Different times of the year bring their own challenges for us as rabbit owners, and springtime is no different. With unpredictable weather, fresh growth of rich spring grass and the reappearance of creepy crawlies, there are a few things we need to think about to help keep our rabbits safe. Let’s ‘hop’ to it with some of our advice and top tips.
Changes in Weather
Temperatures can often fluctuate between freezing and near-tropical, making it difficult to ensure that our rabbits are comfortable and their housing is suitable. You should make sure there are warm areas to shelter from winds/cold temperatures and also areas that are well ventilated and shaded from the sun. In cold spells, add extra hay for bedding in boxes to help keep warm. Make sure to check water for freezing in cold temperatures or running low if it is warm. If your rabbits aren’t used to water bottles it’s worth also making sure they have a bowl available too.
Springtime inevitably brings with it new, rich and fast-growing grass. Often indoor rabbits will start to be introduced to grass outdoors again and those that are permanently outdoors will choose to spend more time out in the open. Spring grass, or introduction of any new food, can cause issues such as gut stasis/ileus (when the guts stop moving), bloat (trapped gas – particularly dangerous as rabbits cannot burp or vomit), weight gain, and diarrhoea. Like any diet change it should be done slowly – start with a couple of hours access per day, then, if there are no problems, slowly increase over a week or so.
Rabbits will moult and change their coat around the start of the spring, and again at the end of the summer. This results in lots of loose hair (often attaching itself to clothing, furnishings and anything else it can manage!). Rabbits will groom themselves or their friends and can swallow this hair, which can cause issues in their guts such as stasis/ileus or form a blockage. These conditions can require hospitalisation and in some cases even major surgery or result in death.
Daily grooming and removal of loose hair can help to reduce the chance of this, particularly in rabbits with long hair. Also ensure access to good quality fibre (hay!) and fresh water to support healthy gut movement and function.
As the weather gets warmer and more humid the risk of fly strike increases: this is when flies lay their eggs on your pet, these hatch into maggots which then burrow into the skin.
This can happen in a very short period of time; maggots can appear in less than 1 day.
It is incredibly painful and will result in a very sick or dead rabbit if not prevented or treated very early.
It most often affects rabbits that have underlying problems such as obesity or arthritis, wounds, dental disease or runny eyes. Some of these conditions can make it more difficult for rabbits to clean themselves. However, it can occasionally happen to rabbits that appear to be healthy so you must be vigilant.
Check your rabbits at least once daily for eggs/maggots. The eggs look like very small grains of rice/sand clumped together. Eggs are often laid around the bottom as it tends to be the area most likely to be soiled with urine or faeces (even if you can’t see it).
Please speak to our vet team about preventative ointments that can be applied to stop fly strike happening.
We recommend that all rabbits are vaccinated whether they are to live indoors or outdoors. These need to be repeated at least once a year (depending on the vaccine).
Vaccines are available for myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease types 1 and 2 virus (RVDV-1 and RHDV-2). All of these viruses can be fatal (result in death) and are carried by vectors such as flies and fleas which transmit the disease between rabbits (wild or otherwise). Speak to our vet team to check your rabbits’ vaccines are up to date and to book an appointment if needed.
Top tips for Springtime:
- Check housing: Make sure shelter is suitable, fresh hay and water
- Make any diet changes onto grass slowly: limit access time to start with and just introduce for an hour per day then slowly increase this over 1-2 weeks.
- Help with coat moulting: daily grooming and removal of loose hair.
- Fly Strike: check your rabbits at least once daily for eggs/maggots. Speak to our reception team for advice on preventative products.
- Vaccinations: check your rabbits are vaccinated for myxomatosis, RHDV-1 and RHDV-2, make sure they’re up to date.
If you are at all worried about your rabbits, or would like to book an appointment with one of our vets for a health-check or vaccinations, then please give our friendly reception team a call who will be very happy to help.