Health Check

NAILS:

Rabbit nails grow to be very long and sharp. Using a pair of dog nail trimmers, you can clip the nails to a proper length. On light colored nails, the quick (blood vein) is easy to see. Trim about one eighth of an inch beyond quick. Dark colored nails are harder to see. It is helpful to hold the rabbit’s foot up to a bright light.

People are often afraid to clip their rabbit’s nails for fear that they will cause the rabbit to bleed. If this happens, use Kwik Stop on the toe or apply pressure with a cotton ball until the bleeding stops. Be sure to remember that rabbits have a dewclaw higher up on their front legs. Their nails should be clipped about every 6 – 8 weeks. If you are not comfortable doing this yourself, your vet or Rabbit Haven can do this for you.

FEET:

Check the soles of each rear foot for bald or sore spots. The hair on the heels can wear off and result in sores. This is usually the result of living on a wire floor. It can also be due to an overweight or heavy rabbit living on a hard or rough surface. Pasteurella (a virus) can easily infect these sores. See a vet immediately. Check each toe and, if you find a broken nail, trim it and be sure it heals properly. You can rinse the nail with Hydrogen Peroxide.

TEETH:

Check to make sure that they are properly aligned. Top teeth should be directly in line with the bottom teeth and they should come slightly over the bottom teeth. They should be white and free from buildup.

EYES:

Rabbits can have a little crust like substance in the corners of their eyes. This is common. Simply remove with a damp Q-Tip. Their eyes should be bright and clear with no sign of discharge in the eyelashes, tear ducts or under the eye. The lids should not be puffy.

Note: The smaller dwarf breeds have more protruding eyes and will often develop a tissue like substance that floats on their eye. Because of the shape of their eye, they can not blink this off by themselves. You will need to remove it for them. If necessary, use artificial tears such as Bosch & Lomb eyewash (Visine is very irritating to bunny eyes.)  One drop in each eye should help remove the matter. Often you can use a dampened Q-Tip and gently lift the matter off of the eye. This should be done daily.

EARS:

Check inside ears to be sure that they are clean and free of mites. Mites will produce a brownish waxy substance and the ears will look reddish inside.

NOSE:

Look for a clean, dry nose. If there is moisture of a "snotty" substance in the nose, see your vet immediately. This could be a sign of Pasteurella. Even if the rabbit is not sneezing and you see moisture, check the inside of each front leg to see if there is an accumulation on them. Rabbits will wipe their noses with their front paws and can easily hide signs of Pasteurella (Snuffles).

CHIN:

Check under the chin for a waxy buildup from their scent glands. If you find this condition, you can wipe the chin gently with warm water. If this does not remove the buildup, you will need to clip it off with a pair of round tipped scissors. Rabbits that drink from unsanitary bowls will occasionally develop dermatitis, look for redness or irritation.

GENITAL SCENT GLANDS:

In addition to the scent gland under the chin, rabbits have a pair of scent glands located on either side of their genitals. They are a little hard to discover. This area needs to be cleaned and checked. It is convenient to clean the glands at the same time and frequency as the nails (every 6 – 8 weeks).

To find these glands, lay the rabbit on its back or sit it on a counter with its back to you, holding its stomach with your left hand, gently use your fingers to separate the area directly adjacent to the genitals on each side. You will find a little "packet". In this pocket is a scent gland looking a lot like a pimple. A musky, waxy substance builds up in there. Sometimes it is white and flaky and other times it will be waxy and brown. If allowed to build up, it can cause an infection. At the least, it does not smell good. You should clean this area with a Q-Tip dipped in warm water or Hydrogen Peroxide. Gently wipe the area clean. There will be a small brown dot on the center of the gland that you will not be able to remove as this is the opening to the gland.

LUMPS AND BUMPS:

Check your rabbit all over, his legs, neck, back, belly, head and face. Female and male rabbits will have nipples on their stomach but there should be no other bumps. If you find any other lumps, it is wise to have your vet check them out. As with humans, the earlier you find and treat a problem the easier it is to cure.

FLEAS:

If your rabbit likes a bath, you can bathe him in warm water with a kitten type flea shampoo containing pyrethrins. Wash according to the directions, rinse and dry well. Use a hair dryer set on low and a comb to separate the fur. If your rabbit hates baths, don’t take the chance of a struggle and him breaking his back. You can use a flea comb and remove as many fleas as possible then use a kitten type flea powder. Rub this into the fur and down to the skin. After using the flea powder, wipe the outer fur with a damp cloth to remove as much powder as possible. The bunny can’t groom as much off this way. Do not use powder or spray on the rabbit’s head. "Advantage" has been used with good success, but watch for signs of poisoning such as lethargy, diarrhea and not eating. As with any insecticide, discontinue use if there is any negative reaction.

DANDRUFF:

A DRY FLAKING SKIN MAY BE FUR MITES. The mites are microscopic so you will be unable to tell without a microscope. Irritated, red patches with no fur are indicative of mites. The skin can become crusty. A mite infestation often starts near the base of the ears and the neck. Your vet or Rabbit Haven can best treat this. You may also see very thin hair, dandruff and redness caused by itching due to flea infestation. Check for fleas first.

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