What is Rabbit Awareness Week?
Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) is a very important week for rabbits. The UK is a nation of self-confessed pet lovers, and awareness of rabbit welfare should be of great importance for rabbit owners, both current and future owners.
During rabbit awareness week, many veterinary practices including ourselves are offering free health clinics for local rabbits. This is the perfect opportunity for a rabbit which has never been to the vets before to get them health checked by an expert.
Many retailers, rescue centres and veterinary centres will be running fun and educational events to spread the word. Ensuring our little pet rabbit friends are kept happy and healthy.
This year we are raising awareness of Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RVHD2). RVHD2 is a new variant of RVHD1 and is often fatal.
Lots of rabbits in the UK are not vaccinated against this deadly disease and are at risk. Therefore all rabbit owners should make sure that their rabbits are vaccinated against this and as well as other fatal diseases.
Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RVHD2) is a new strain of the virus RVHD1. Cases were first reported in the UK in 2015. As with RVHD1, the virus causes internal bleeding.
Symptoms – often there are none noted before a rabbit if found to have died, meaning that it is very hard to spot early on. When symptoms do occur they can be easily confused with other health conditions: fever, lethargy, neurological signs (coma) and blood clotting problems.
The virus can be caught through:
- Bird and insect droppings
- Soles of shoes, pets feet
- An infected rabbit
- Owners hands or clothes
Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment available, just supportive care. In some cases rabbits have recovered from this disease, but in most cases it is fatal.
You can have your rabbits vaccinated against RVHD2. It is a separate vaccination to the combined Myxomatosis-RVHD1 vaccine.
A rabbit’s skin is similar to that of a dog or cat, however, it is thicker as is their fur. Rabbits don’t have sweat glands, only on the edge of their lips meaning they don’t suffer from as much heat stress. They do however have glands under their chin; these are used to mark their territory and female rabbits use these to help identify their offspring. Furthermore, rabbits rely on their strong sense of smell to communicate with each other.
Although rabbits don’t have foot pads like cats or dogs, their thick fur helps to give them protection whilst running. A rabbit’s ears represent a large part of their total body surface, approximately 12 %. Their ears are very sensitive and fragile so care should be taken with your pets around this area. In addition, rabbits have a large number of arteries and veins in their ears.
The Digestive System
Did you know rabbits have an efficient digestive system, ensuring that they spend less time above ground to stay away from predators?
The digestive tract in a rabbit is adapted to digest quite a large amount of fibre. Just like horses, rabbits rely on fermentation of fibrous food to convert it into useful nutrients. Their system is unique in the fact that it re-digests this food, a process which is called “caecotrophy”.
A rabbit’s teeth continuously grow, therefore they need to eat grass or hay regularly to wear them down. The food it eats is sterilised in its stomach and the bacteria killed before it goes into the small intestine and then reaches the colon. The food gets passed in different directions, at the same time passing out waste as normal hard pellets.
- Life span around 8 – 12 years approximately
- Puberty 3+ months in smaller breeds, larger breeds around 5 – 8 months
- Litter size is generally 5 – 8 kittens
- Eyes open at 7 – 10 days
- Weaning is 4 – 6 weeks
Book an appointment with for a health check for your rabbit or find out more information
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