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North Shore Veterinary Hospital News & Information

Care and Feeding of Rabbits

Rabbits are very popular and rewarding pets to keep both in your house as well as out in an appropriate hutch. There are some basic principles that we need to keep in mind to help keep rabbits healthy.

  1. Rabbits are herbivores - this means that rabbits get their nutrition from the plants that they eat. In the wild, rabbits eat grasses and plants continually. Consequently, their teeth continually grow and are kept at the right length by grinding up the plants that they eat. Hay is very important to keep their teeth from overgrowing. Look for green hay that does not have a lot of woody stems in it (orchard grass hay and timothy hay are good examples of good quality hay). The pelleted diets are made out of hay, but it is powdered and compressed, so it provides nutrition, but not the grinding action that we want to keep their teeth healthy. I recommend feeding 60-70% hay, 20-25% dark, leafy greens (kale, endive, collard greens, dandelion greens), and then supplement them with pellets and treats. As a general rule, I like to have hay in the enclosure at all times. If they have good quality food, there is no need for supplements.
  2. Rabbits wear little furry jackets - Rabbits are sensitive to overheating (even more so than getting too cold). Keep your rabbit in a cool, well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight. Avoid enclosures that block airflow (like aquariums) or sit in direct sunlight (a hutch with a dark roof can get very warm in the sunlight).
  3. Rabbit’s feet are very important to them - Make sure to check your rabbit’s feet for sores or balding spots. Also, adding some straw or other bedding will help pad their feet. Avoid shavings made of cedar and even pine, since the oils that smell so good to us, can harm your rabbit’s respiratory tract. We recommend a paper-based bedding or straw.

Rabbits hide their illnesses - In the wild, there are lots of animals that view rabbits as a snack. Because they are prey animals, they tend to hide their illnesses so if they don’t look sick, they are less likely to be picked on by predators. For this reason, it is important to have your rabbit checked out by your veterinarian at least once a year and if there is any change in behavior, particularly eating. If a rabbit doesn’t eat, they can get sick very quickly.


Dental Disease and Prevention

Dental disease affects many of our pets.  Problems can range from mild plaque and bad breath to thick tartar and serious infections.  Infections in the teeth and gums can lead to tooth loss, but also to more serious life threatening diseases.  Heart, lung, liver, kidney  and joint problems may be caused or worsened by dental disease. A dental exam is an important part of your dog’s and cat’s health care, and should be performed at least once a year.

Brushing your pet’s teeth is one of the best ways to prevent serious dental problems. This is not always an easy task for many of us. It should be performed daily with an enzymatic pet toothpaste. Starting your pet at a young age, makes brushing a much more pleasant and tolerated activity.

Many of the pets we see have dental and gum problems that require cleanings. Dental cleanings are needed to remove plaque and tartar, extract diseased teeth, and treat gum and root infections. We have several cleaning options available in our practice.

For mild dental disease we often can scale and polish the teeth without sedation.  This is a great option to add to your pet’s preventive dental care. Pets are wrapped snuggly in a blanket and their teeth are scaled and polished in the same way as they would be if under anesthesia.  This cannot be done if there is serious infection or gum disease, or if extractions are needed.

In more advanced cases, the pets need to be placed under anesthesia. This allows us to fully clean and treat your pet’s teeth without causing them pain.  Blood work to assess their overall health and ability to handle anesthesia is required in these cases. X-rays may be needed to check for bone disease and abscesses.



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