Rabbit Health

Rabbits are prone to illness which is usually caused by poor management or unsanitary living conditions. Sore hocks, for example, result from rough or wet floors. In this condition, the pads of the rabbit’s hind feet become inflamed, producing an unhappy rabbit who loses vitality and weight if the condition is not cared for immediately. Change the bed frequently or run the rabbit on dry soil to correct the problem. Severe cases can be treated by cleaning the pads with soap and warm water and then, after drying, dabbing the area with iodine.
Small mites which invade the external ear of the rabbit produce ear mange. Fluid released from infected areas hardens into irritating scabs. An animal infected with ear mange will continually scratch the infected ear with its hind leg, thereby scratching open the scabs and causing further infection. A solution of one part camphorated oil and five parts heavy mineral oil should be applied to the area daily until the infection heals.
Vent disease, or inflammation of the sex organs, can be controlled by applying a lotion of one part calomel to three parts lanolin. The disease will not afflict healthy animals if they are bred with care.
Colds and pneumonia may be caused by raising animals in drafty environments. It is wise to consult a vet about these and other serious ailments. Below is a list of some rabbit health problems.


Abscesses are most commonly found around the jaw, neck and feet. They usually need to be lanced and hence require veterinary treatment with antibiotics.


Constipation is a frequently encountered problem. Feed only moist greens for two or three days and add liquid paraffin


The most common urinary problem is cystitis, evidenced by pus and blood passed when the animal’s bladder is pressed. The rabbit is slightly lethargic and may be off its food and be drinking more water than usual. The cystitis does not seem to cause pain and responds well to veterinary treatment with Penicillin/Clavulox.


It may be caused by too many greens in the diet, but is usually the result of coccidiosis. Treat with Thiabendazole(injection) 5 milligrams per 100 grams body-weight, or 0.1per cent Sulphamethazine in drinking water for two weeks or preferably a coccidiocide.

Ear Disorders

The usual sign of an ear problem is that the rabbit raising its head and scratching its ears. Sometimes the the ear will have a red, yellow or whitish scale on the surface, and it may smell because of a discharge ear. The ear infections are usually caused by mites. If can, clean the rabbit’s ears out with cotton buds an apply them with a lukewarm 50 per cent peroxide water solution before using ear drops available from your veterinarian.

Eye Disorders

A reddened and protruding eye is usually caused b an infection (or abscess) below the eye or by conjunctivitis. Treatment includes lancing and antibiotics.

Head Tilt

The cause is trauma or middle ear infection. Treatment is by cat or dog ear drops and injection of Gentamycin 5 milligrams per kilogram body weight.


Skin mange is also caused by mites. The rabbit will itself fuss continually about the infested area until raw lesions appear. The lesions can take various forms; some will be a wet, moist area with a yellowish crust or there may be just loss of hair with no apparent on of the skin. These areas can be treated with benzyl benzoate=lotion to a third of the body daily until the whole body has been treated. Repeat weekly for two or three weeks best to clip away the hair for at least 2 centimeters on the lesions. A new product called Ectodex is proving successful. In serious cases the veterinarian will take a scraping to determine the type of mite causing them. A grayish or yellowish crust on nose, face and also be caused by ringworm. Apply Thiabendazole K1 solution twice daily for ten days. Griseofulvin tablets rate of 2 milligrams per 100 grams body-weight can give good results. Ivermectin is also useful.


This is a highly fatal viral disease which is transmitted mosquitoes and the rabbit flea. After a short period there is a fever, followed by a reluctance to eat as ears become hot and swollen. The eyes become and red and begin to weep. Death invariably occurs within seven days.

Pregnancy Toxemia

This can account for deaths occurring suddenly during late pregnancy. The toxemia is usually nutritional in origin and may be caused by the intake of food failing in quantity or quality or both towards the end of pregnancy.

Respiratory Diseases

When the rabbit develops a cold it sniffles and sneezes just like a human being with a cold. To identify cases early, put your ear to the rabbit’s chest and listen for the typical rattling sound. Take the rabbit to the vet at this stage.
Sometimes pneumonia may develop in very young rabbits or nursing does. If this happens, the rabbit will lose its appetite, be very thirsty and have a fever. The normal body temperature is 39°C. Fever temperature is above 40°C. The breathing will be labored and heavy in near terminal cases. The pneumonia may be complicated and associated with diarrhea. In these cases it is best to take the rabbit to a vet who will prescribe an antibiotic. A good antibiotics Ampicillin orally 10 milligrams per kilogram body-weight twice daily for seven days.


Excess production of saliva, difficulty in eating and getting overgrown teeth caught on the wire cage are all signs of overgrown or ingrown incisors or molars.
It usually occurs in mature rabbits who are not provided with hard objects to gnaw. However, the greatest cause is malocclusion or failure of the opposing teeth to meet. The only effective treatment is to cut overgrown or ingrown incisors or molars.


Sores can be a consequence of keeping bucks in over-crowded conditions. Fighting breaks out between the bucks and even the strongest male may suffer scratching and sub-sequent sores.
Pressure sores on hocks are common in rabbits housed in cages with wire flooring.

Teeth Disorders

Overgrowth of incisor teeth is caused by insufficient rough-age in the rabbit’s diet. The teeth should be filed down with an emery board or file. Add roughage to the diet and a wood block to the cage for chewing, so that the teeth are subjected to normal (and necessary) wear.


Vaccination against myxomatosis—a viral disease which in certain areas has been introduced to eradicate the wild rabbit—is available in some areas for pet rabbits. Otherwise rabbits do not require vaccination.

Weight Loss

Weight loss or poor weight gain, loss of strength, or stiffness in hind legs are all caused by a vitamin E deficiency. Add vitamin E to the rabbit’s diet at the rate of of 1 milligram per kilogram body-weight until symptoms disappear.