By Dr Lisa Towns
Rabbits can make great pets. They are sociable, trainable, and very entertaining. Although a rabbit may not cost much to buy, they shouldn’t be considered a low-maintenance, or “starter” pet. The same responsibilities of looking after your pet’s health and wellbeing apply when you adopt a rabbit, as they would if it were a cat or a dog.
Rabbits, like cats and dogs, should see their vet at least annually. If you are a new rabbit owner, or if your bunny hasn’t seen a vet in a while, there are some very good reasons why it might be time for a visit.
At an initial consultation at the vet, we can confirm your rabbit’s gender. We can also discuss your rabbit’s diet and housing. Rabbits are very good pretenders and will try to mask their disease until they are really sick. During a clinical exam, the vet will check your rabbit’s teeth, ears, eyes, feet and abdomen for any abnormalities. In some cases, we will pick up a problem that your rabbit has been hiding- hopefully in time to do something about it.
Rabbit calicivirus is a terrible, deadly disease, but thankfully there is a vaccine available to prevent it. In most cases, your rabbit will have an initial course of two injections, given 4 weeks apart. Then she will get either yearly or six-monthly boosters of the vaccine. The interval between boosters depends on several factors, and you can discuss what interval is best for your bunny with your vet.
Any female rabbit not intended for breeding should be speyed- even if she doesn't have access to any male rabbits. This is because uterine cancer is very common in older Does. This is a very aggressive form of cancer, spreading to the lungs and other parts of the body. As well as preventing pregnancy, desexing can also help to reduce aggression in both male and female rabbits.
With the increasing popularity of these loveable pets, so too has there been an increase in the knowledge of treatment and preventative health care for them. So, if your pet rabbit has not yet met your vet: perhaps it’s time for an introduction.