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Rabbits are popular pets to keep, they are great fun as well as being intelligent little creatures to have around. But as with all domestic animals, bunnies rely on their owners to keep them healthy and in good shape. A good diet is essential and checking for fleas on a regular basis is crucial to your pet rabbits overall well being. But there are other diseases that affect rabbits and if caught early enough are all treatable – most rabbit illnesses are preventable but you need to recognise the signs that maybe your pet is sick and need veterinary attention. Keeping an eye on your rabbits health is crucial and this includes making sure they have not contracted a condition called conjunctivitis. This is a common disease found in rabbits and if left untreated can become a serious condition that can lead to blindness, especially in younger rabbits.
Younger bunnies can really suffer from conjunctivitis and the disease manifests itself by the conjunctival membranes which are found around the eye becoming very red and swollen – there is often a horrible smelly pus discharge too. If the eyes are closed, this is a bad sign because it means pus is building up behind the eyelids causing your pet rabbit a lot of pain. You might notice that your rabbit becomes lethargic, uninterested in what is going on around them. They usually go off their food as well and this means you will have to force feed them with a syringe – seek veterinary advice as soon as you can so you know the correct food to give your rabbit as this will be a complete preparation specifically formulated for the purpose of force feeding a poorly rabbit.
You can gently clean the discharge with a lint-free damp and warm cloth but then you need to get your rabbit to the vet as soon as possible. The vet will be able to examine your rabbit and recommend a course of antibiotic eye drops as well as some painkillers and oral antibiotics too. It is important for your rabbit to complete the course of antibiotics to beat off the eye infection. Conjunctivitis in rabbits can be caused by some sort of bacterial infection and if treated with the right type of antibiotics will clear up pretty quickly. The sooner the treatment is started the better. However, conjunctivitis in rabbits can be a secondary illness that is caused by a dental problem – and this needs to be looked at closely by your local vet.
If your pet rabbit keeps getting sore eyes and it looks like the start of conjunctivitis, you need to take them to see your vet as soon as possible. It could be that your rabbit has an underlying issue with their teeth which needs to be treated. Once the teeth problem has been resolved, the conjunctivitis should clear up with a course of antibiotics both oral and drops.
When rabbits are in pain, their natural behaviour is to sit quietly and usually they like to hide away out of sight. If your rabbit is a house rabbit, it is pretty easy to pick up on any strange behaviour straight away. However, if your rabbit lives outside, it could be harder to pick up on and therefore a rabbit who is under the weather can be overlooked. It is always a good idea to let your pet rabbit out of their cages to make sure they are fit and healthy and you should do this at least once a day – rabbits need to be let out every day for them to stay healthy. Rabbits are by nature active creatures and need to run around as much as they can. This keeps them happy and healthy both physically and mentally. If you notice your rabbit does not want to come out of their hutches, then you must gently persuade them to come out and then check them over to make sure they are okay and that they are not suffering from anything like conjunctivitis – the earlier you catch the condition, the easier it will be to treat. If you have several rabbits, make sure you isolate the one that is suffering from conjunctivitis so that they other rabbits are not affected too – conjunctivitis in rabbits is thought to be just as contagious as it is in humans. However, humans cannot catch conjunctivitis from their pet rabbits.
As long as you feed your pet rabbit a correct diet, you will find they stay happy and more importantly healthy. Very often a wrong diet can be the cause of many of the health issues rabbit owners come across. Bunnies do not need a high calorie diet – in the wild a rabbit will eat grass and leaves but they can digest a much more fibrous diet and do well on it. Over time, a rabbit's digestive system has evolved to use all the bacteria that ferments in their guts to effectively break down fibre which in turn forms much needed nutrients. Domestic rabbits if well looked after and fed a healthy diet can live for anything up to 12 years or even longer. Most rabbit diseases are preventable as long as owners can recognise the signs and then get their pets to the vets as early as possible. The right treatment given early enough, usually takes care of the problem.
Rabbits are very social creatures and they enjoy the companionship of their owners but the great part about keeping bunnies, whether as house pets or pets you keep outside, is you can leave them at home all day without having to worry about them too much. As long as they have their toys and maybe another rabbit as a companion, they will be content – they will only become destructive if they get bored. Healthy, content and busy rabbits are happy with each others company and of course, their toys!
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