Your rabbit should be vaccinated routinely against Rabbit Haemorrhage Disease (RHD) and Myxomatosis. Both these viral diseases can be rapidly fatal in an unvaccinated rabbit and there are no cures once infected. The only protection you can give your rabbit is by vaccination. RHD is spread by direct contact between rabbits (both wild and domesticated) but also via indirect contact such as from people, clothing, on shoes, other objects, fleas and other parasites. Myxomatosis is spread mainly by fleas or other biting insects and is transmitted in this way from wild to pet rabbits but can sometimes also spread via direct contact with other infected individuals. A combined myxomatosis-rhd vaccination can be given from as early as 5 weeks of age. Boosters are given every 12 months and cover both diseases.
Regular Health Checks
The best way of avoiding many medical problems in your pet rabbit is to have regular veterinary health checks. Your vet will do a full medical examination and check the teeth (particularly the back teeth) for any evidence of malocclusion which could lead to spikes and tongue ulceration. Rabbits with identified existing tooth problems should be checked at least every 6 to 8 weeks. A thorough dental check will require sedation.
If your rabbit gets ill, the last thing you want to worry about is the vet’s bill. Insurance is now available for rabbits and if the worst happens and your rabbit does get sick, insurance means your vet can dedicate their efforts into doing all that is necessary to diagnose and treat any illness, rather than worrying about doing certain tests or treatments because of the cost.
Overgrown Teeth or Dental Malocclusion
This is the most common problem encountered by vets and may result in the rabbit having to be put to sleep if not treated at an early stage. Rabbit’s teeth grow constantly throughout their life and if there is not enough fibre in the diet, or if the teeth are not aligned properly, then they will overgrow. Overgrown teeth become spiked and will start cutting into the side of the mouth and the tongue causing mouth infections, ulcers and inability to pick up food and eat it. Clinical signs include anorexia, weight loss, salivation/dribbling and abscesses around the face and jaw. Also eye infections and matted droppings around the tail base may be an indication of dental disease. In some rabbits, malocclusion of the incisor (front) teeth is congenital (present from birth) and these rabbits will need vigorous treatment and possibly tooth removal. Acquired malocclusion occurs in older rabbits and is thought to be primarily diet related. A correct diet is essential to your rabbit’s wellbeing (see earlier section on feeding) and problems occur particularly if your pet is not eating enough fibre in the form of hay, grass and vegetables, to wear down the teeth at a sufficient rate. Problems can also arise if your rabbit refuses to eat the pelleted part of the dry diet since these contain calcium and phosphorus essential for good bone and tooth growth. Rabbits need regular teeth checks and these should be carried out at the time of vaccination.