Head nurse Lisa Stuart has these top tips for senior rabbit care
October 14, 2020
Rabbits are elite hiders of pain thanks to their built-in ‘predator protection’ system. In the wild, showing pain and weakness would make them vulnerable to predators so it’s no surprise they’d want to keep their pain under wraps. Our head nurse Lisa recommends getting your older rabbit’s health checked regularly to uncover any problems that could be underlying.
Small rabbit breeds generally become seniors at age 8, medium breeds at 6, and large breeds are considered seniors at just 4 years of age. Our nursing team has put together their top tips for how to help your rabbit enjoy their senior years:
Weight & diet – Older rabbits are less active, but also their weight can drop. We can recommend a senior rabbit pellet diet that’s been specifically designed to cater to their needs (they’ll still need fresh hay, greens, and water too). If you have two rabbits, you may need to separate them while they eat to ensure your senior pet gets the amount of food they need. Weigh your rabbit regularly and let us know about any unexpected changes.
Dental care – Many older rabbits have some degree of dental disease, but malocclusion (a misalignment between both dental arches) can occur at any time and can be an emergency. Look out for decreased appetite and droppings, favouring certain foods, salivating, weight loss, and swellings around their mouth and jaw.
Arthritis & Spondylosis – Both are common conditions in senior rabbits that often go undiagnosed due to a lack of regular health checks. Slowing down isn’t always just a ‘sign of age’, it can be due to one or both of these painful ailments. Following a positive diagnosis, your rabbit can start treatment to improve their symptoms.
Grooming & care – Older rabbits, especially those with arthritis, will struggle to reach all of the areas they need to groom to stay clean and healthy, especially their bottom. You can help them by regularly checking their bottom and fur, and cleaning away any dirt or debris to help avoid flystrike, which is a serious issue. Gentle handling is essential as older rabbits will be a little less robust and could be in pain. Their claws may need trimming more regularly too.
Changes at home – Making some simple changes to their housing and your home could do wonders for your senior rabbit’s comfort and mobility:
- Use thick, absorbent bedding such as Vetbed, which will draw any urine away from the body and provide padding to support changes in weight or hair loss.
- Place rubber-backed mats on laminate or wooden flooring for better grip where your rabbit hops around your house.
- Swap litter trays to low sided ones, or you can use plastic dog beds with a lower entrance so your rabbit can get in and out easier.
- Review your older rabbit’s accommodation – two-storey hutches with ramps can be problematic, and outdoor hutches can be cold this time of year. Try reconfiguring, moving, and even wrapping your rabbit’s hutch in a blanket.
As the colder weather starts to set in, why not book your rabbit in for a senior health check with our friendly team.