark purple-black color with or without a faint white blaze (which they will lose as they grow in their fur) and will have their eyes shut (if they are younger than eight days old). Most hare species (jackrabbits) will give birth to young that are fully furred with their eyes open. Wild rabbits in North America are a different species than domestic rabbits (which are derived from the European species, therefore they cannot breed together), so they do not develop the exactly the same way when they are growing as a domestic rabbit would, making it very difficult to rehabilitate them when young. If they are all in a nest and have full bellies, then they are being taken care of and they should not be handled. Just leave them alone and let nature take its course. If you do happen upon a sick or injured one, take it to a wild life rehab, as it is illegal in most states to be in possession of a native wild animal.

Cannibalism

Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for mother rabbits to fully or partially cannibalize their kits. There will be times when you find torsos, heads, or limbs scattered around the cage. There are a few reasons for this. Sometimes the mother is inexperienced and out of pure confusion, she consumes the kits shortly after birth in an attempt to consume the afterbirth. Some times there may be something wrong with kit's health. And the mother, sensing this, chooses to end the kit's suffering (even if the kit seems normal and healthy to you by all outward appearances, there are just some things humans cannot detect that other mammals can). Sometimes the mother rabbit gets stressed or startled by something in her environment and may intentionally or unintentionally kill her entire litter. (This can be something as simple as the smell of a dog near by or the sound of a lawn mower being started. Remember rabbits are prey animals. If a mother rabbit feels there is something in the environment that could threaten the safety or prosperity of her litter, she'll choose to quickly kill the babies as opposed to risk them growing up struggling to survive. She also won't risk her body and energy if she feels her litter won't make it. It may seem illogical to us humans, but remember we developed and understand the human world. Rabbits do not and they will react as if they are living in the wild. This is why it's crucial to keep the mother and babies in a calm and quiet environment).

 

 

Deformed Kits

 Any malformed or overly sick kits must be humanely dispatched. Though it is hard to kill a baby that's just been born, it is necessary. If the deformed/sick baby is allowed to get older, it will eventually die a slow and painful death from the complications of its birth defect.  The other babies could have been healthier if they did not have to share their nutrition with one that was going to die anyway.

  "Peanut" kits are easily identifiable as they are usually a third of the size of their littermates. Their eyes are usually bulging and the ears, limbs, and pelvis are abnormally small, Peanuts occur when two true dwarfs are bred together as they are the result of the double true dwarfing gene. It is a congenitally defective kit that fails to thrive. Peanuts will NEVER live to adulthood, so it's best to put them out of their misery now. The longest any peanut has lived on record was 6 months and that was an extreme case. Typically, they don't live past a few weeks, at best. Their tissue, brains, and organs are not properly formed when they are born resulting in them eventually dying. 

The Max factor gene is a recessive gene. The kit that exhibits the double dose of this gene often have fully open eye(s) or sometimes just partially open, even a slit (sometimes one can see fur stuck to the eye) Open eyes however slight/severe will lead to blindness. The limbs are deformed, twisted or splayed.  The feet appear to resemble flippers, sometimes webbed and occasionally a dewclaw may be present on the hind leg(s)  
The fur has spiked or very soft long appearance due to the lack of guard hairs Runts (slightly smaller than the rest of the young, but not deformed) may or may not live, so use your best judgment with them.

Fetal Giants or "Hippo Babies" are unusually large and deformed kits. Sometimes they'll have the appearance of being "stretched". Due to the stress of a prolonged and difficult delivery of the oversized kit, usually 2 to 3 times normal size, it will have died from asphyxiation. The following kits, if any, will either be born dead or may be delivered alive but are normally scattered by the mother due to stress.  It has been suggested that overfeeding or feeding too much protein to a pregnant doe may be the cause of this. Hormone levels may also be a cause as the increase for fetal giants is more prevalent in the fall and winter months. Unfortunately, there is no solid research to prove any of these theories and many breeders are left to assume genetics plays a role.

Fed vs Unfed Kits
Notice the nice round and solid belly of the fed kit on the left. The unfed kit on the right will have narrow and wrinkled look around the abdomen.
Peanut (far right)
Max Factor
Hippo
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Diseases, Symptoms, and Suggested Treatments

The most important things to consider when it comes to diseases in your rabbitry is prevention, eradication, and control. As long as your rabbits have healthy body soundness and livability, adequate nutrition, and a suitable environment, they should do well. It is also very important to practice a proper sanitation and disinfection program in your rabbitry and stick to it. By assuring all of this, you will be able to maintain health and prevent diseases among your rabbits.

 

Unlike most other domestic animals, rabbits do not require routine vaccines or deworming. This only pertains to rabbits in the United States since they are not exposed to diseases that are prevalent in European/Australian rabbit species. Deworming should only be treated on a case by case basis. Rabbits have no known communicable diseases to humans.

 

Please also note that the below-recommended methods of treatment are for adult rabbits only. Kits may experience similar symptoms as adults do but may have entirely different reasons for them and they handle medications/remedies far differently than adult rabbits do.

 You can find further health information regarding illnesses found with kits on our "Breeding" page.

Rabbit Pharmacology
Rabbit Dentistry
WARNING
Many of the below images depict medical ailments and are therefore graphic in nature. 

Necropsy Guide

Being able to distinguish unhealthy from healthy organs in your rabbits can be vital to your breeding programs. If you raise rabbits for meat or science, you'll need to be able to recognize any diseases or malnutrition issues. This is particularly important if you plan on eating your rabbits as you don't want to consume something that's been sick. Some times rabbits die for no outward apparent reason and a necropsy is then required to diagnose the cause of death. Not everyone has the stomach to perform a necropsy and if you don't know what you're looking for, it can be a disastrous mess. If you find yourself in the position of needing a necropsy performed, however can't do it yourself, you can always send the rabbit's body to your local state agricultural department or veterinary college.

A necropsy should be performed in good sunlight and on a stainless steel table. The table should have tapering to drain the blood and other fluids. You'll need to wear latex gloves, an apron, face mask, and protective eye wear. You'll need measuring tape, a scale, small and medium sized forceps, scalpel, scissors, and bone cutting shears/knives.

Biochemistry & Blood Count Values

© 2018  All images and content are the property of Obsidian Rabbitry and may not be used without written consent.

Peanut (far right)