Small Furries

Rabbit....rabbit....rabbit....

 

Did you know that rabbits are now the third most popular pet in the UK? Thankfully, they have come a long way from being the childs pet that lived in a small hutch at the bottom of the garden. Advances in veterinary medicine and an increased awareness of rabbit health and wellbeing mean our bunnies are living longer, healthier, happier lives.

 

One of the most important aspects of caring for our rabbits is to provide the correct diet. At least 75% of the diet should consist of roughage such as good quality hay. Rabbits are natural grazers and their digestive system is designed to accept a constant trickle of food. Also, high fibre diets help to wear down the teeth and nibbling hay reduces boredom. A selection of leafy greens and vegetables are important but avoid too much fruit as it contains a lot of sugar and may lead to obesity. Finally, pelleted food should be fed sparingly, approximately 2 tablespoons per day is enough for an average rabbit. Over feeding of pellets can also lead to obesity. Care should be taken if feeding a cereal mix diet as some rabbits may be selective about which bits they eat. An all in one pellet is better.

It is important that teeth are prevented from growing too long. This is due, in the most part, to lack of wear from their diet. Back teeth grind fibre in a side to side motion which can result in sharp edges. This causes pain and your rabbit may go off its food. It may also cause the jaw to drop slightly which causes misalignment of the front teeth. You should check your rabbits front teeth regularly. Back teeth are harder to visualise and if your rabbit is having problems we may need to give a sedative to allow us to examine them properly. Diet is the key to help prevent these problems which is why you need to feed a high percentage of hay.

 
 

Rabbits produce 2 different kinds of faeces- the hard pellets which are the final product and soft pellets which they eat to re-digest the roughage for maximum nutritional benefit. If your rabbit is overweight, too full up of other foods or the hutch is not cleaned regularly these soft pellets will collect around the back end, providing an ideal environment for flies to lay eggs. These eggs turn into maggots which eat their way through the faeces and eventually into the rabbit. This is known as flystrike and is a very unpleasant and serious condition. To prevent this from happening the hutch should be kept clean and dry, you should check your rabbit every day and provide a balanced diet to avoid obesity.

Rabbits "breed like rabbits"!! They also enjoy living in pairs or groups but can be aggressive or territorial. Female rabbits can suffer from false pregnancy. Neutering can sort out all these problems. A neutered rabbit will be more laid back and affectionate towards other rabbits and their owners. They will be less destructive and won't mark their territory with smelly urine.   60% of un-neutered female rabbits develop uterine cancer by the time they are 3 years old and they are also more prone to mammary tumours.

 
 

Vaccination is an important part of rabbit preventative healthcare.   The 2 diseases we vaccinate against are Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD). Both of these conditions are very serious and in un-vaccinated rabbits are usually fatal. Spread is by direct contact with an infected rabbit so if wild rabbits have access to your garden your rabbit will be at risk. The other method of spread is through insects, such as fleas and lice. This is particularly significant if you have cats or dogs that hunt wild rabbits and could bring infected fleas back to your house. VHD in particular can live for long periods of time in the environment, so we may inadvertently bring it into our homes on contaminated grass. This means that even if your rabbit lives indoors they could still be at risk.   Vaccination against myxomatosis can be started from 6 weeks of age and we recommend boosters every 6 months. VHD can be vaccinated against from 10 weeks of age and requires a yearly booster. Myxomatosis and VHD vaccination should be done 2 weeks apart.

Most people know that it is important to treat their dogs and cats against parasites but it is also important to treat your rabbit. Cat fleas can infect your rabbit as well as rabbit fleas and, as we mentioned above, can transfer diseases. There are spot on treatments available for these external parasites. Internal parasites such as roundworm, tapeworm and a single celled parasite called E.Cuniculi can be treated with a worming paste. We recommend doing this 2-4 times a year.   The health of your rabbit cannot be taken for granted- no matter how well you look after them. If your rabbit becomes ill, providing the best care quickly without worrying about cost will be priority. Taking out insurance gives you peace of mind as it covers the cost of veterinary treatment at times of accident or illness. There are various different companies who provide rabbit insurance.

 

Guinea Pigs

 

Guinea Pigs are very social animals and should
be kept in same sex groups or in groups where the
male has been neutered. People often keep them
along with rabbits however, this is not always a good
idea as they can be bullied and they require a different diet.

A guinea pigs diet should be made up of 80% hay. Guinea pigs lack the enzyme to make vitamin C so they must have it in their diet every day. A commercial guinea pig pellet should be given along with a selection of vegetables and fruit. As fruit is high in sugar care should be taken that your guinea pig doesn't get fat!

 
 

Vitamin C deficiency leads to scurvy, weight loss, weakness and swollen joints so it is very important to provide the correct diet.   Guinea Pig teeth grow continually and they wear down when they eat or gnaw. Lots of hay in the diet will help but you should also provide hard food, gnawing blocks or branches from fruit trees. Check your guinea pigs teeth regularly and bring them to the vet if you are worried.

 

Guinea Pigs come in all different colours with various different types of hair. Long haired breeds require regular grooming. A dirty coat can be prone to fly strike. Hutches should also be kept clean and dry to help prevent this.