If you have or are planning to get a pet rabbit, it’s important for you to know about common rabbits health problems. Knowing the signs and symptoms of these common conditions will help you recognize and treat them early, which results in better health outcomes for your furry friend.
Additionally, many of these common rabbits diseases can be prevented with proper care and precautions. Having knowledge of the prevention and treatment of these common health problems enables you to help your rabbit live a long and healthy life.
6 Common Rabbit Health Problems
Overgrown teeth occur when a rabbit’s molars become too long and form sharp spikes. Rabbits’ teeth grow throughout their entire life and will become overgrown unless the rabbit is constantly grinding them down.
In severe cases of overgrown teeth, the teeth may become so long that they curl. This causes the rabbit to become completely unable to close its mouth. If not treated soon enough, overgrown teeth can be fatal.
Signs and symptoms of overgrown teeth include:
- Reluctance to eat
- Inability to eat
- Facial swelling
- Excessively long, sharp teeth
Luckily, this condition is largely preventable with proper diet, although some cases are genetic. The majority of your rabbit’s diet should consist of hay and grass, which help rabbits grind down their teeth.
Treatment for overgrown teeth involves burring the teeth so they are flat again. This procedure should be done by a veterinarian and not attempted at home.
Ear mite infestations are caused by the parasite Psoroptes cuniculi. Infestation can occur in one or both ears and may occasionally spread to other areas of the rabbit’s body.
Signs and symptoms of ear mites include:
- Persistent itching of the ears, head, and neck
- Developing a thick, brown, crust on the affected areas
- Hair loss
- Skin peeling
- Secondary ear infections
Ear mite infestations can be treated with miticides and injectable ivermectins. Ointments and antibiotics may be used to treat any secondary infections. It is important that you do not attempt to remove the brown crust from your rabbit’s ears as this is very painful and leaves raw skin exposed.
How to prevent reinfestation:
- Treat all rabbits in the household for ear mites.
- Thoroughly disinfect the rabbit’s cage.
- Discard and replace all bedding, wood, and paper products,
- Discard or thoroughly disinfect all grooming tools.
- Thoroughly clean the rabbit’s cage daily throughout the course of treatment
You can help prevent ear mite infestations by keeping your rabbit’s cage clean, avoiding contact with infected rabbits, and quarantining any new rabbits until they are confirmed to be parasite-free.
Sore hocks are inflamed open sores on a rabbit’s heel. These sores are painful and susceptible to infection.
Signs and symptoms of sore hocks include:
- Localized hair loss
- Developing a strange gait to keep weight off of the affected leg or legs
- Reluctance to eat
- Sores weeping fluid or bleeding
Severe cases can lead to permanent tendon damage and bone infections. This condition can progress quickly, so it is vital to get sore hocks treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Common treatments for sore hocks include:
- Topical antiseptics
- Dressing the wound
- Antibiotics in more severe cases
Sore hocks can be difficult to treat and have a high rate of reoccurrence, so prevention is key. Steps you can take to prevent sore hocks include making sure your rabbit has soft, clean bedding and keeping your rabbit at a healthy weight.
Hairballs occur when a rabbit ingests large quantities of fur while self-grooming and it doesn’t pass through the digestive tract. Hairballs are a very common health problem in rabbits. If your rabbit is lethargic and not eating, the most likely cause is a hairball.
Other signs and symptoms of hairballs include:
- Abdominal discomfort or pain
- Distended abdomen
- Teeth grinding
- Having few to no fecal droppings
- Weight loss
- Sudden, severe cases of hairballs may cause the rabbit to go into shock
Because rabbits cannot vomit, hairballs must be diagnosed and treated by a vet. Most hairballs can be treated using fluid therapy to increase the hairball’s ability to move through the digestive tract.
Stomach massage and exercise can also help this process. In severe cases, the hairball may need to be extracted through surgery. Hairballs can often be prevented by feeding your rabbit a high-fiber diet and brushing them daily.
Snuffles is a contagious upper respiratory infection. This infection can travel to the eyes and ears, causing conjunctivitis and ear infections. If left untreated, snuffles can lead to death.
Symptoms of snuffles include:
- Runny nose
- Head tilting
- Making a loud snoring sound
Snuffles is commonly treated with a two-to-four week course of antibiotics. However, this treatment may not cure the condition. Many rabbits who get snuffles develop a chronic case.
Here are some steps you can take to prevent snuffles:
- Keep your rabbit away from rabbits who may be sick.
- Keep any new rabbits quarantined to ensure until it is confirmed that they are not infected.
- Prevent your rabbit from feeling stressed as stress can trigger the onset of snuffles symptoms in previously asymptomatic rabbits.
Myxomatosis is a progressive virus spread by fleas and mosquitos or close contact with an infected rabbit. This virus is most common in Europe, but cases of it have been observed in certain regions of the United States.
Signs and symptoms of Myxomatosis include:
- Development of skin nodules
- Swelling in the eyelids, lips, and genitals
- High fever
- Difficulty breathing as the virus progresses
Myxomatosis has a 99% fatality rate and there is no treatment. If a rabbit becomes infected with Myxomatosis, euthanasia is the most humane course of action. There is a vaccine for Myxomatosis, but it is not widely available outside of Europe.
However, there are other steps you can take to prevent Myxomatosis. Housing your rabbit indoors and applying monthly flea treatment to your rabbit and all other animals in the house is key to Myxomatosis prevention.