Rabbits can have several different health issues. Here are common illnesses that we’ve also experienced first-hand. If you do encounter similar issues with your rabbit, please consult a rabbit-savvy veterinarian first before taking any action.
MITES: If you notice hair loss accompanied by skin flaking, your rabbit may have mites. Mites may be found in one ear or both, which could spread to the back of the head and feet. This will cause intense itching and your rabbit will resort to shaking and scratching its ears. If left untreated, the skin will start to crust. Lesions may start to appear and become infected which is painful. If the inner ear becomes infected, it might also lead to hearing loss.
Once you notice any signs of mites, take your rabbit to the vet immediately to prevent it from progressing. First aid for mites would be to gently apply coconut oil to the affected are. Simultaneously, you will have to apply a solution of bleach and water to everything that came in contact with your rabbit – the floor, cage or pen, toys, food dish, litter box, etc. Applying bleach and letting it stand for at least 5 minutes will kill the mites. Please make sure to rinse off all traces of bleach before returning them to your rabbit.
RINGWORM (FUNGAL INFECTION): Rabbits can get infected with ringworm from contact. Signs to look out for are crusting on the rabbit’s skin and the fur falling off with it. This is usually very itchy and occurs on the feet, ears, nose, head, and around the eyes. To treat this, your vet will most likely instruct you to apply an antibacterial and antifungal shampoo that is safe for rabbits until the infection completely goes away. Be careful when handling a rabbit with ringworm since it can spread to humans and other animals too.
To completely stop the infection from recurring and spreading, you must also apply bleach to everything that came in contact with your rabbit – the floor, the cage, toys, food dish, litter box, etc. Soak the items and let them stand for at least 5 minutes to get rid of any fungus, then make sure to rinse off all traces of bleach before using the items again.
GASTROINTESTINAL STASIS: Gastrointestinal Stasis (G.I. Stasis) is a common but very serious and life threatening condition wherein the rabbit’s digestive system slows down or stops. Rabbits experiencing G.I. Stasis look more or less normal, therefore making it hard to notice right away. If you notice your rabbit suddenly not eating and pooping for a period of time, please take immediate action. Your rabbit might have a case of G.I. Stasis caused by stress, dehydration, gas, intestinal blockage, or insufficient dietary fiber. If left untreated, your rabbit’s digestive system will shut down and may lead to death in a short period of time. Also, if you touch your rabbit’s stomach and feel it to be quite swollen and you hear it gurgling, chances are there is already an overgrowth of gas, which is painful for your rabbit.
As a first aid, our vet recommended to syringe feed around 1ml of pure pineapple juice and lots of water. If you also have access to Bene-Bac, this is the time to give it to your rabbit to aid the resoration of his digestive system. Try to offer your rabbit’s favorite vegetables, fruits or treats to prevent his digestive system from shutting down. Constantly check on your rabbit and keep offering fresh vegetables and water.
If your rabbit does not eat anything after 12 hours, this is the time to syringe feed him with recovery formula like Oxbow Critical Care or MOMI Complete Care. Be sure to only give little doses every 1 to 2 hours. Do not overdo it as it may cause pain if you feed too much.
To help pass the gas, gently massage the tummy area to help push the gas out. You can also give your rabbit a dose of Simeticone for human babies, which helps break down the gas bubbles in the tummy. It’s completely safe for rabbits and most owners use it as a first aid for their rabbit’s painful gas.
If no progress has been made within the day, please bring your rabbit to a rabbit-savvy vet immediately. Please be patient as it could take hours before your rabbit starts eating again. Just follow the doctor’s orders until he starts eating again.
To prevent G.I. Stasis, hay and water must always be available to provide enough fiber and hydration to your rabbit. Being stressed can also lead to G.I. Stasis, so keep your rabbit happy and stress-free as possible.
DIARRHEA: If your rabbit is having wet or watery droppings, then that is a clear indication that something is wrong. Immediately stop feeding him anything other than hay. Offer lots of water to prevent dehydration. You may also offer water mixed with Dextrose Powder if you observe signs of dehydration.
If there is no improvement in 24 hours, please bring immediately to a rabbit-savvy vet. They may need to conduct fecalysis to see if the cause of diarrhea is bacterial or parasitic, which may need other medications.
Rabbit Poop & Cecotropes
A rabbit's poop can tell a lot about its overall health. Rabbits produce two types of droppings – fecal pellets and cecotropes. The round, dry poop that you would see lying around in their litter pans are the former, while the latter is an important factor to a rabbit’s health.
Fecal droppings can tell a lot about a rabbit’s overall health. Pellets that are brown, not moist but not too dry, spherical and large are signs of a good diet. Meanwhile small pellets that are dark and small indicate a lack of hay or fiber, and droppings that are soft are signs of a diet that's too rich. Another thing to look out for are runny stools (diarrhea) that could indicate parasites and other digestive problems. One last thing to look out for are poop that are stringy with hair binding them together. This is an indication that your rabbit is ingesting too much fur and needs to take more water and hay. Also, more fur brushing is needed.
Cecotropes, on the other hand, look like small, shiny grapes, which have a very noticable strong smell. As these cecotropes exit their system, the rabbit eats these nutritious grape-like droppings, which provide essential bacteria and nutrients. Rabbits who do not eat their cecotropes are prone to malnutrition. The most common cause of rabbits not eating their cecotropes is a diet too rich in sweets or fats, so giving your rabbit a healthier diet is a must.
An unspayed adult rabbit has higher chances of getting cancer than an altered one, especially in females, which is something we found out the hard way. If you notice any bumps or lumps in your rabbit, be sure to bring her to the vet as early as possible. Like in humans and any other pets, cancer is a serious illness that must be addressed right away.