Rabbit Advice


We are delighted to announce that Scott Veterinary Clinic has been awarded The Gold Standard accreditation by the Rabbit Welfare Fund & Association (RWAF).

The Gold Standard is the highest possible endorsement awarded by the RWAF and signifies the best standards in rabbit care and well being in veterinary practice.

Gold level practices must fulfill a number of criteria including protocols for anaesthetics and analgesia, GI stasis, inappetance and neutering procedures.

rabbit gold status at Scott Vets
rabbit gold status at Scott Vets

To gain gold accreditation we also had to demonstrate our ability to provide a specialist ward dedicated only to rabbits (and other prey or herbivorous species) with at least one member of staff who has an appropriate further qualification in the field of rabbit medicine. We also had to demonstrate our ability to hospitalise rabbits in an enriched and low-stress environment.

It is important to us that we are able to provide the best possible standards in animal care. We are so proud to have achieved The RWAF Gold Standard. This award is testament to the hard work and dedicated care provided by our clinical team.

For more information about this very important charity www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk


Over the past 12 months or so there has been an increasing concern regarding a new variant strain of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHDV 2) which has now been confirmed in the UK.

With thanks to the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) Scott Veterinary Clinic has been able to apply for an import licence and import some vaccines for this new strain.

Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease vaccinations are highly recommended to protect your rabbit from these diseases. We recommend continuing to vaccinate your rabbit against Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhage Disease as well as vaccinate against the new variant of Rabbit Haemorrhage Disease.

Rabbit vaccinations at Scott vets


Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease [RVHD1 and RVHD2] previously called Viral Haemorrhagic Disease

This disease was first noted in the UK in 1992, and because of its rapid spread at the time, it was a notifiable disease. The disease is airborne and can kill rabbits a long way from an outbreak area.

RVHD1 causes blood clots in the lungs, a severe nose bleed and often an agonising death. Almost all unvaccinated rabbits who catch RVHD1 die within a day or two. Very few cases may recover with intensive veterinary care.

RVHD2, a variant strain of RVHD1 has recently become more prevalent. Unfortunately, the vaccine designed to treat RVHD1 is not effective against RVHD2.

Symptoms may be similar to those of RVHD1 however, these tend to take longer to become obvious and as a result most cases die before they can be successfully treated. Thankfully a vaccine has been produced that is effective against RVHD2.

The RVHD2 vaccine and the combined vaccine for RVHD1 & Myxomatosis must be given 2 weeks apart.


This terrible disease was actually introduced into many countries in an attempt to control the rabbit population and it was very effective.

Although wild rabbits are gradually becoming more resistant, many still die a horrible death each year.

The disease is spread by biting insects such as the flea and mosquito and it has a peak incidence during the summer months when there are the largest number of these insects around.

Symptoms include swelling around the eyes, ears, anus and genitalia, a high fever, reduced appetite and discharge from the eyes and nose.

Domestic rabbits are sadly very susceptible to the disease and most will die within a few days however, very few cases may recover with intensive veterinary care.

We strongly recommend regular vaccination against these diseases

Feeding A lot of problems vets see in pet rabbits are related to their diet. A rabbit’s diet should be made up of:

  • 85% hay or grass
  • 10% leafy green veg
  • 5% extruded pellets or nuggets

Unlimited good quality hay is the foundation of a healthy diet for a pet rabbit. Unlike humans, rabbits’ teeth grow continually throughout their lives. The chewing action of eating grass and hay keeps their teeth worn naturally. If the rabbits don’t eat enough hay they will develop painful ‘spurs’ on their teeth where the teeth have not worn down properly. These cut into your rabbit’s gums and tongue and restrict his/her ability to eat. Hay provides lots of fibre which keeps your rabbit’s gut moving properly and teeth healthy. Fresh grass is preferable, but hay is available all year round. Do not feed mowed grass shavings as this can cause dangerous health problems. Obesity is a huge problem in pet rabbits, the main causes being not enough exercise and poor diet. Whether they live indoors or out, they must have enough room to exercise so bear this in mind. Obese rabbits suffer from many health risks, including not being able to clean themselves – which puts them at a high risk of skin infections and flystrike. The extra weight they carry also puts strain on all their organs, especially their hearts and livers. Rabbit mixes look like muesli and are the most common dry food bought for rabbits. However, they can encourage selective feeding and we don’t recommend them. Complete foods are designed to contain all the nutrients that rabbits require but they won’t provide the long fibre your rabbits need to keep their gut and teeth healthy. It’s vital that your rabbits have constant access to hay! There are many different plants, fruit and vegetables that rabbits can eat in small quantities such as basil, parsley and broccoli. For a full list please see the RWAF website for more details.

Dental Problems When the teeth do not meet it is known as malocclusion, rabbits that have malocclusion may need regular dental treatment throughout their lives. A rabbit’s teeth grow continually throughout their life, they are only worn down by the action of chewing. If the teeth do not meet properly then they wont wear down effectively and this can cause serious problems. Spurs can be formed inside the mouth, these eventually dig into the cheeks and tongue and become very painful. This will eventually restrict your rabbit from eating and can be fatal if left untreated.  The best way to prevent dental problems is feeding a diet formed mostly of grass and hay. Hay contains long fibre which is important in keeping the gut working properly, but also for your rabbit’s teeth as it needs to chew side to side as this action is what wears the molars down. It is important to have your rabbit’s teeth checked regularly.   Flystrike Flystrike occurs when flies lay their eggs on your rabbit and those eggs hatch out into maggots. This is common in overweight rabbits who are unable to clean themselves correctly, and especially common in summer months when it is warmer. The maggots can eat into your rabbit’s flesh within hours and can become fatal if not treated. Prevention is better then a cure, checking your rabbits bottom twice a day making sure it is clean, keeping the environment clean and keeping your rabbit at a good weight can all help.   Gut stasis If a rabbit gut motility slows down, then gut stasis often occurs.  Reduced gut motility leads to the dehydration of the gut contents, which decreases motility further. Gut stasis leads to dehydration and impaction of the normal stomach contents. Symptoms of gut stasis include gradual reduction of appetite eventually leading to the rabbit stopping eating. A decrease in output and size of faecal pellets eventually stopping completely. Chewing of strange materials such as cardboard a wood, this is so the rabbit can try and gain some fibre in their diet, depression and lethargy follows. Prevention is better then a cure so make sure you monitor your rabbit for these symptoms.
Neutering is important for a long and healthy life. It is important for your rabbit’s welfare as neutering allows your rabbit to live in pairs and groups. It also prevents life threatening health problems and unwanted pregnancies. If you have a mixed-sex pair of rabbits, they will both need to be neutered so they can live well together. If only the female is spayed, then the uncastrated male may still try to mount her and cause unnecessary stress which can trigger fighting. If a female is left unspayed and the male is castrated it can cause the female to have repeated false pregnancies and she is likely to become aggressive. Male rabbits can be castrated as soon as their testicles descend, this is usually around 10-12 weeks of age. The operation is quite straight forward, and the recovery time is usually quick. Please note male rabbits aren’t sterile immediately after castration, so it important to keep the male away from any unspayed females for at least six weeks. A female rabbits’ surgery is a slightly more involved operation. The uterus and ovaries are removed via an incision in the abdomen. Female rabbits can be spayed from 16 weeks of age. They are unable to reproduce straight after the operation. It is important to keep them separate from other rabbits for the first few days to give them the best possible opportunity to heal. Advantages of castrating a male rabbit

  • Uncastrated males can spray urine over their possessions and often over you.
  • Uncastrated males can breed.
  • Unneutered males can develop cancer in the prostate and testes.
  • Some unneutered males can become aggressive due to testosterone. Once they are castrated their testosterone levels will fall dramatically which may reduce aggression.
  • Uncastrated males might be more difficult to integrate into a group.

Advantages of neutering a female rabbit

  • Unneutered females are at a high risk of both pyometra (infection of the womb) and uterine cancer both of which can be fatal. They can also develop mammary tumours.
  • Some females can become territorial and aggressive.
  • Some females suffer from phantom pregnancies.
  • Keeping two unneutered females together will result in fighting which can cause serious injuries.
  • Female rabbits can reproduce anytime from 4 months of age and will reproduce every 31 days if left unattended.

Risks There are potential risks with all procedures. Any procedure can have unexpected complications, including risk of death. For the vast majority of rabbits however, the benefits outweigh the risks. Older rabbits and those that are in poor health are at greater risk of complications arising from an anaesthetic/operation. It is important to bring your rabbit into the vet for a health check before any anaesthetic or surgery, so they can be assessed for any medical problems. The risks and benefits can then be discussed in detail therefore helping you to choose the best option for your pet. Some underlying problems which can increase the risks of any surgery include, dental disease, obesity and respiratory problems. It is also important not to change the diet within a week of the surgery. Rabbits cannot vomit, so they do not need to be fasted before their procedure. Please speak with one our team if you require any further information.  

Housing. The size of a rabbit’s house is very important, a small area can cause health problems including limb malformation and obesity. The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) recommend a rabbit’s accommodation to be a minimum of 6ft x 2ft. The rabbit should be able to take at least 3 hops and lie stretched out. The floor space needs to be at least 2 ft front to back. Rabbits should always be kept with the company of their own kind, so any accommodation should accommodate 2 rabbits easily. The enclosure should be out of direct sunlight and at least partially covered to protect your rabbits from the elements. Rabbits are active animals and can develop painful skeletal problems if kept permanently caged so daily exercise outside the hutch is vital. A hutch should only ever be a shelter, never the sole or main accommodation for your rabbits. The enclosure must be secure. If it’s outside, then it must keep out foxes and other predators, so the mesh and bolts must be of a good quality. If you would like an indoor house rabbit, then it is important to know what is involved before taking this on. House rabbits still need as much space as outdoor rabbits, it is important to ‘rabbit proof’ your house to protect your rabbit from any hazards including

  • Other pets
  • House plants that may be poisonous
  • Electric wires
  • Being trodden on
  • ‘Escaping’ into a dangerous outside environment.

Enrichment is what rabbits need to be able to act like rabbits. If your rabbits are on concrete or indoors then they will need a digging tray. They will also need hidey holes, tunnels and will benefit from a hanging hay rack which allows them to stretch as well as preventing hay from being soiled on the ground. The sleeping area should always be warm, dry and draft free.  Straw is warmer than hay in winter, but make sure you get soft, dust extracted bedding straw so that you minimize the risk of eye injuries and avoid a dusty environment. If you do use hay they are more likely to eat it so make sure you keep it topped up, and again, make sure it is fresh and dust free. To find out more about rabbit behaviour and enrichment please see the RWAF website.

Rabbits are social animals who live in large groups. Within the group a hierarchy forms amongst the males and females and those of a similar rank form pairs throughout the breeding season. Outside the breeding season rabbits live communally in large warrens. In the breeding season (January to September) the female digs a blind ending nest and she lines this with hay and fur from her dewlap. Rabbits have a 29-35 day gestation period.
Whenever you pick up a rabbit make sure to support the hind legs. These legs are so strong that if the rabbit kicks in the air and there is nothing to give support then the rabbit could damage his spine. Never pick a rabbit up by their ears!

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