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Vet Talks: How To Care For Rabbits

Posted 2020-11-13

Photo of Dr. Aline Dias holding a dog, Chaya

Rabbits are becoming a very popular pet and rabbit owners are demanding quality veterinary care more than ever. Rabbits are very social and curious animals, who thrive on attention and social interaction and can be great companions. Taking proper care of them, however, can demand some extra effort and patience. Rabbits, like all animals, have specific needs when it comes to their food, handling, housing, environment, and playtime. Since this can be a complex subject, I have separated some important tips on taking care of your rabbits into the following categories: food, housing, social life, handling, and extra tips.

Food

Rabbits are herbivores and grazers and their main diet source should be a constant supply of grass or grass hay to chew. Chewing hay continuously throughout the day helps keep their teeth worn to a proper length, can prevent dental disease and promotes digestive tract health. The consumption of hay also encourages foraging and grazing. Grass hay and fresh grass should comprise about 80% of their overall diet.  You can also offer dark-green leafy vegetables to your rabbit. Leaves like kale, mustard greens, parsley, cilantro and basil are excellent for them. Darker lettuce varieties like romaine lettuce are okay to be given as well. Darker-green leaves should comprise about 10-20% of their overall diet.

rabbit eating vegetables - how to care for rabbits

Pellets should be plain only and given a maximum of 1 tablespoon/kg with a minimum crude fibre of 18% in its composition. Pellets should not count for more than 5% of their overall diet and they should be formulated for domestic rabbits and not for commercial rabbits with farming purposes.

What many pet owners do not know is that carrots can be given as TREATS ONLY. Carrots – and fruit in general like apples- are high in sugar and should only be fed in small amounts and as occasional treats. Treats made of herbs such as cilantro, parsley, arugula and basil are better options.

Remember that you should always offer clean and fresh water as well and change it at least once a day. For more information about what to feed your rabbit, click here.

Housing

Indoor housing is essential for a bunny’s healthy life. Domestic rabbits are very sensitive to stressful situations like the approach of a threat or a predator. In fact, stress, especially the stress related to predation, crowding, heat, and inappropriate caging, may affect the behavior of a rabbit.

rabbit in enclosure - how to care for rabbits

Apart from that, an indoor bunny will be safe from fleas, ticks, Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD), and many other viruses and parasites, in general, that can lead to fatal diseases. To read more about diseases in rabbits, click here.


Regular dog/cat cages can be used as a temporary enclosure for your rabbit if the spacing between the cage wires is small enough to prevent your rabbit’s head or limbs from getting stuck. Avoid wire flooring because they can cause locomotor problems overtime. In case you have one, make sure to cover it properly, but be careful.


A hutch is recommended for temporary use only and so they can have a safe place to sleep. The hutch should be predator-proof, located somewhere that is rain and heat-proof, and should have netting to keep out flies and mosquitos. Ideally, your bunny should have plenty of space to exercise, run, jump, and express their normal behaviors, like digging freely and safely out of the hutch. They need this so they can keep mentally and physically stimulated. They should also be able to sit and stand upright and spend some time enjoying sunlight safely. You can find more resourceful information in sources like the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund website.

Social Life

Rabbits are naturally a social species and should not be kept alone, or without at least one other rabbit with whom they can have a healthy coexistence. It’s extremely important to have rabbits spayed/neutered before adoption, if possible. This preventive measure avoids accidental litters, uterine cancer, spraying and other hormone driven behaviors in both females and males.

three rabbits in doorway - how to care for rabbits

Handling

Many rabbits show fear behaviors when lifted off the ground. Research has shown that around 60% of pet rabbits struggle when lifted and fear-related aggression is very common in those cases. The more predictable their environment and the more securely they are handled, the more relaxed and sociable they become. Many rabbits that are given away to shelters have been traumatized in their previous environments. In many of those cases, they may have learned to survive by nipping or boxing, however the good news is that these behaviors can usually be eliminated by correct handling and social interaction. Talk to a professional behaviorist in case you need help with socializing your pet rabbit.

girl holding rabbit - how to care for rabbits

More Useful Tips

  • Keep rabbits away from extreme heat and other animals like dogs or cats.
  • Remember to keep any dangerous cleaning products out of reach, and protect your rabbits from potentially chewing power cords.
  • Avoid pine and cedar chips as bedding or litter material since they can irritate the respiratory tract, which can be very sensitive in rabbits.
  • Make sure to spend a fair amount of time with your rabbits every day, groom them and play. Do not forget that they need affection and social interaction daily.
  • Don’t forget to enrich their environments with elements that can provide mental stimulation and exercise. Simple plain cardboard boxes for chewing and even non-toxic wooden can also be used as “toys” for rabbits.
  • Seek veterinary help in case your rabbits show any changes in their natural behavior

NHV supplements can help your furry bunny live a healthy happy life.

Besides a balanced diet and a safe and healthy environment, we would recommend:

NHV Multi Essentials – Multi Essentials helps to fill dietary gaps, supporting your rabbit’s digestion and provides support with promoting strong muscle and bone growth. It’s high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to ensure your bunny of any age is getting energy, vitality, and health for a happy life.

NHV Stimmune – Rabbits can easily succumb to viral and bacterial infections like the Rabbit Viral Hemorrhagic Disease and Snuffles, respectively. Stimmune is an herbal formula that helps support the immune system. It is beneficial for autoimmune conditions, dermatitis (skin allergies), recurrent infections, food allergies, and to help strengthen the body against infection.

NHV Turmeric – The active compound in turmeric is curcumin. Studies have shown Turmeric to have excellent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, anticoagulant, antiseptic, astringent properties. They have also shown that Turmeric helps with liver function, bile production, and wound healing. The healing properties of curcumin may also be beneficial for rabbits with autoimmune diseases, liver disorders, heart conditions, arthritis, and rabbits who need extra circulatory support. NHV Turmeric is also beneficial for arthritic conditions in rabbits due to the anti-inflammatory properties and its COX2 inhibitor. The use of turmeric extracts in a rabbit’s daily diet may help scavenge free radicals, increase antioxidant enzymes, and inhibit lipid peroxidation.

NHV Matricalm – This supplement helps reduce stress and anxiety in rabbits. Stress can worsen some preexisting health conditions and Matricalm may help rabbits feel better while also providing a calming effect. While many rabbits respond best to vet-prescribed medications, others respond very well to the components of Matricalm alone or associated with the vet prescribed treatments.

In case you have any questions on how our supplements can help your little furry bunny, please do reach out to us via phone, live chat, email or social media. Our Pet Experts will be more than happy to assist you naturally!

To view all our supplements for rabbits, click here.

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