FRASER VETERINARY SURGERY Telephone: 01235 528177
FRASER VETERINARY SURGERYTelephone: 01235 528177

Rabbits - health and welfare



Rabbits feel pain in the same way as other mammals, including people, but they are not very good at showing outward signs of pain and may be suffering a great deal before you notice anything is wrong.


A change in the way a rabbit normally behaves can be an early sign he/she is ill or in pain.


If a rabbit is not eating or is more quiet than usual, he/she is highly likely to be ill, or in pain, in which case you should talk to your vet immediately.


Rabbits are vulnerable to many infectious diseases and other illnesses, especially dental disease. They can catch deadly infectious diseases from wild rabbits so you should prevent your rabbits from having contact with wild rabbits or areas where wild rabbits have been.


Some breeds of rabbit have been selected for exaggerated physical features which can cause them to suffer and reduce their quality of life, while certain breeds are particularly prone to inherited disorders and diseases. 


Feeding your rabbit the correct diet of mainly hay and/or grass will help prevent a lot of common diseases such as dental and gut disease.


Health check


Before deciding to buy/acquire rabbits, make sure you find out how they have been bred, what they have been fed and how they have been cared for. Also, check out if any of them they have had (or may be prone to) any health or behaviour problems before you take them on and always ask a vet for advice if you are unsure about anything.


You should also think about taking out pet insurance and having your rabbits microchipped. For just a few pounds a month you’ll be covered for unexpected vets’ bills in the future and safeguard your pet’s health. A one-off payment for microchipping your rabbit means you are more likely to be quickly reunited if he/she goes missing and he/she will receive prompt veterinary care if injured.


It is also advised that you get your rabbits neutered, unless they are intended for breeding and provisions have been made to care for both parents and offspring. Unneutered female rabbits are at a high risk of developing cancer of the womb, and unneutered rabbits are more likely to fight if kept together.


If you are thinking of allowing your rabbits to breed, talk to your vet to make sure they are suitable for breeding in terms of their health and personalities and to get advice on how to care for the parents and offspring.


Feeding your rabbit the correct diet of mainly hay and/or grass will help prevent a lot of common diseases such as dental and gut disease. Check that your rabbit is eating every day and that he/she is passing plenty of dry droppings. If your rabbit’s eating or drinking habits change or the number of droppings gets less or stops, talk to your vet straight away as he/she could be seriously ill. 




  • Make sure your rabbits are vaccinated regularly – take them for a routine health check with your vet at least once a year. Vaccinations protect them against myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) (also known as Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease, (RHD). Your vet will advise how often your rabbits should be vaccinated.

  • Rabbits that are stressed are much more likely to become ill so try to minimise unnecessary stress, provide constant access to safe hiding places and watch to see if their behaviour changes or they show regular signs of stress or fear, in which case, seek advice from your vet or a qualified animal behaviourist.

  • Check your rabbits for signs of illness or injury every day. Make sure this is done by someone else if you are away. Consult your vet immediately if you suspect your rabbit is in pain, ill or injured.

  • In warm weather check the fur and skin around your rabbits’ rear end and tail area twice a day, as urine staining or droppings that are stuck will attract flies, which can lay eggs and cause ‘flystrike’, which is often fatal.

  • Front teeth and nails should be checked at least once a week as these can grow quickly but only a vet should correct overgrown or misaligned teeth.
  • Give your rabbits treatment for external and internal parasites (e.g. fleas and worms) as necessary, as advised by your vet.

  • Only use medicines that have been specifically recommended for your individual rabbit by a vet – some medicines used for other animals can be very dangerous to rabbits.

  • Groom your rabbits’ coats regularly to keep them in good condition. If you are unsure how to groom your rabbits properly ask your vet for advice. 



Never ‘watch and wait’ in any case of suspected poisoning.


If you think your rabbit has been poisoned, act fast and contact a vet for advice immediately.


Some of the most common, potentially severe rabbit poisons are rodent poisons  ‘rodenticides’), ivy, rhubarb, foxgloves and glyphosphate herbicide products.


Preventing your rabbit from coming into contact with poisonous substances and treating any accidental poisonings quickly and appropriately is an important part of responsible pet ownership.

01235 528177

Surgery Address:

37 Caldecott Road



OX14 5EZ

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Surgery: 01235 528177

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© 2018 K J Fraser BVM&S, Cert.V Ophthal, MRCVS