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Common Health Problems

GI Stasis

When a rabbit stops eating, it is a serious matter.
If your rabbit stops eating or producing faeces for 12 hours or more, you should consider the condition an EMERGENCY.
With GI stasis, the normal, quiet gurgling of the healthy intestine may be replaced either by very loud, violent gurgles (gas moving around painfully!) or silence. The bunny may become lethargic, have no appetite and may hunch in a ball, loudly crunching his teeth in pain.
The rabbit should recieve: painkillers, a gut stimulant, supportive feeds until they start to eat by themselves and if necessary, subcutaneous fluids.

Dental Problems

If the teeth aren’t worn down properly by chewing abrasive plants (grass) and hay, the teeth crowns grow too long. As a result the correct chewing motion is lost. Next, the top and bottom teeth start pressing together when the mouth is closed and the teeth can no longer erupt upwards. Instead, they grow backwards into the jaw. It’s these overgrown tooth roots projecting into the jaws and skull that cause so many problems for our rabbits.
While you can see the front incisors of a rabbit, you can not see the back molars which a vet must check with a special instrument. All too often, it is the back molars causing the problems. Treatement is normally to admit the rabbit, and burr their teeth down under a general anaesthetic.

Symptoms: Lumps on the jaw, dribbling, reluctance to eat harder foods over soft vegetables.

As stated on the RWAF:
Please note that clipping overgrown front teeth is no longer recommended. Clipping places extreme forces on the tooth, compressing the sensitive pulp further up the tooth and sending a shock wave through the skull. It’s painful (which is why rabbits hate it) and it can also shatter the tooth roots, leading to infection. Having said that, not all vets are equipped with suitable dental burrs (although this is changing as a greater proportion of veterinary practices purchase equipment suitable for rabbit dentistry), and some rabbits hate being restrained for burring – so the quicker option of clipping may be the lesser of two evils in some cases.

Encephalitazoon Cuniculi (E Cuniculi)

E cuniculi is a protozoan parasite of rabbits. It is reported that over 50% of rabbits are carriers of the parasite.
It is passed by inhalation or ingestion of the spores, which are passed in the urine. It  travels through the bloodstream, to various organs, and to the brain. This can cause Kidney problems (symptoms: Excessive urination, thirst, weight loss and kidney failure). If it tavels to the brain, it can cause neurological problems (symptoms: Head tilt, fitting/seizures, paralysis) Rabbits under stress and with low immune systems, are more likely to show active signs of an E cuniculi infection.

Your rabbit can be treated for this. You must also treat any other rabbits in the household. You must orally syringe them Panacur (your vet will give you a dose based on your rabbit’s weight) for 28 days.

On days 21 and 28, you must disinfect the rabbit(s) area out completely with diluted bleach. As only this will kll the parasite.
Make sure to bleach the bowl, and geta new water bottle, and new toys, chucking out the unwashable toys.


Flystrike is a horrible problem for many novice rabbits in the summer, as well as old, disabled and long haired rabbits. Flies come and lay there eggs in the soiled hutch or the soiled fur under the tail of the rabbit. Within hours, these eggs hatch into maggots, that bury themselves into the rabbit and eat away at them inside.
If your rabbit gets flystrike, it is an EMERGENCY. If caught quickly, a rabbit can make a full recovery. The rabbit must be taken straight to the vets for treatment.
Ways to prevent this: Checking your rabbits bottom two times a day in the summer and cleaning out their dirty corners at least every day.

Sore Hocks

This is commonly seen in “Rex rabbits” as they have very fine guard hair on their feet. It is from pressure build up on the hocks.
Ways to prevent this: Giving you rabbit a deep bed of hay to sit on, to relieve the pressure slightly on the feet.
Symptoms: Lack of fur on the hocks, redness, cracked bleeding skin.

Sudocrem can be used to soothe them temporarily, but the rabbit will need to be looked over by a vet.


Rabbits which display symptoms of discomfort and irritation making them scratch, may be infested with fleas.  These tend to cluster around the head, and particularly the neck. They can be spotted by “dark specks” of excrement in the fur.  Fleas can be destroyed by an injection of ivermectin, administered over a period of a few weeks, by a vet.
When flea droppings get wet, they turn red due to the blood that has been digested by the flea.
Fleas reproduce by laying eggs in the host animal’s bedding, or on the floor.  You will have to dispose of everything in the hutch (ie blankets) and clean the hutch thoroughly to revent the cycle repeating itself.


Similar discomfort, and scratching, is caused by an infestation of lice.  Unlike fleas, lice lay their eggs – known as nits – in the fur of the animal host.  The eggs are white and secured to the fur by a natural adhesive.  They show up particularly well on dark-coated rabbits, but will be noticed on any fur during grooming.


Rabbits are frequently troubled by several different mites.  Mites are commonly seen on the back of the neck, and appears to look like “dandruff”. The ear mite can cause a condition generally known as ear mange, or car canker.  Any rabbit showing symptoms of irritation and distress that make it scratch the ears and shake the head, or those with a powdery brown matter in the ears need prompt veterinary treatment.

Forage and harvest mites also attack rabbits.  They burrow into the skin and set up an area of intense irritation that the rabbit will scratch until it is raw. This condition, usually known as mange, must also receive veterinary treatment.


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