English Lop Rabbit - breed information and advice

Known as the King of the Fancy, the English Lop Rabbit is one of the oldest domestic breeds. Due to their long, droopy ears, they’ve been popular in rabbit shows for centuries, despite the introduction of newer, smaller breeds.

Breed information

Essentials

Size: Large, weighing about 5kg (11lb).

Coat: Short, stiff fur (known as fly-back fur, as it snaps back into its original position when pushed against the grain) that requires minimal grooming. English Lops come in several colours, including fawn, white, black or gold, either as an all-over solid colour or with broken markings.

Temperament: Laid-back and inquisitive.

Special requirements: The size of English Lops’ ears can hinder their movement and leave them largely inactive, so they can be easy to overfeed. They need lots of exercise to stay healthy and, as a lot of heat is lost through their ears, they are vulnerable to the cold, which is why they are best suited to living indoors.

Lifespan: 5-7 years.

Otitis

The English Lop, like most lop-eared rabbits, can suffer from ear infections such as otitis, where the ear canal becomes inflamed and itchy. These breeds typically have an extra fold in the outer ear, which creates a build-up of wax and can lead to bacterial or yeast infections.

Symptoms include ear-scratching, swelling, weight loss, head tilt and, in extreme cases, seizures and paralysis. A CT scan may be required to check if the inner ear is affected. Treatment usually involves antibiotics but, in some cases, surgery may be necessary.

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Dental disease

Many rabbits suffer from dental problems. Because rabbits’ teeth are constantly growing, they need a good, balanced diet with plenty of hay to help wear down teeth at an even rate.

Some rabbits develop problems with overgrown teeth, which can change the alignment of the mouth and lead to infection and abscesses. Abscesses will need to be surgically removed by your vet, as they do not respond to antibiotic treatment and are too thick to lance, while overgrown teeth may need to be regularly filed.

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Parasites

Parasites are a common problem among all breeds of rabbit. Cheyletiella mites in particular can cause itching and hair loss, but can be easily treated with anti-mite preparations in the form of an injection or spot-on treatment.

The E cuniculi parasite, which affects many rabbits, including lop-eared breeds, can be more difficult to treat. It’s spread by spores in contaminated urine and can be passed on to other rabbits. Although some rabbits with the parasite are symptomless, others are more sensitive. Symptoms include excessive thirst and urination, cataracts, head tilt and paralysis in the back legs. Although the parasite can’t be removed entirely, symptoms can be managed with worming treatments.

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Spinal injury

English Lops, like all rabbits, have extremely delicate spines. A frightened or startled rabbit may suddenly kick out with its hind legs, which can cause spinal damage from the force of the movement. Injuries can also occur if a rabbit is incorrectly handled or even dropped. Symptoms include paralysis of the hind legs, incontinence and lethargy.

Treatment depends on the severity of the fracture and the general wellbeing of the rabbit. If the injury has resulted in total paralysis of the hind legs and bladder incontinence, a vet may advise that putting the rabbit to sleep is the kindest option. Although spinal trauma cannot be cured, there are some procedures that can help correct an injury, as well as anti-inflammatory medication to address pain. Usually though, rabbits who have suffered a severe spinal fracture do not feel any pain at all.

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Bladder problems

Most animals only take in the calcium they need from their food and expel it through their guts, whereas rabbits absorb all the calcium they eat and expel it through their bladders. This can sometimes result in an excessive build-up of calcium, known as bladder sludge. Some rabbits, including English Lops, may develop bladder stones.

Symptoms include squealing or squeaking when passing urine, the presence of blood in the urine, or urine scald – where urine has been in contact with the rabbit’s skin for prolonged periods of time, causing a rash.

Luckily, these conditions are relatively straightforward to treat if caught early. Bladder stones can be surgically removed, while sludge can be treated with fluids to help flush out the bladder. If the rabbit also has cystitis (a bladder infection), a course of antibiotics will help to clear it up. Dietary changes, such as feeding good-quality pellets that ensure your rabbit gets just the right amount of calcium, can help prevent problems from occurring.

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