Starting off your rabbit's life with good nutrition, regular veterinary examinations and a happy home life sets the blueprint for a high quality of life in older years.
Most rabbits are considered geriatric by the age of 8. Even if he/she is basically healthy, age will take its toll. You may find your rabbit napping a lot more than usual, or a bit stiff to rise from their nap.
Common problems in senior rabbits
Obesity is a big health risk for rabbits. Extra weight puts pressure on the heart, joints and may dramatically reduce the rabbit’s life expectancy.
* Dental conditions are also a major issue in rabbits. Rabbits’ teeth grow continuously by about 2-3mm a week. A poor diet may cause rabbits’ teeth to overgrow and mean they need to be filed down by a vet.
* Flystrike is a potentially fatal disease which occurs when flies lay their eggs around a rabbit’s bottom and then hatch into maggots. The maggots then mature, burrow into the skin and the flesh.
* Viral Haemorrhagic disease (VHD) is another fatal disease of rabbits that can be prevented by regular vaccination at your Spinney Vets Surgery.
* Myxomatosis is spread by blood sucking insects such as fleas. Symptoms include swelling around the head, face, ears, lips and anus. Flea control and vaccination against myxomatosis are available at your Spinney Vets Surgery.
* Encephalitozoon cuniculi is a microscopic parasite that is particularly nasty and can cause seizures, kidney disease, hind limb weakness, loss of vision and balance. The parasite is spread by infected urine, faeces or from mothers to babies. A wormer is available from your veterinary surgeon to help control E.cuniculi and intestinal worms.
* Osteoporosis (brittle bones) is common in rabbits. It is often a result of poor diet and lack of exercise.
What can you do at home?
As a pet owner it is your duty of care to provide the best care for your senior rabbit. Here are some considerations to improve and maintain your rabbit’s health and welfare:
* Check your rabbit’s mouth, eyes or ears regularly
* Watch for loose teeth, redness, swelling or discharge
* Keep your pets sleeping area clean and warm
* Make fresh water available at all times
* Maintain a regime of proper nutrition and loving attention
* Check your rabbits eyes, nose, mouth, anus and nails everyday
Rabbit facts & figures
There are 67 breeds and 531 varieties of rabbit. The smallest breeds are the Netherland Dwarf Rabbit and Polish, weighing just 1 kg when fully grown, and one of the largest is the Flemish Giant Rabbit, weighing around 5-6kg. Female rabbits are called does, male rabbits are called bucks and baby rabbits are called kittens. Litters usually contain between six & eight kittens. Rabbits usually live to about 7 or 8 years old, but many live over 10 years. Rabbits produce 2 types of droppings, the first of which they re-ingest. A rabbit chews 120 times a minute and has 17,000 tastebuds.