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How to keep your rabbit healthy - neuter/spay, vaccinate and feed the correct diet - healthchecks and spotting signs of illness...

There are three key actions you can take to keep your rabbit healthy:-

Neuter or spay your rabbit

Neutering in males removes sexual frustration, makes the rabbit's urine less smelly and greatly improves their behaviour in general.  An unneutered male will attempt to relieve frustration by mounting stuffed toys and similar objects (even your feet!) and will spray urine while circling you, which is obviously unpleasant for you.

Spaying in females is even more important as there is an approx. 80% chance of uterine cancer in unspayed females by the age of 5.  Spaying also has the benefit of reducing territorial and aggressive behaviour, and removes the stress of phantom pregnancies and nest building that unspayed females often go through.

Feed the correct diet

Rabbits evolved on a diet of grass, therefore their digestive system and teeth are specifically designed for this diet which is high in fibre.  Eating grass or hay keeps a rabbit's digestive tract running smoothly and wears their teeth down.  This is essential as a rabbit's teeth continue to grow throughout their life and if they aren't worn down by eating grass or hay then serious dental problems in the form of overgrown teeth will occur.  If left untreated, this will kill the rabbit.

Approx. 80% of a rabbit's diet should be hay or grass.  They should be eating approximately their own body volume in hay every day i.e. a pile of hay as big as your rabbit.

Dry food and vegetables / fruit should be seen as a supplement to this diet of hay.


VHD and myxomatosis are rife in the wild rabbit population and both diseases result in almost certain death.  Protect your rabbit with regular vaccinations.  This applies to house rabbits too - even if they never go outside, you can bring infection in from the outside world on your shoes and clothing.  (Note - in the USA myxomatosis and VHD are rare and therefore rabbits are not usually vaccinated).

Many vets are now also recommending worming your rabbit to reduce the risk of infection with E.Cuniculi.  This is a common parasite that is often found in rabbits without causing ill health, but when triggered by stress or other illness causes serious damage to a rabbit's nervous system, leaving them with paralysis, blindness, tilted heads or convulsions.

Living conditions and care

Clean, comfortable and spacious living conditions help greatly in keeping a rabbit healthy.  You will also need to clip your rabbit's nails every 6 to 8 weeks and brush it daily when it is moulting.  Exercise is very important - the ability to run around, jump and play helps your rabbit maintain a healthy weight and a good bone structure.

Spotting signs of illness

Rabbits are reluctant to display signs of illness as in the wild this would mark them out as easy prey to a predator.  Often the only sign will be that the rabbit is not moving as freely or has stopped eating.

Rabbits need to eat very regularly to keep their digestive system moving.  If a rabbit does not eat for a period as short as even 10 hours, gut stasis can occur where the rabbit's digestive system literally shuts down.  This is potentially fatal so if your rabbit is not eating consult your vet immediately.

Unless sleeping, your rabbit should be alert and interested, moving freely around and grooming several times a day.  The nose, eyes, ears, feet and bottom should be clean and dry - if there is any discharge, inflamed areas or scabs take your rabbit to the vet.

If you have a house rabbit, there is a much better chance that you will notice any signs of illness straight away.  If your rabbit lives outdoors, check on it at least twice a day.  Rabbits can deteriorate very quickly when ill so if in any doubt consult your vet straight away.

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