A sick rabbit usually shows very late that something “is wrong with him”. In order for you to recognize an illness in good time, you should carry out regular health checks.
Rabbit health should be checked daily. This is important as it is the quickest and best way to spot changes. This may sound time-consuming at first, but it is not. Because the health check mainly looks at the behavior and body parts of the rabbits that are noticeable when petting anyway or are easy to see and can be checked quickly.
Behavior as the first sign of illness in rabbits
A first indication of the general condition of your rabbits is their behavior. Healthy, happy rabbits are lively and interested in their surroundings. When they are fed, they immediately come running and eat their dry or fresh food. During the day the animals rest and sleep, but they are active in the morning and in the evening.
Your rabbits’ active phases are the best time to judge if they’re acting normally or if there are any signs of discomfort or pain. If the animals withdraw, lie apathetically in a corner, or show other behavioral problems, these are the first indications of an illness. If the animals eat less or nothing at all, this is an absolute alarm sign. If so, don’t hesitate and see a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Control of movement sequences for the health of rabbits
It is important that you keep a close eye on your rabbits every day so that you can spot the first signs of illness early on. In addition to the general behavior towards conspecifics and humans, you should pay attention to the movements of your rabbits. To do this, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are the rabbits not putting their front or hind legs on properly, or are they limping? This can be a sign of pain.
- Do the animals tilt their heads or lose their sense of balance? This can be a sign of E. cuniculi infection.
Rabbit feces and urine as signs of disease
You should also check your feces and urine as part of your daily health check. Be alert to changes in size, shape, and color of rabbit droppings.
Greasy droppings and diarrhea are absolute alarm signs. If diarrhea lasts for several hours, you should take your rabbit to a veterinarian and have the stool examined. Even very small, solid balls of feces can be an indication of an illness. It is particularly problematic when the animals stop defecating and stop eating!
Eyes, teeth, and nose of healthy rabbits
The eyes, nose, and teeth should also be checked during the health check. If the eyes are sticky, red, or swollen, this can have various causes, which you must investigate together with your veterinarian. The same applies to a wet or sticky nose and repeated sneezing.
Dental problems are particularly common in rabbits. You can only pay attention to whether the incisors are straight and have a normal length.
Only your veterinarian can determine abnormalities in the molars, such as tooth tips. If the teeth are too long and cannot wear down evenly, injuries will occur in the mouth. Some rabbits stop eating completely at the very tip of their molars. For this reason, the teeth should be routinely examined by the veterinarian during the six-monthly vaccination against myxomatosis/RHD.
Coat and skin changes in rabbit health checks
The fur and skin of the rabbits also provide information about their health. Signs of illness can be:
- fur loss
- Matting and discoloration of the fur
- redness of the skin
- scales or crusts
- frequent scratching (itching) on certain parts of the body such as the ears
Causes for such changes can be an infestation with mites, biting lice, or fungi. When dealing with the long-eared bats on a daily basis, especially when stroking them, skin and fur changes are quickly noticed.
The fore and hind legs must also be checked. Pressure points and inflammation can form on the hind legs in particular. The causes are usually too hard a surface or poor hygiene in the enclosure. In addition, you should palpate your rabbits about once a week for thickenings such as abscesses and tumors.