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 problems.
My rabbit has diarrhea. What should I do?
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 back.
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 face.
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 I do?
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 of properly.