From chocolate to grass cuttings, what are the main dangers that rabbit owners need to watch out for at this time of year?
From the Mad March Hare to the Easter Bunny, our long-eared friends are synonymous with springtime. This season typically brings warmer weather for them to enjoy and tasty green shoots to eat, but it also presents some potential hazards for rabbits.
Find out about five of the biggest risks to your rabbits in spring and how to keep your pets safe and healthy as the days grow longer.
1. Fly strike
Flies can cause serious harm to rabbits in the form of fly strike. Also known as myiasis, fly strike happens when certain types of fly – such as bluebottles and greenbottles – lay their eggs in a rabbit’s fur. They’re particularly drawn to wet or soiled fur around a rabbit’s rear end, and to wounds. Maggots hatching out of the eggs burrow into the rabbit’s skin, eating the flesh and releasing toxins. Affected animals can go into shock and may die.
Check your rabbits for signs of fly strike at least daily, and more often in warm weather. Help prevent fly strike in rabbits by cleaning their hutch frequently, removing soiled bedding each day, using a preventive spray or powder, and feeding your rabbit a healthy, balanced diet.
If you spot maggots on your rabbit, or any other symptoms of fly strike, get them to the vet as fast as possible. Quick action could save your bunny’s life.
Think of spring and you might picture bunnies happily bouncing among bright daffodils. Unfortunately, spring flowers and rabbits aren’t generally a good mix. All bulb-grown plants are toxic to rabbits, so keep your bunnies away from your bluebells, crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, irises, lilies, snowdrops and tulips. Other spring flowers poisonous to rabbits include azaleas, buttercups, delphiniums, poppies, primroses, rhododendrons and especially foxgloves.
Rabbits have sensitive stomachs and can’t vomit, so they are particularly susceptible to poisoning. Symptoms range from loss of appetite and abdominal tenderness to diarrhoea, breathing difficulties, bleeding and seizures. If you notice any of these symptoms, or suspect your pet has eaten a poisonous plant, take them to the vet straight away.
3. Grass clippings
As the sunshine returns, so does the need to mow the lawn. Although rabbits love to eat grass and hay, grass cuttings from the mower or compost heap are a no-no. The heat from a lawnmower quickly causes the grass to start fermenting – a process that can continue in the gut, giving your bunny an upset tummy.
Fresh grass is rich in rabbit-friendly nutrients, vitamins and fibre, so if you find some juicy long blades, pick them by hand or cut them with scissors to give to your pets instead.
4. Garden chemicals
At this time of year, our thoughts turn to getting our gardens looking good. When you embark on your spring cleaning and planting, don’t forget about your rabbits, however. Many garden chemicals are poisonous to rabbits.
Common garden products that could harm your rabbits include weed killers, fertilisers, fungicides, insecticides, slug pellets and rodent bait. If you suspect your pet has come into contact with any of these, wash the chemical off their skin immediately, keep them away from other animals, and get them to a vet as soon as possible. Take the packet or bottle with you to help the vet decide the right treatment.
Cleaning products for decking and patios can also irritate your pets’ skin or poison them if ingested. If your rabbits roam freely in your garden, use chemical-free cleaning methods (such as a pressure washer) instead.
Like to grow your own? You might be surprised to learn that several popular fruit and veg plants are toxic to rabbits. So be sure to plant your aubergines, garlic, onions, potatoes, rhubarb and tomatoes where your rabbits can’t nibble their leaves.
During springtime our homes are often chock-full of chocolate in the form of Easter eggs and foil-wrapped bunnies. They’re tasty treats for us, but chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, chemicals dangerous to rabbits. Eating chocolate could cause a bunny to suffer heart arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, respiratory failure or seizures.
Never leave chocolate where house rabbits could sample it, and make sure children understand that chocolate isn’t a suitable treat for any pet. If your rabbits eat chocolate, take them to the vet, even if they seem fine, as symptoms of chocolate poisoning can take several hours to appear.
Springtime is the perfect time for a cute photo session with your bunnies, but don’t leave them alone with Easter eggs or spring flowers. Despite what you may see on greetings cards and in ads, rabbits are not safe around these traditional symbols of springtime.
Download our useful infographic for a handy reminder on keeping your rabbits safe during springtime – and don’t forget to share it with friends and family members who also keep bunnies as pets.