Animal Care - Rabbit Safety

Keeping Rabbits Safe
There are many dangers to rabbits. Keeping a rabbit safe from them is a lot easier when we know what they are!
There are many predatory animals that are a danger to rabbits. Keeping your rabbits safe from cats, dogs, hawks, eagles, owls, raccoons, opossums, bobcats and coyotes is essential. Rabbits can be "scared" to death, so be sure they never encounter predators. Additionally, the feces of some birds and mammals carry disease agents that do not affect the carrier, but can be fatal to rabbits. Keeping rabbits indoors prevents them from becoming infected.
Heat is one of the main environmental dangers to buns. When temperatures are above 80, rabbits need to be in the shade. Extreme temperatures may also call for a plastic bottle filled with ice and wet burlap placed over their cage.
Diseases and Parasites
Three outbreaks of RHD, Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease, also known as RCD and VHD, have been reported in the US. This deadly disease kills within 24 to 48 hours of contact. It spread across three continents in four years killing 90% of all rabbits. Staying aware of outbreaks and keeping rabbits indoors if one should emerge near you is the only prevention. For more info about RHD, please go to

Mosquitoes along the central coast of California carry Myxomatosis, and possibly other areas of the U.S., a deadly disease for which there is no cure. There are strains in Europe and Australia of this disease that are found to be treatable. There is no clinical or anecdotal information that the California strain, considered to be one of the deadliest, can be stopped from causing the death of rabbits. Symptoms of myxo include swelling of the nose, mouth, ears and genitals. This is a painful disease and veterinarians recommend euthanasia. Keeping mosquitoes, fleas and flies away from rabbits is the only way to prevent this disease. Flies also cause fly strike by laying eggs in feces when rabbits have diarrhea and the forthcoming maggots will literally eat away at a rabbit. Screening in a play area will keep flying insects away, but be sure to place the screens away from rabbit’s inquisitive teeth!

There are two ways to keep fleas from bothering your rabbit. Using the products Revolution and Advantage for cats is one alternative, and flea powders with a carbaryl base which are safe for kittens work well. Pyrethian based flea powders cause respiratory illness in some rabbits. Rabbits should never be bathed or given a flea dip. Soap itself is toxic for rabbits.

If a crusty deposit is seen in the ears, the rabbit may be suffering from ear mites and a trip to the vet is called for.

Rabbits can also suffer from Ecuniculi, caused by a protozoan found in the dirt. Ecuniculi symptoms include head tilt and paralyzed back leg. These symptoms can also be caused by other disease agents. There are many treatments available for Ecuniculi and bacterial infection. A qualified veterinarian care will assist you to prevent and treat life threatening disease.
Rabbit Anatomy
A rabbit’s teeth never stop growing and so rabbits need to chew! To prevent your baseboards and furniture from becoming the victims of this urge, provide your rabbit with apple tree twigs, allowed to dry for three months or pine cones. Check your rabbit’s teeth monthly to make sure they have not developed a malloclusion, a condition where the top and bottom teeth do not line up properly and do not wear down properly. This makes it very hard for rabbits to eat and the growing teeth may cause infection in the mouth.

Watching rabbit droppings and urine is an important part of staying clued in to rabbit’s health. Changes in droppings, such as smaller size or diarrhea are the first signs of serious illness. Rabbits with kidney problems or stones may start releasing chalky colored urine which is thick and sludgy. Red urine is normally caused by blood in urine or eating carrots or evergreens. If droppings or urine change, quickly consult a vet. Your quick response may save your rabbits life!
Veterinarians, Good and Bad
It is recommended that rabbits, just like people, cats and dogs receive annual check ups to insure their continued good health. For older buns, this becomes imperative.

Many vets claim to treat rabbits but are not qualified. Experienced rabbit vets are aware of new treatment protocols and procedures that may save your rabbit's life. Inexperienced vets who see few rabbits in their practice may not have this advantage. Please check with local rescue people to find a great vet in your area. If you are located in our area, San Luis Obispo County, CA, please see Contact Us for local Vet info.
Rabbits must be kept cool when temperature is over 80 degrees. To begin with, they should be in the shade. A plastic bottle filled with ice and wet burlap placed over their enclosure will help them stay cool.
Plants That Can Kill!
The following is a list of plants that can kill!
Agave (leaves)
Amaryllis (bulbs)
Apple (seeds)
Bird of Paradise (seeds)
Buttercup (leaves)
Black Locust (seeds)
Boxwood (leaves/twigs)
Buckeye (seeds)
Buckthorn (berries)
Calla (rhizome)
Castor Bean (seed)
Christmas Rose
Cone Flower
Crown of Thorns
Dumbcane (Dieffenbachia)
Eggplant (plant)
Elderberry (unripe berries)
Elephant Ear
Flowering Tobacco
Holly (berries)
Horsechestnut (nuts)
Ivy, Boston & English (berries)
Jerusalem Cherry
Jimson Weed
Mistletoe (berries)
Morning Glory (seeds)
Mustard (root)
Poison Hemlock
Poison Ivy
Privet (berries)
Rhubarb (leaf blade)
Rosary Pea (seed)
Sweet Pea (seeds)
Sweet Potato
Skunk Cabbage
Tomato (leaves)
Virginia Creeper (berries)
Water Hemlock
Wisteria (seeds/pods)
Yew (berries)

Compiled by the University of IL College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Copyright 1995 by the Board of Trustees of the University of IL
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To Keep Rabbits Healthy & Happy!

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