AbscessesAn abscess is a small pocket often found under the skin. These pockets are referred to as “pockets of infection” and contain bacteria. In rabbits, the thick fluid contained inside the abscess can lead to serious health complications and even death. Treatment depends upon the size and seriousness of the abscess.
CoccidiaMost commonly found in the intestines, coccidia are tiny parasites that can make a rabbit quite sick. Because many rabbits do not exhibit symptoms of being infected with coccidia, treatment is rarely sought. If the parasites infest the liver, the rabbit may show signs of stunted growth and young rabbits may get diarrhea. Death typically occurs when a rabbit is heavily infested and/or if the coccidia prevent normal functioning of the liver.
Ear MitesJust like with cats, dogs, and other animals, ear mites can become a problem for rabbits. However, the ear mites that are found in a rabbit’s ear are generally not the same type of mite. A rabbit with ear mites typically shake the ears and head and there may be flaking around the ears. Rabbits will also scratch at the ears which can lead to secondary conditions including infected lesions.
Head Tilt --(get to vet ASAP)The most common cause of head tilt is an ear infected with Pasteurella multocida. In smaller rabbits like dwarf breeds, head tilt is often caused by encephalitozoonosis. Head tilt can also occur from trauma to the head. A rabbit with this disorder will have a tilted head to one side but it can be as extreme as having the neck twisted.
Because rabbits are known for their gnawing, they are prone to obstructions. Rabbits are also self-groomers which can lead to hairballs. A rabbit with a foreign body or hairball in their intestine or an object stuck in their mouth usually will stop eating. Some rabbits may continue to eat but will not have any stools.
HairballsSometimes referred to as wool block, hairballs can become a problem since rabbits cannot vomit. Rabbits groom themselves regularly but they may also pull out their hair when under stress or if they are bored. Rabbits should be provided with a high-fiber diet and should receive regular grooming to help prevent hairballs.
MalocclusionMalocclusion is when the top front teeth do not align properly with the bottom. Rabbits with this disorder generally have overgrown teeth because they are not able to wear down properly. Rabbits with malocclusion need their teeth trimmed regularly to prevent secondary health problems.
Sore HocksThis problem often occurs in obese rabbits or those that stand on wire bottomed cages for long periods of time. The hocks become inflamed and ulcerated which can lead to infection. Sore hocks can be prevented by supplying a rabbit a solid surface to rest and not allowing the rabbit to become overweight.
Rabbits' claws can grow quite quickly, especially if they are on a soft surface such as grass or soft bedding. The claws must be clipped regularly to prevent them growing too long and causing problems to the rabbit, but this can vary from rabbit to rabbit, some needing their claws clipped every 3 months, others only once a year. The bit that needs to be kept short is the section beyond the live part. On white claws it is easy to see the pink live bit, but with dark nails it is harder to see how far to cut. If you are not confident about clipping the claws, do not attempt it until you have been shown by your vet or another competent person, otherwise you could cause severe bleeding, pain and distress to your rabbit.
Diarrhea can be caused from anything that bothers the intestines. This can be from an improper diet or from bacteria. Diarrhea can usually be prevented with a proper diet, clean environment, and not switching a rabbit’s diet too quickly.
ObesityA rabbit spoiled on treats can quickly turn into an overweight rabbit. Rabbits are known for their sweet tooth and some owners are known to give in to their rabbit’s desires. However, obesity in rabbits is dangerous. To prevent a rabbit from becoming overweight, supply a proper diet and provide only occasional treats. Rabbits should also be given ample exercise to wear off that extra slice of apple.
While there are other serious diseases known to affect rabbits like cancer and kidney disease, these aren’t common in rabbits that are well cared for and have a good genetic background. It is always recommended to buy a rabbit from a reputable source and always quarantine a new rabbit for at least 2 weeks prior to introducing to other rabbits and pets. If you suspect any of these illnesses in your rabbit, seek qualified veterinary care as soon as possible.
THE RABBIT HANDBOOK, by Karen Gendron, copyright 2000.