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I don’t think bunnies get sick any more or less often than other pets, but like all animals, some are more prone to illness than others, and, er, there’s not a lot you can do about it.
Here in the UK (or at least near me) vet care for rabbits is pretty good, and often considerably cheaper than it would be for a dog or cat.
That’s why I don’t think it’s worth having insurance for rabbits. however, as I outline in the article, you really need to weigh up the pros and cons of insurance.
The vets I use have set prices for dog and cat surgery, but small animals (which even rabbits the size of beagles are classed as) charge by the hour.
Rabbits hide their illness, so can go downhill quickly
This is the main reason, I think, that rabbits have a reputation for being ill a lot. It’s not that they’re ill more frequently than cats or dogs, it’s that they’ll hide it from you for longer, so they’re more likely to either need more care, or not make it at all.
I believe that by keeping house rabbits, rather than outside rabbits, you can spot issues much, much sooner, which is why the average longevity of rabbits has shot up as keeping house rabbits has become more widely accepted as being the norm.
If you keep your rabbits outside, you’re likely to see them less often, because you have to make the effort to go and see them.
I can’t avoid my rabbits – they’re just right there, staring at me whilst I eat my breakfast.
Rabbits are quite delicate, and can get ill from fright
Rabbits are being bred to be more and more confident, but many are still of a very delicate disposition.
Life as a prey animal is not easy (or long) and even though rabbits in the home don’t have any predators, many house rabbits are constantly keeping a look out for predators.
There are even instances where rabbits have had heart attacks at the sight of dogs.
I think that as rabbit become better understood, the tendency to be nervy will keep diminishing, but always keep your rabbits in mind when you’re considering bringing another pet into your home, or even something as simple as having a party.
Rabbits can go into shock very easily, and there isn’t much you can do about it, other than try to preempt anything that could cause them a lot of stress and either remove the stressor or move the rabbit.
If you suspect your rabbit is in shock, it’s worth getting them to a vet so they can assess the extent of the problem. In the meantime, keep the rabbit warm, encourage them to eat and drink, and make sure the environment is calm.
Shock used to pretty much be an automatic death sentence for a rabbit, but itdoesn’t need to be nowadays.
Rabbits are nasal breathers, so can suffer from respiratory problems
Actually, are several issues with the way that rabbits have been bred that cause not only respiratory issues. So a problem that rabbits have naturally, due to being nasal breathers, has been made worse by breeding.
Lop rabbits are more prone to ear infections, and since all the tubes around the ears and nose are linked, a simple ear infection can spread quickly.
Similarly, rabbit’s teeth grow constantly, and if they’re not worn down consistently, they can get abscesses on their, leading to infection, which can then spread.
Some rabbits have been bred to have shorter noses (similar to brachycephalic breeds of dogs, like French bulldogs and pugs) which have associated breathing issues.
Some breeds, like Netherland dwarves, don’t seem to have that many issues, but as the practice of breeding shorter nosed-rabbits gets more popular (because they look cute *insert eye roll emoji*), breathing problems will get worse, and more trips to the vets will be inevitable.
Rabbit care is often misunderstood, causing them to get ill often
Rabbit care is definitely improving, but there are a few things that are pretty acceptable to a lot of people that can hurt your rabbit’s health:
- keeping rabbits outside
Not only are you less likely to spot problems, but you’re more likely to encounter issues from parasites, predators, and diseases passed from wild rabbits.
- Keeping rabbits in hutches
Exercise is important not only to keep weight down, but to keep joints and muscles healthy.
Rabbits should be able to run all the time. I understand that free roam isn’t always possible, but you at least need a pen big enough that your rabbit can run in.
They also need several hours outside of the pen too, unless you have a really, really big pen for them.
This can be a commitment. It’s hard to get a pen that’s aesthetically pleasing without spending an absolute fortune on a bespoke one.
That’s just part of having a rabbit. I have an ugly pen in the living room. If I had a dog, I’d have to walk to. Animals require compromise.
- Expecting a child to care for a rabbit
How many times have you seen a rabbit being rehomed because ‘the kids lost interest’?
I’m not surprised tbh. Rabbits aren’t that exciting to kids, since they don’t like to be picked up or cuddled or, in fact, do anything they don’t want to.
There are exceptions, but a lot of rabbits don’t.
Rabbits can also happily defend themselves against a child that just wants to cuddle Thumper. If I’d picked up my rabbit because I was told to, and they bit me, I suspect I’d lose interest too.
If you get a rabbit, expect to be the one to care for it, feed it, play with it, and love it.
Improper food can lead to rabbits getting sick more often than necessary
Rabbits need a lot of hay (which is messy as hell), veggies, and a good quality pellets. They need to be monitored closely, especially if you suspect they’re not eating.
You need to keep an eye on the size of their poos (which luckily, they conveniently leave everywhere).
Rabbits that don’t eat hay need to be coaxed to eat it. If they don’t you’re looking at vet trips for teeth filing, and an increased likelihood that your rabbit will be obese, which in turn leads to other issues like poopy butt and urine burn.
It doesn’t help that rabbit vet care hasn’t developed as much as for dog or cat care, but it is coming on.
A lot of medications that the vet may give you will be for dogs and cats (Meloxicam usually has a picture of a dog on it).
By the way, make sure the vet explains the correct dosage to you. It’ll depend on the size of your rabbit.
Don’t be surprised if you give the same amount of painkillers to a rabbit as you would a dog – even though (some) dogs are much larger, rabbits have a much faster metabolism than dogs, and need a similar amount of painkillers.
I only mention this because my mum’s arthritic dog takes Meloxicam and she has a similar dosage to what my arthritic rabbit had, despite Emma (a large whippet) being approx 50 times the size of the rabbit, and it made me question the dosage.
When you get your rabbit, make sure you find a rabbit savvy vet.
The best way to do this is to reach out to people in your area that have house rabbits.
The House Rabbit Society Facebook group is a great place to start.