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Special problems of pet rabbits

Phone: (760) 745-8115 Fax: (760) 745-7814 www.aahc.us SPECIAL PROBLEMS OF PET RABBITS

General Information
Rabbits have several unique problems; understanding these problems will allow you to better
care for your pet and minimize future health care problems.
Diarrhea / Mucoid Enteropathy
Diarrhea is often seen in rabbits. While it can be due to coccidia (a one-cell protozoan) or
incorrect usage of oral antibiotics, often the cause can't be determined. Rabbits eating a diet
that is too high in carbohydrates (pellets or alfalfa hay) are more prone to develop intestinal
problems than rabbits eating a high fiber (grass hay) diet.

Mucoid enteropathy is a diarrheal disease of young
rabbits that can be fatal. The diarrhea has a mucoid or
gelatinous consistency.
Treatment for diarrheal conditions of rabbits is
controversial and varies among veterinarians. As a
rule, fiber in the diet is increased (often nothing but
hay is offered for several weeks). Fluid and vitamin
therapy are used as needed.

Cystic Calculi (Bladder Stones)
Rabbits, like many pets, can develop bladder stones.
Signs include urinating frequently, straining to urinate, and blood in the urine. Often your
veterinarian will palpate (feel) the stones during the examination. Radiographs (X-rays) can
confirm the diagnosis. Surgical removal of the stones cures the problem. Rabbits that have
been eating a diet high in pellets (this may contribute to stone formation) can be weaned onto a
diet lower in pellets and higher in hay, which may prevent stone recurrence.
Nails
Rabbits have sharp nails, and owners are easily scratched when handling their pets. The back
feet, which are the most powerful, are usually the culprits. Scratches to owners most commonly
occur when placing the rabbit back into its cage or down onto the floor. Supporting the rear end
of the rabbit during the entire lifting, carrying, and replacing regimen will usually eliminate the
problem. Periodic nail trimming (have your doctor show you the proper technique) is important.
RABBITS SHOULD NOT BE DECLAWED EXCEPT IN EXTREME CASES!


Antibiotic Toxicity
Several references in the literature discuss antibiotic toxicities in rabbits. Some of the reports
warn against using ANY oral antibiotics in rabbits, whereas others mention specific problems
with oral drugs such as penicillin or lincomycin. Antibiotic toxicity is one reason to make sure
that your veterinarian is trained to properly treat pet rabbits. Feel free to discuss any concerns
you have with your veterinarian about antibiotics for your pet. And if your rabbit develops
diarrhea while being treated with any medication, STOP the medication and call your
veterinarian at once!
Coprophagy
Rabbits engage in coprophagy, which means they
eat their own feces. This occurs at night, and
these fecal pellets are different from the ones
normally excreted and seen by the owners. These
pellets serve as a source of nutrients, specifically
vitamins, for the rabbit. Most owners never
observe this behavior; if you do, remember that it
is normal and necessary for the health of your
rabbit.

This client information sheet is based on material written by Rick Axelson, DVM & Shawn Messonnier, DVM Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license. April 25, 2013

Source: http://www.aahc.us/docs/Rabbits-problems.pdf

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