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Why Should I Quarantine?

Please remember that the information given in this article reflect 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.

The first year we got started in rabbits, we lost all but a few of our herd–the only rabbits that survived were the ones that didn’t go to a particular show and that were in a different barn.

I had no idea what was going on, but I knew that it couldn’t be good when I heard one of the rabbits sneeze and then the next day a couple more and then a few more. The sneezing spread to all our rabbits in our outside rabbitry. I called a friend who was a breeder, and he checked out the situation. He saw that our rabbits had snuffles, and he put them all down. I tried to explain to the kids what was happening and why. I also explained to them the importance of quarantining all new animals and to check out everything very carefully. It was a hard lesson for my children and myself.

The problem was that I had introduced a new rabbit into our outside rabbitry without quarantining the newcomer. We had won him in a raffle at the show and were anxious to add him to our herd. The breeder that put the rabbit on the raffle table knew that the rabbit was sick, because she had treated the rabbit’s clinical signs. I had almost bought the same rabbit at a show the weekend before, but he had been sneezing. The breeder said that the rabbit had dust in his nose and that she would treat him. When my daughter saw the rabbit on the raffle table the following week, she got tickets for the drawing and won him. I should have been wary, but I was a new breeder.

That experience is why I now believe with all my heart that you need to take the following precautions, so that what happened to us doesn’t happen to you.

1. Know who you are buying from. If you don’t, see if any of the people you do know has ever bought an animal from the seller.

2. Never, never pawn off a sick animal on someone else for any reason. It isn’t fair to the person getting the sickie nor to the rest of the new owner’s herd. It’s better to put down a sick animal than to knowingly send a sick one out the door.

3. Let your children know of the potential mishaps that can happen while raising rabbits and what the outcome would be . This way, you can talk to them more easily when problems do arise. You can start off the conversation like this, “Do you remember when we talked about snuffles? And I said that it was incurable, and that if our one of our rabbits got it….” I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.

I hope that this helps in some way, although I know it’s not an easy conversation to have with a person who does indeed care for animals. Things have gotten easier for me, but I still get upset when I have to put down an animal for some stupid reason.

4. Always quarantine new animals. Here is my reasoning:

  • In my opinion, you should quarantine an animal for no less than three weeks. If a breeder treats their sick rabbits and then palms them off on you, the animals might not show clinical signs again for two weeks and often not for a couple of days after that.
  • Put the new animals in a totally separate area–or at least have some kind of solid divider between your animals and the new ones.
  • Any equipment in your quarantine area should stay there and be cleaned routinely. Rabbits in quarantine will require their nails to be clipped. Sometimes they need grooming, depending on the breed, and medical treatment. If you can, have two first-aid kits set up, two pairs of nail clippers, etc. This will eliminate possible transfer of infection in case something is wrong with one of the quarantined animals.
  • You must devise a plan that will keep you from inadvertantly breaking quarantine. We sometimes don’t think before we touch a rabbit with fur mites or ear mites and then touch another bunny. BINGO, we have now spread something contagious in our own rabbitry without even thinking about it. What we do need to do is have a little more practical isolation situation in place with sanitation and disinfection procedures worked out. For instance, you should feed the original animals first and then feed the ones that are in quarantine. Make sure that when you are done caring for the quarantined animals, you do not go back into your non-quarantined barn for any reason unless you change your shoes, clothes, and wash your hands with a disinfectant. I’ve found that placing a rabbit on a plastic or rubber place mat to examine him or her works great for maintaining quarantine. I can wipe the place mat down with a bleached wet wipe quickly between each animal. It took some training on my part to be consistent about doing this, though. I also use hand sanitizer in between each animal that I examine. This can be bought for as little as 50 cents at any local store.

It’s hard to quarantine animals that you’re showing weekend after weekend without taking some risks. If we show quarantined rabbits, we normally try to take only the ones that we took the week before, and then their quarantine starts all over again. We don’t keep them in a new animal quarantine area, though–we have totally two separate areas for quarantined animals. In my opinion, the chances of your herd picking up an infectious illness from a rabbit that’s been to a show is much less than your herd picking one up from a new rabbit that you don’t know much about. Most of the time, you are probably more attentive about new or sick-looking animals that are near yours at a show.

The way you quarantine your animals will have to be something that you feel comfortable with and that works for you and your family. If by some chance you do end up with a rabbit that is very sick, then be responsible and put the rabbit down. It’s not a fun nor easy task, but it’s something we all one day will have to do.

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