We use cookies to help us improve website user experience. By continuing to use this site or closing this panel, you agree to our use of cookies. See our cookie policy Close

cat Health conditions

The Top 5 Most Common Health Problems in Rabbits

At Petplan we pay out over £4 million in claims every week. With over 90% of claims being for illness and many claims requiring ongoing treatment – it’s important to consider Petplan's Covered For Life® policies.

Check out the top 5 most common health problems affecting rabbits, how to spot the signs and top tips for rabbit owners below...

1

Gut Stasis

View info
2

Eye Disorders

View Info
3

Lumps & Bumps

View Info
4

Respiratory Disease

View Info
5

Ear Disease

View Info
Gut Stasis in rabbits

Fact

Petplan paid out over £335,000 in claims for gut stasis in 2016

What is it?

Gut stasis, also known as ileus, is a potentially life threatening condition when the normal, regular, wave like contractions of the intestines either slow down or stop all together. Bacterial build up within the gastrointestinal tracts results in distension and pain. Stasis occurs for various reasons, the most common of which is a period of inappetance, especially due to pain associated with dental disease.

What are the symptoms and how is it treated?

The initial signs can be quite subtle with your bunny maybe sitting quietly, being hunched up or accepting being handled when they are usually quite feisty. Conversely, if your bunny has pain within their belly they may resent being picked up, grunt or grind their teeth. Other symptoms include a larger belly than normal (bloating), reduced or absent appetite and thirst, passing stools which vary from being small, to loose and malformed and in severe cases no stools at all. If your bunny shows any of these signs it is an emergency and you must contact your veterinary surgeon immediately.

Depending on the severity your bunny may be hospitalised, given special medications to help the motility of their guts and pain relief. An x-ray may be taken to try and identify any presence of an obstruction and surgery may be required to remove the obstruction typically caused by impacted food, faecal material or even fur balls. Early treatment can result in the full recovery of your rabbit, however if an underlying cause is identified it is important that it is addressed otherwise there is a very high risk that your rabbit will develop gut stasis again.

Tips for owners:

  • Ensure your rabbit is receiving a high quality, hay based diet in order to provide them with the fibre they need for a healthy digestive system and also encourage the proper wear of their teeth, thus preventing painful spurs and overgrowths.
  • Take your rabbit for regular check-ups at the vets so that any underlying health problems, which they may have been hiding, can be identified and treated early.
  • Provide an enriched, stress free environment. Rabbits are sociable animals and like companionship, however the sudden introduction or loss of a partner can cause them great stress and upset. It is important that your bunny has sufficient space to run around without feeling threatened by their environment.
  • Consider taking out a Petplan Covered For Life® policy in case your rabbit develops a common condition such as gut stasis, so you can receive help covering the cost of any unexpected veterinary treatment they require.
Lumps and bumps in rabbits

Fact

Petplan paid out over £105,000 in claims for lumps & bumps in 2016

What is it?

Abscesses are the most common cause for lumps and bumps in rabbits. An abscess is a walled-off pocket of infection, which contains bacteria and develops in order to stop the bacteria spreading throughout the body. They are common in pet rabbits and can occur anywhere in the body, but most occur around the jaws due to dental disease.

What are the symptoms and how is it treated?

If an abnormal lump appears it may be an abscess. Abscesses feel quite firm. Your bunny may loose their appetite and may seem lethargic. If the rabbit has an abscess behind the eye, the eye will bulge and the rabbit will be in extreme pain. Swelling around the jaw area may indicate an abscess around the tooth. This is called a tooth root abscess. Abscesses in the mouth can lead to excess salivation and occasionally bad breath.

Treatment of abscesses in rabbits is notoriously difficult often because addressing the primary cause (such as dental disease) is difficult and often result in euthanasia. However, if treatment is attempted the bunny will need sedation or general anaesthesia so the abscess can be opened and drained. Long term antibiotic beads may be placed inside the wound. Pain relief and antibiotics are usually prescribed by your vet.

Tips for owners:

  • As is true to prevent most infections, high levels of hygiene should be maintained to prevent abscesses from forming. Your bunny should be kept in dry and well ventilated areas. Wounds should be cleaned as soon as they are seen and you should check your bunny daily for injuries.
  • To prevent dental abscesses – it’s important your bunny’s teeth are continually being worn down by munching on a fibrous diet. Rabbits should be allowed to free-graze grass and hay as well as being offered dark green leafy vegetables once or twice a day. Your bunny’s diet should be 85% hay & grass, 10% dark greens and only 5% of dried pellet food.
  • Consider taking out a Petplan Covered For Life® policy in case your rabbit develops a common condition such as an abscess, so you can receive help covering the cost of any unexpected veterinary treatment they require.
Eye disease in rabbits

Fact

Petplan paid out over £62,000 in claims for eye disease in 2016

What is it?

A healthy rabbit has bright, shiny, moist eyes that glimmer when they catch the light. There should be no discharge, no bulging around the eyeball and both pupils should be the same size.

Common causes include infections such as conjunctivitis, which affects the lining around the eye, and pasteurellosis, which affects the upper respiratory tract but can lead to eye infections. The pasteurella bacteria reside in the nose, lungs and eye membranes and can be present for many months without causing discomfort. But when a bunny is stressed or unwell, infection can set in – the first symptom is usually snuffles, but it can lead to a secondary eye infection similar to conjunctivitis.

Cataracts can also occur, caused by a parasite infection called E. cuniculi, and ulcers can happen when the eye is irritated – by a sharp piece of hay, for example. If you suspect that your rabbit has any of these conditions, contact your vet as soon as possible.

What are the symptoms and how is it treated?

The most common symptoms of eye problems include clear or milky discharge, swollen eyeballs, or sore skin where tears are constantly flowing down the cheeks. Eye problems, such as blocked tear ducts and abscesses behind the eyeballs, are very often associated with dental disease or tooth root problems and shouldn’t be ignored. Also look out for matted hair on the inside of the forepaws where your rabbit may be grooming the discharge from his eyes. If you notice any of these symptoms pay a visit to your vet straight away.

Tips for owners:

  • You can help prevent many eye problems with sensible bedding choices and regular cleaning of your rabbit’s living quarters. Avoid shavings because they’re too fine and can irritate the eyes, and make sure that your rabbit’s living and sleeping areas are always well ventilated.
  • To prevent tooth problems – diet is vital. Feed your rabbit a large amount of hay or grass each day (equal to about 85% of their diet) together greens (10%) with a small amount of good-quality pellets (5%).
  • Avoid overhead hay racks because bedding material can drop into a bunny’s eyes while feeding. Cleaning the hutch regularly to keep ammonia levels down can also help as ammonia is produced when your rabbit passes urine, and can easily irritate your bunny’s eyes.
  • Consider taking out a Petplan Covered For Life® policy in case your rabbit develops a common condition such as an eye condition, so you can receive help covering the cost of any unexpected veterinary treatment they require.
Respiratory disease in rabbits

Fact

Petplan paid out over £74,000 in claims for respiratory disease in 2016

What is it?

There are many causes of respiratory problems in rabbits and it’s commonly referred to as ‘snuffles’ which is characterized by runny eyes, runny nose, and sneezing. Many types of bacteria can cause a respiratory disease in your rabbit. The two most common respiratory infections include Bordetellosis and Pasteurellosis. Both infections have relatively similar symptoms and causes. The best way to determine which infection your rabbit has is to take your rabbit to a veterinarian as soon as symptoms arise.

What are the symptoms and how is it treated?

Symptoms include nasal discharge, excessive sneezing, matted fur on the inside of the front legs (from where your bunny has been cleaning away the nasal discharge), lethargy, reduced appetite, difficulty breathing, runny or matted eyes.

Rabbits diagnosed with Bordetella or Pasteurella infections require antibiotics. Your vet may do a culture and chest X-ray to determine the extent of the illness before deciding on a treatment plan. Affected rabbits should be kept in a comfortable housing unit that allows rest while healing. This means the cage should be clean, away from draughts and loud noises, and in an area where you can regularly monitor the rabbit’s progress. Rabbits that have an upper respiratory infection should be kept away from other rabbits as it is highly contagious.

Tips for owners:

  • Try to keep wild rabbits away from your bunny and isolate any new rabbits for at least two weeks before you introduce them to your existing pets.
  • Practice good hygiene and ensure that your bunny is not stressed by environmental factors such as poor ventilation, temperature extremes or overcrowding. Try to clean your rabbit's hutch or living space regularly as high levels of ammonia found in your bunny’s urine may exacerbate respiratory disease.
  • Consider taking out a Petplan Covered For Life® policy in case your rabbit develops a common condition such as respiratory disease, so you can receive help covering the cost of any unexpected veterinary treatment they require.
Ear disease in rabbits

Fact

Petplan paid out over £99,000 in claims for ear disease in 2016

What is it?

Otitis (inflammation of the ear canal) is commonly caused by a bacterial infection and can spread from the external ear cavity into the inner ear which may nausea and loss of appetite. It may also affect the rabbit's nose and the throat if the infection spreads.

The vestibular system (inner ear balance mechanism), the nerves in the ear area and the eyes may all be affected, particularly lop-eared rabbits who are more susceptible to inflammation of the outer ear.

What are the symptoms and how is it treated?

Whilst bacterial infection is the most common cause of otitis, foreign bodies, mites, trauma, or even a tumour are possible causes.

Symptoms vary depending on the location and severity of the cause and may range from mild discomfort to signs of nervous system involvement. Typical signs of inner ear infection include: sudden loss of balance, dizziness, head tilting to one side, loss of appetite, reluctance to move, pain – shaking the head, pawing at ears, holding the ear/s down and discharge from ears and eyes. Ear mites cause a distinct crust inside the ear canal.

Treatment depends on the cause and severity, but typically includes using a mild ear cleaner, antibiotics or a treatment to kill mites as directed by your vet.

Tips for owners:

  • If you’re rabbit is having balance issues (head tilt is a typical sign) try to handle your rabbit as little as possible.
  • If your rabbit is having trouble eating and/or drinking on their own, you may need to provide them with assisted feeding. Feeding supplements can purchased from your vet and be fed via syringe – ask your vet for advice.
  • Consider taking out a Petplan Covered For Life® policy in case your rabbit develops a common condition such as an ear condition, so you can receive help covering the cost of any unexpected veterinary treatment they require.