Good Bunny, Bad Bunny: Basic Veterinary Care
Some people buy rabbits thinking that they are 'easy care' pets that never need to go to the vet. They're wrong of course, rabbits require similar veterinary care to cats and dogs.
Your rabbit will need to go to the vet to get vaccinated against rabbit diseases, and also to be spayed or neutered. It is very important to have female rabbits spayed, as if they are left intact they very often develop uterine cancer before the age of four. Uterine cancer is a slow and painful death, and you can easily significantly reduce your rabbit's chances of developing it if you have the desexing procedure done.
Health concerns are not the only reason to have your rabbit fixed. Male rabbits can be very aggressive if they are not neutered, as can female rabbits if they are not spayed. As your rabbit passes the age of six months, it becomes an adult, and entirely fixated on breeding.
It should be noted at this point that is never a good idea to breed pet rabbits because breeding rabbits successfully takes considerable knowledge and expertise, and even experienced rabbit breeders sometimes loose the doe (the female rabbit) and many of her kits (baby rabbits).
Because the intact rabbit is so intent on breeding it often develops anti social behaviors. It becomes increasingly territorial, biting and scratching if you put your hand in its cage, and sometimes even running up to head butt you simply for walking into the room. Male rabbits can start to spray strong smelling urine everywhere, and female rabbits may start to rip up carpets and upholstery, gathering materials for a burrow nest for her babies. In just a few months, what was a sweet little baby bunny becomes a crazed maniac, tearing up your house and trying to beat you up for the crime of existing.
Desexing your rabbit will help lessen many of these behaviors. It may take a few weeks for the hormones to settle down, and for your rabbit to become less frenzied, but most rabbit owners do notice a positive difference in their rabbits behavior after it has been fixed.
Common Health Issues
From time to time, rabbits may develop health problems, one of the major ones being intestinal blockages caused by hairballs or other ingested materials. This is a serious condition which can quickly kill your rabbit. If bunny stops pooing for more than a day, that is a sure sign that nothing is passing through the gut, and you need to get him or her to the vet quickly.
Another major cause of illness and death in pet rabbits is heat stroke. In the wild, rabbits are able to escape the heat of the sun by burrowing underground. In captivity there is nowhere for them to go, so it is very easy for them to overheat. Heat stroke kills rabbits very quickly, so if you find your rabbit listless and unresponsive in the heat, take it to the vet immediately.
Putting a water bottle that has been filled and frozen in with your rabbit can help cool your rabbit down and avoid heat stroke on hot days. Simply place it in the cage, don't force it up against the side of the rabbit, the rabbit will snuggle up with it if they get hot enough.
A complete listing of health concerns and remedies is beyond the scope of this book, however if you are new to rabbit keeping, consult with your veterinarian when you take your rabbit in for its vaccinations and health checks, and keep their number handy. Most veterinarians will happily advise you on whether or not your rabbit should be brought into them if you think that something is amiss.
Next: The House Bunny
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