Though rabbits don’t require yearly immunizations in the United States, your rabbit should see a veterinarian at least once a year for a wellness exam – as well as any time illness or injury is suspected. Since rabbits are considered exotic pets, it is important that you find a vet who is knowledgeable about rabbits specifically. It is also crucial that your rabbit be spayed/neutered by a veterinarian with experience in this area. Rabbits have delicate nervous systems, and require very specific doses of anesthesia. For recommendations in your area, visit or call your local MSPCA Adoption Center. Angell Animal Medical Center employs several exotics specialists in the Boston area.
Not convinced that spay/neuter is important for rabbits? In addition to preventing unwanted litters, and eliminating many health problems (including some cancers), sterilization is a big factor in reducing behavior problems in rabbits. Both male and female rabbits can spray and exhibit sexually aggressive behavior unless they are altered, including excessive digging, marking territory with urine or droppings, cage aggression, nipping, fighting with other rabbits, and mounting people, other pets and objects. Once your rabbit has been fixed, she will be happier, more relaxed, and more enjoyable to have around the house.
As prey animals, rabbits have instincts that tell them to hide symptoms of illness or injury so they do not appear vulnerable to predators. This means that their human friends must be vigilant and take even small changes seriously. This means keeping tabs on overall health, including activity level and eating habits, as well as body condition (weight, fur and skin health, ears and eyes). If your rabbit goes a day without eating, consult your veterinarian – delay in seeking care could be fatal.
Your veterinarian will also offer advice on at-home grooming, including nail trimming (which you should do every 3-4 weeks). She will also share recommendation on rabbit proofing your home. Many commonplace household items can pose a health risk to your rabbit, particularly electrical cords and stairs. In addition to checking your rabbit’s eyes, ears, skin, fur, and overall body condition (which you should do at home, too), she will also listen to his breathing and heartbeat, and ask questions about diet, exercise, activity level, and other important questions.
Rabbits sometimes have a malocclusion of their teeth, meaning that their teeth are misaligned, causing them to grow excessively long. Sometimes malocclusions are so severe that their teeth can protrude inches out of their mouths. In cases like these, the rabbit’s teeth can be trimmed back by a veterinarian and may require regular clipping or removal. If you notice any changes in her appetite which can result from dental discomfort, contact your veterinarian right away.
For more information on caring for pet rabbits, visit our The Perfect Home for a Pet Rabbit page.