Last week was Rabbit Awareness Week – the perfect opportunity for new and experienced owners alike to consider how to improve the health and welfare of their bunnies.
PDSA Vet Lynne James said: “Bunnies’ needs can be more complex than some other pets so despite their popularity they can unintentionally become neglected. The good news is there are lots of simple things you can do to help keep your rabbits healthy, happy and living their best lives.
The right diet
“Rabbits are herbivores so they need to eat a plant-based diet that’s high in fibre.
An easy way to ensure they get lots of this is to give them constant access to good quality hay or fresh growing grass. They also benefit from being fed rabbit complete feed pellets; an average sized rabbit will need a tablespoon of these a day, but if they’re over 3.5kg that should be increased to twice daily. They also enjoy the added vitamins and moisture from a handful of rabbit safe vegetable and herbs.
“Don’t be alarmed if your furry friends like to eat their own poo – it’s actually good for them! It may seem strange to humans, but rabbits don’t get the essential nutrients from their food the first time they eat it.
Your bunnies’ digestive systems are designed to allow digestible fibre to move through the gut quickly so it comes out as soft, sticky droppings.
They absorb the vital nutrients from this second phase, finally excreting their waste droppings – this is a vital process for your rabbits’ digestive systems.
“We all need a daily grooming routine and our rabbits are no different. It also gives you the perfect opportunity to check them over, feeling for any lumps and bumps or parasites.
“Their eyes should be clear and shiny with no discharge. Their bottoms should be clean to avoid flystrike and their nails shouldn’t be overgrown.
Handling your rabbits daily helps you build a clear picture of what’s normal for them and means you’ll notice when anything changes. If you do notice anything out of the ordinary, seek the advice of your vet.
“Understanding bunny behaviour can help you and your rabbits communicate better and build a strong bond.
If your rabbits ever bite with a gentle nip, this is usually their way of getting your attention or investigating what you’ve been up to if you smell different. However, if it is a hard bite, this can be a sign of fear, stress or frustration.
“Rabbits can “purr” when very relaxed and content, creating a gentle, vibrating sound with their front teeth. This mustn’t be confused with teeth grinding which could mean they are in pain and should see a vet urgently.
Also, be aware of growling sounds, their ears being on alert and thumping with their back feet, as these are signs of fear or stress.
If your rabbits lick you or their furry companions, this is a sign that they are happy.
When they jump in the air and twist about, it’s called a ‘binky’ is a sign of happiness.”
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