Don’t Freak Out! Rabbit Health Concerns that you shouldn’t worry over.

by Laurie Stroupe

There are many, many things to be concerned about with your rabbit, but today, I want to talk about things not to get upset about. There’s enough to worry about without adding unnecessarily to the list.

Bunny is Sneezing = Automatic Snuffles or Pasturella?

black and black and white polish rabbits with flowers
Cute Young Polish Rabbits with a daisy and a yellow flower

Have you ever sneezed when you weren’t sick? Of course you have. Rabbits do the same thing. Hearing a rabbit sneeze is no cause to freak. I admit, this is a “do as I say and not as I do” statement. I always freak at the sound of a sneeze. But a rabbit can get water in its nose, breathe in some dust or fines, or sneeze for any number of reasons not related to illness. Babies learning to eat and drink are especially prone to sneezing.

Advice: Check out every sneeze. If the rabbit continues to sneeze, separate it until you can be sure that it is not ill.

When To Freak: If you see colored discharge, you have a problem. Clear discharge is probably either allergy related or the rabbit’s body trying to flush out an irritant.

Malocclusion; Buck or Butting Teeth in Dwarfs, Holland Lops, and Other Breeds

So, you’re checking juniors for the very first time just like you should and you find a case of malocclusion. If the juniors are young, it’s no time to freak. I’ve seen teeth go from overlapping the wrong way to butting to good.

I used to believe – and some judges still believe – that if you ever trim a rabbit’s teeth, it is no longer showable. But when I was at the Judges Academy last year, the topic came up when we were discussing the lines between husbandry and grooming, and faking. Basically, we were told that if you are trimming teeth as a good husbandry practice – to give the teeth a chance to grow back in correctly, you are okay. If you are trimming teeth to deceive a judge, it is not okay.

Advice: Give young rabbits a chance to develop before pronouncing malocclusion as permanent. They may correct on their own. Trim the teeth once, if it looks like it will help, and let the teeth grow back in before showing him or her.

When To Freak: You see teeth that curl or jut out at odd angles. Wolf teeth rabbits should be culled (see page 39 of the Standard of Perfection, figure #2). I believe they should be put down. Ditto with rabbits who have problems with their molars (trimming molars requires sedation, which is very stressful for a rabbit).

Does approaching six months and bucks finished with their six month head growth will probably not change much in the future. (Bucks may experience future head growths, but consider whether you want to work with a line whose teeth don’t straighten out until the rabbit is 12 to 18 months old).

Broken Toenails and Teeth

Rabbits with broken toenails and teeth should be disqualified. With the toenail, enough nail must be present for the judge to identify the color in order to avoid disqualification. A judge may ignore any disqualification if an injury happens while in the showroom.

The big question here is whether the nail or tooth is broken or pulled out. It only takes a couple of weeks to grow an entire tooth back in. It’s amazing to watch.

Advice: If an injury happens in the show room, go ahead and put the rabbit on the table. The judge has the option of ignoring the DQ. Give a broken tooth a couple of weeks to grow back in. Time will tell with the nail as well.

When To Freak: You see no signs that the tooth or nail is growing back in. If the tooth is pulled out and the damage is well into the gum, the tooth may not grow back at all. But you will know within a few days. If the nail grows back in white (if it should be colored), then the injury has created a permanent DQ. However, you know that the nail is not genetically discolored, so don’t be afraid to use that rabbit in breeding, if it qualifies otherwise.

Rabbit Doe Past Due Date – Day 34 and Beyond

Click for a more detailed article on treating rabbit diarrhea The due date comes and goes. You know there are kits in there. Even if you are lousy at palpating, full-term kits are quite easy to feel. Their skulls are like small marbles. It is possible to lose a doe to retained kits, but most often, she will pass them. It may take another week for that to happen, though.

Advice: I’m not a vet. Remember that. But I do give any doe with retained kits a shot of Pen B. I think that infection is a big risk with pregnancies gone awry. Then I wait it out. So far, all of my does with retained kits have expelled them. But I do know that other breeders have lost does from retained kits.

When To Freak: Your doe stops eating or shows other signs of illness.  See our article on stuck and retained kits.

Split Penis

An aperture split in a young buck may or may not be an issue later on. What can look like a long split in a 1/8 inch penis may be nothing more than a slightly large opening in a 2 1/2 inch penis when full grown.

Advice: wait until the buck is older before deciding whether the split is a problem or not.

When to Freak: If your buck has a basal split – one that starts down on the shaft – then that buck is a pet or bound for the processor.

Mean or Biting Rabbits

Breeders vary widely in their expectations for temperament. I have different limits for different times. Juniors that have not been handled much will be less interactive. Does that want to be bred can be very nasty. I have no tolerance for senior bucks that bite. If they are offish, so be it. But they shouldn’t expect nearly as many does as their sweet brother gets!

Advice: Take the rabbit’s situation into consideration when evaluating personality. Juniors generally come around when they are old enough to show because you spend more time grooming and posing them. Does generally settle down once they are bred or have kits.

When To Freak: If a doe continues to be mean once she has kits, it’s more of an enduring personality trait rather than a hormonally induced craze. Any buck that bites (unless provoked) is cause to freak.

I hope that you will all have fewer things to freak out about in your rabbitry. We could all use a little more time enjoying our hobby and less time worrying.

Next Article: yucky stuff

Next Article: The Yucky Stuff.  Abscesses, ringworm, and the like.