FAQ: Common Health Concerns in Raising Rabbits
This FAQ is full of common questions
about rabbit health concerns that you may have
if you raise rabbits. You'll find suggestions on
how to identify the problem, treat it, and prevent
it from happening again in the future. Please do
remember that the answers given in this FAQ are
the opinions of Cooley's Critters Rabbitry and
friends of the Cooley family who also raise rabbits.
Rabbit Web recommends that you take your animals
to a vet for diagnosis and treatment for health-related
My rabbit has diarrhea. What should
There are many reasons for diarrhea, but most cases are treated
in the same manner. Make sure that your bunny
stays hydrated as best as possible, because rabbits that have diarrhea dehydrate
quickly. If the diarrhea doesn't stop, the bunny can die within
a short amount of time.
We like to keep Gatorade and/or Pedialite
on hand for those times when a rabbit does get diarrhea.
The electrolytes in both drink products can really
help. We also take away the pellet-type feed and
give the rabbit nothing but hay. Grass hay seems
to be the best. When the diarrhea has stopped, gradually
start the bunny back on regular feed. You'll also
want to see what could have caused the diarrhea and
eliminate the cause. Diarrhea is mainly caused by
stress. Rabbits are animals that are easily stressed
when they encounter strange smells, animals, predators,
people, etc., in their environment. Try to eliminate
the stress factors from your rabbitry.
Mucoid Enteropathy (ME) seems to be
one of the more common and most deadly type of diarrhea
in rabbits that are under eight weeks of age. ME
is usually fatal, and the rabbits that do survive
it tend not to be as healthy as others. It seems
to me that when we have a rabbit that survives ME,
the rabbit seems to become distressed over little
things. I usually don't go overboard in trying to
save one of these babies.
Is it okay that my rabbit is eating
some of his or her droppings that look like little
clusters of grapes?
Yes. This is called coprophagy (the eating of night droppings).
This is perfectly normal, and the rabbit, without you knowing it,
will eat most of this type of droppings. These night droppings
help restore the good bacteria and some of the essential nutrients
in the rabbit's system. Most of the time, the rabbit will eat this
type of dropping directly from the rectum. Please don't try to
stop your rabbit from doing this, as it is normal and important
to the rabbit's proper nutrient balance.
What can I do about sore hocks?
Make sure that the hocks stay clean. You might want
to treat the hocks by putting Preparation H on
them, if the sore hocks are not too advanced. You
can also put a a piece of drywall as a sitting
board in the cage. Just peel off the protective
covering so that the chalky surface is exposed.
The chalk tends to draw out any pus or infection
that might be present in the rabbit's hocks. If
the hocks have open sores or abscesses, you'll
need to be more aggressive in your treatment. Make
sure that you drain any and all pus from the hock
and then flush the wound with betadine or iodine.
You may need help from another person to do this.
Then use an antibiotic creme or my personal preference,
Florazoladine spray (which is great for killing
all three forms of staph germs). Loosely cover
the hock with a wrap, such as self-sticking horse
wrap. (You can find this in any ranch and home
type store or in your local Wal-Mart in the pet
section.) Clean the infected hocks daily until
the sores are closed and the fur starts to grow
What can I do to prevent sore hocks?
Provide a sitting board for your rabbit and make sure that it always
stays clean. A lot of new kinds of sitting boards are on the
market that are great. Bass Equipment and Extrona make some
very nice ones. They're not very costly, especially in comparison
to the price of treating badly infected sore hocks.
Always keep your rabbit's toenails
cut short. Nails that are too long can cause the
rabbit's feet to tilt, resulting in too much pressure
on the heel. This in turn can cause pressure-point
tenderness, leading to tissue breakdown. Check the
floor of your rabbit's cage. Make sure that there
are no rough spots or wetness and that the floor
is sturdy. If the floor bows too much, it can cause
the same type of situation as toenails that are too
long. The rabbit's feet might tilt, which can create
pressure-point tenderness. Make sure to replace the
floor if it gets bad. It's easier to replace the
floor than it is to treat sore hocks, in my opinion.
My rabbit has some fur loss on the
back side of the ears, on the neck and shoulder
area, and at the base of the tail. The rabbit also
appears to have dandruff. What can it be? And how
do I treat it?
Your rabbit probably has fur mites, and treating the condition
is relatively simple. I've used Listerine mouthwash with great
success. Just soak a cotton ball in the Listerine and dab the infected
area every day until the you see the fur has started to grow back.
You can also use a cat flea and tick powder or spray. Be careful
when using these products so you don't get any in the rabbit's
The other thing you can use is Ivermectin.
Give the rabbit a shot in the scruff of the neck.
Please check out the Rabbit Dosage Calculator for the amount
of Ivermectin to use, based on the size of your rabbit.
Repeat this treatment in about 14-18 days to ensure
that you've killed all the mites and their eggs.
My rabbit is scratching at its ears,
which has some brownish-looking crust in the interior.
What's the problem and how do I treat it?
Sounds like your rabbit may have ear mites. I found that using
mineral oil or baby oil tends to drown the little things quite
nicely if the rabbit isn't too badly infected. Take an eye dropper
and squirt the mineral or baby oil into the ear. Your rabbit won't
really like this, and he or she will shake his or her head trying
to get the oil out. The oil will also loosen up some of the crusty
stuff for easier removal with a cotton ball or Q-Tip. I normally
follow up with another treatment in 10-14 days. You can also give
your rabbit a shot of Ivermectin for this problem. Follow the directions
above for fur mites.
My rabbit has a lump. What should
The lump is probably an abscess. Unless you're experienced with
dealing with abscesses, I suggest that you take your bunny to a
vet. This way you can make sure that the abscess is taken care