Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Essentials: Health Care Overview

A good owner should constantly be aware of any changes in their rabbit's behavior and digestive habits, as differences in these areas are the most telling about overall health. Symptoms that rabbits exhibit are subtle; acting lethargic or suddenly disinterested is a sign of trouble, while anorexia and changes in droppings and urinary habits are surefire signs of medical problems. A rabbit in pain will lie with its extremities pulled in tightly, eyes half-shut, will want to be left alone, and sometimes grind its teeth in pain. If your rabbit is acting this way, seek immediate medical assistance.

Rabbits should get a thorough look-over about once a month to make sure everything is running smoothly, though preventative care is key to keeping your rabbit happy and healthy.

Grooming
Different breeds have different grooming needs. Angoras and other long-haired breeds require daily grooming, while most short-hair breeds need just a weekly to biweekly brushing. During molts, increase the grooming frequency and make sure to remove loose fur so that the rabbit does not ingest too much of it.

Rabbits should get their nails clipped once every two months. You should also check their teeth, eyes, nose, and ears for any abnormalities or changes, and look over their bodies for any signs of lumps, abscesses, infection, scrapes, or parasites. Approximately every two-three months, you should check the genital area to see if the scent glands need to be cleaned.

Diet
Feeding your rabbit a healthy, balanced diet can eliminate many of the health problems domestic rabbits face. Offer unlimited hay, a variety of vegetables, and a restricted amount of pellets, about 1/8 cup per 4 lbs of rabbit. Rabbits have highly sensitive digestive tracts, so monitor their intake and output very carefully and note any changes. As aforementioned, abberations in this area are the largest indicators of a serious medical problem.

Spay/Neuter
Spaying and neutering is an essential part of rabbit health care. The surgery eliminates a variety of health problems and adds years to a rabbit's life.

Rabbit-Proofing
Make sure to clean your bunny's litterbox and food and water bowls frequently, providing clean, fresh water on a daily basis. Rabbits should be housed indoors to ensure they remain physically and mentally healthy. Inside, watch out for poisonous plants, electrical cords, lead-tainted paint. During the summer months, pay close attention to the temperature in your house, as temperatures above 85 ºF can be disastrous to a rabbit's health.

The more you bond with your bunny, the sooner you'll be able to detect changes that may indicate a medical problem. In the case of rabbit health care, love just might be the best medicine.

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