Archive for the ‘Rabbit’ Category

Why keeping a rabbit and guinea pig together is not a good idea…

Rabbits and guinea pigs look rather similar and have very similar lifestyles – after all, they’re both small furry pets that eat hay and vegetables. Un-neutered rabbits kept together will often either fight (if the same sex) or multiply uncontrollably (if opposite sexes), but get lonely and pine if left on their own. So surely they make the perfect companions?

Sadly, no. Although it looks like a match made in heaven, if things go wrong it can be closer to hell – for the guinea pig!

So what’s the problem?

There are three good reasons to keep them separately – dietary needs, disease and behaviour.

Dietary Needs:

Although both rabbits and guinea pigs are herbivores (plant eaters), there are significant differences. The most important is that rabbits can make their own Vitamin C – guinea pigs cannot. Without the vitamin in their diet, guinea pigs will get their version of scurvy, becoming listless, getting diarrhoea, losing their hair and ultimately even bleeding to death internally. If you’re keeping them together, you need to feed both on guinea pig food (fortified with Vitamin C), otherwise there is the risk that the rabbit eats the guinea pig’s food, leaving the less appetising (and unfortified) food for the poor guinea pig. Feeding guinea pig food to rabbits isn’t harmful (especially in the short term), but it isn’t a well-balanced diet for them.


Both species can carry the same diseases, and transmit them to each other. However, while conditions such as Pasteurella affect both equally, some conditions (like Bordetella bronchiseptica – a cause of kennel cough in dogs) are much, much milder in rabbits (so they appear healthy) but are potentially fatal in guinea pigs.


This is the most important factor. Guinea pigs and rabbits may look superficially similar to us, but their behaviour and body language is very, very different. To make matters worse, rabbits are (in general) much bigger and stronger than guinea pigs, and can cause severe injury to them – even if thumping in play, the rabbit’s strong hind legs can cripple or kill a guinea pig.  How would you like to live in the same house with a bad tempered gorilla? That’s what it feels like to a guinea pig living with a rabbit!

Because the body language is different, they don’t communicate effectively; this can lead to the rabbit becoming frustrated, and they may attack or bully the guinea pig. Rabbits like to groom each other and enjoy close company; guinea pigs generally prefer to keep themselves to themselves – even if the rabbit’s being friendly, the guinea pig may feel harassed (like the gorilla insisting on looking for insects in your hair when you just want to watch TV…)!

This confusion can also lead to other mistakes – it is very common for male rabbits to try to mate with female and male guinea pigs, to the injury of the poor guinea pig (who was happily pottering about his normal life when suddenly jumped and mounted by a large, heavy, randy buck). This isn’t just unpleasant for the guinea pig (remember the gorilla) but potentially dangerous – it is sadly quite possible for a guinea pig’s back to be broken during the attempted mating.

Bottom line – rabbits and guinea pigs aren’t really compatible!

Mine have always got on fine together!

If you’ve got a guinea pig and a rabbit who already live together happily without any issues, it’s usually because they got to know each other when very young, have adapted to each other, and are fairly good-natured to begin with. It is vitally important, however, to make sure the guinea pigs have a refuge area to hide away in – a pipe, pen or box with an entrance large enough for them but too small for the rabbit. If you see that they are spending all their time in the refuge, it may be that life is not as harmonious as it looks on the surface…

But we’ve always kept them together…

Lots of small children play with matches without burning themselves, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. It’s the same with rabbits and guinea pigs!

So should they be kept on their own?

Definitely not! Both should have company – but of their own species. Neutering of rabbits is a routine procedure nowadays (and if you’re not planning to breed is really important for health in does (females) who are prone to all sorts of nasty gynaecological conditions). Neutered rabbits cannot breed, and are much less likely to fight, but can communicate, groom each other and run and play together. Meanwhile, the guinea pigs can live together and get on with their life unmolested!

How can veterinary nurses help with preventative health?

Veterinary nurses play a large role in helping and advising pet owners with the care and well-being of their animals. We are proud of our veterinary nursing team at Goddard Veterinary Group, and the passion they have for the health of your pets. Part of that role includes advising on preventative healthcare – keeping your pets in the best health before problems arise.


There are so many diets on the market for pets it is really difficult to know where to begin! Our nurses can advise you on the best diets for your pet’s specific breed, age and the recommended feeding amount.

If your pet is overweight and should ideally be fed a smaller amount or given a calorie reduced diet, our nurses will be happy to advise and weigh them. They can further advise on maintaining their weight, when they reach their target.

Preventing obesity in pets can help lengthen their lives and dramatically reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and joint pain, among other conditions.

Fleas and worms

Almost every pet will end up with these critters at some point in their lives. Preventing them is much better than having your pet playing host to them. If you suspect your pet has fleas for example, our nurses can take a look at their coats and search for tell-tale signs.

Worms, of course, are a lot more difficult. However, there are symptoms that can point to a worm problem. Goddard’s veterinary nurses can explain the life-cycle of these parasites, and the best ways to avoid having both your pet and your home infested with them.

When it comes to fleas and worms it really is worth preventing them – the cost of treating a skin condition caused by fleas for example, far outweighs the price of flea treatment!


Although it is our vets that vaccinate your animals, our nurses can give you advice and guidance on the types of diseases that pets can be vaccinated against. No one wants to have a pet with a potentially life-threatening disease, and vaccination can prevent that from happening.


It is our senior pets that we find can have a problem with their toenails, simply because they won’t tend to wear them down as easily as younger pets. Senior pets are normally less active, often choosing softer ground to walk on, whereas a puppy that tears about on all types of ground will have a pedicure naturally! This is why preventing nails from overgrowing and making your pet uncomfortable is important. Our nurses can check your pet’s toenails and trim them if necessary.

It’s not just dogs either, cats too can have this problem especially if they have gone off using the scratch post. Our nurses will also make sure the dew claws are a comfortable length, in extreme cases these can curl around and dig into the pad, even leading to infection.


As of April 2016 all dogs over age of eight weeks in the UK, are required by law to have a microchip.  These tiny devices, about the size of a grain of rice, can help you and your pet to be reunited if they happen to get lost. A microchip is also a requirement for a pet passport.

No responsible owner would want to lose their pet and our nurses can help advise about microchipping, preventing this from happening. At present there is no law about cats being microchipped, but we strongly advise this is well – in fact almost any animal species could be microchipped!

One thing you may hear our nurses and vets reiterate, is keeping your contact details up to date for the microchip, especially if you move home!


Our nurses can give all sorts of advice about preventative health when it comes to your pet’s teeth. From brushing techniques to dental products, they can help advise on keeping your pet’s teeth pearly white. Dental health is very important as poor teeth can affect other parts of the body, including major organs, through infection and toxins in the bloodstream.

Pets even at the age of 4-5 years can start to suffer with dental disease, so it’s very important to get the advice as early as possible on helping to keep their teeth sparkling!

With advice from our team of nurses (and vets) on preventative health, your pets can really benefit. Be sure to ask us if any health aspect of your pet worries you — we’ll be happy to help.

Don’t forget Goddard Veterinary Group’s healthcare plan, ProActive Pets. The scheme provides discounts on your pet’s preventative healthcare, allowing you to spread the cost throughout the year.

Can your veterinary nurses really help with my pet’s weight?

One of the many tasks that Goddard veterinary nurses can help you with is advice and guidance on your pet’s weight. Of course, humans can adjust their diets and eat healthily (or try to) but our four-legged friends rely on us to help keep them trim and a good weight. 

The problems with portly pets.

The news, it seems, is full of the problems with overweight humans and the health risks obesity carries. The same applies to our pets, having an overweight pet seriously increases the risk factor in a number of health conditions, including:

?     Arthritis and joint problems from carrying excess weight

?     Heart disease from the heart muscle having to work harder

?     Liver disease from Fatty Liver Syndrome

?     Cystitis

?     Diabetes

Also noticeable may be the pet’s fur, seemingly unkempt, even matted – this is because overweight pets have trouble reaching the parts they used to when grooming themselves. All this amounts to a very unhappy pet that can have a shortened lifespan.

Is there an ideal weight for my pet?

Having an ideal weight for your pet is not a simple as choosing a figure and sticking into that. Every pet is different! As an example, there are guidelines to say a cat should weigh around 4 to 6 kilograms or a Border collie no more than 20 kilograms. These are just guidelines as even pets of the same breed can be different, it is not so much an ideal weight as more a healthy weight! Factors including the sex of the animal also need taking into account – something our nurses will do during an initial weight check.

How do your nurses check a pet is a healthy weight?

Our nurses (and vets) use a system called a body condition score, This is because there is one healthy shape associated with many species.

During your pet’s weight check, our nurses will demonstrate how to check your pet’s body condition and the shape to look for. It is very simple and just means running your hands over their chest and back. Pets that have an ideal body condition will be able to have their rib cage felt easily with the tips of the fingers. That area should just have a slight fat layer covering, with the outline of one or two ribs possibly showing. Our nurses will also explain the shape of your pet from above and the side, and what you should be looking for.

How do I know my pets on the right diet?

That is another article in itself! There are hundreds of diets on the market for pets, including breed specific formulas. Ensuring that your pet gets the correct nutrition of carbohydrate, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals can be really difficult. If your pet is a rabbit, the correct amount of quality grass and hay also needs to be added to the equation.

The veterinary nursing teams at Goddard vets, are more than happy to assess your pet’s body score and talk to you about their dietary needs.

It is not a cliche about any species that has too many calories and not enough exercise – they will become fat! Pets can also become quite fussy eaters. How many different diets have you tried to feed your pets? Cats that totally ignore the food that they ate happily a few days before, or rabbits fed a muesli type mix that choose the tastiest and normally most unhealthiest bits to eat first. Our advice extends to them all.

And talking of exercise…

Pets can burn off those calories with a good amount of exercise. With dogs this is normally easy as they are usually happy to go for a walk or run, but with cats or bunnies it’s more difficult.

Some owners are brave and will put their cat or rabbit on a lead – but they are very much the minority, that means the best way for them to exercise is through play.

How many toys are there for cats and rabbits? Look around any pet store and there are shelves full of them. Cats love to chase and pounce using their natural hunting instinct and any ‘toy-prey’ will do – even paper balls. Rabbits like to climb, use tunnels, and even have their own toys. It’s up to owners to encourage them – and our nurses will support you with ideas and tips.

Keeping your pets at a healthy weight includes everything above and our nurses and vets are happy to support you with advice on weight and managing your pet when it comes to nutrition. Call your local surgery for more information and let’s help keep Britain’s pets healthy!


Why older pets can benefit from our veterinary nurse team

Compared to human years, animals at around the age of 8 are generally classed as senior pets. As they reach more mature years, it is important to recognise changes that may take place. Regular checks are important and our Goddard Veterinary Nurses can help and advise you on the types of things you may see with your pets as they get older. 

So what type of things can you advise on?


Just as in humans, when animals get older joint problems such as arthritis can develop, especially in cats and dogs. Have you noticed your pet being reluctant to move after a period of rest? Does your older cat seem uninterested in jumping up onto higher surfaces? These are things that are worth noting and mentioning during a senior pet health check.

With joint problems, movement can become harder for your pets and can start to affect their quality of life, by following advice from the nursing and vet team, there are ways to make movement that bit easier including:

  • Limiting exercise to a more appropriate level
  • Use of anti-inflammatory medication
  • Maintaining an ideal weight for your pet
  • Use of joint supplements
  • Use of hydrotherapy centres

Diet and appetite

Our nurses can give you advice on nutrition and dietary requirements for your pets, regardless of their age. Older pets can have changes to their needs, for example you wouldn’t want to feed an 8-year-old dog puppy food.

Different foods contain varying nutritional values and calorific content and our nursing team can help you decide the best for your pet. For example, older pets are generally less active, so would possibly require calorie reduced diets, thus helping to control their weight. Some breeds also have foods specifically developed by pet food manufacturers and tailored to your pets needs – we can advise on these as well.

During the senior pet health check (or at any time) if you have noticed your pet is going off their food or treats, please let us know. There are several reasons this might be happening and should be investigated by our vets. A simple blood test can help determine the problem. Alternatively if your pet has massive appetite, this can also be a sign of diabetes or thyroid problems as well as others, so again please let us know!


Older pets tend to not wear their toenails down so quickly because they might exercise less. An active younger dog may run around lots on hard ground, naturally wearing down their toenails, whereas older dogs may be walked on softer ground for shorter distances.

Older cats may not use scratch posts as much (or the furniture!) to keep their claws short. Dew claws can cause a particular problem as they can curl around and dig into pads, causing soreness and even infection.

Our nurses can check nails and claws to make sure they are not getting too long, trimming them where necessary to keep your pets comfortable.


Coat changes can happen in senior pets and it’s not always just part of them getting older, Sometimes there is a reason behind it. For example matted fur can mean your pets are unable to groom themselves and this can be for reasons such as a sore mouth (which could mean dental treatment), or they simply cannot reach the area to groom, and this can be due to joint pain.

Our nurses are happy to look at any coat changes you are concerned about, referring back to the vets if necessary. Also the team can advise on a number of supplements, as well as shampoos to help improve the coat, especially if greasy or flaky.

These changes can be subtle or quite visible, so it is definitely worth speaking with our nursing team who can liaise with the vets, should your pet need further treatment.

Rabbit anaesthesia for neutering. Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

In the past, the risks of surgery have put a lot of people off neutering their rabbits – however, this has led to an awful lot of unnecessary deaths of older bunnies with severe health problems. As a result, owners are often in a quandary, trying to decide which is best – to neuter or not to neuter? In this blog, we’ll explore some of the risks and benefits, and look at some of the factors that will help you come to the right decision for your rabbit.

How are rabbits neutered?

For bucks (males), neutering is called castration, and it’s a very simple procedure – under general anaesthetic (so he can’t feel anything), the scrotum (sac) is cut open, the testicles are removed, and the wound glued shut.

For does (females), it’s a bigger and more complicated procedure, called spaying, with an incision in the abdomen (belly) and the ovaries and uterus (womb) removed. Again, this occurs under general anaesthesia, and the wound is glued shut at the end.

So, what are the risks?

The biggest concern is the anaesthetic itself. In the past, many rabbits died as a consequence of anaesthesia; however, with modern drugs and skilled vets, the risk isn’t that much higher than in cats. Sometimes, you’ll hear people talking about the “1 in 70 mortality rate” from surgery in rabbits, but this is very misleading – this includes old and sick bunnies, as well as those who have to undergo emergency procedures, as well as routine operations like neutering. If we only look at healthy rabbits, the rate of severe complications drops to about 0.7%, and this is improving all the time as newer and safer drugs and procedures are introduced.

Other risks include hernias (in bucks), bleeding, and other surgical complications. Nowadays, however, these are very rare, as vets are much more experienced in performing rabbit operations than they were 20 or 30 years ago.

Sounds scarily high – why should I put my rabbit through it?

Because of the other risks that you’ll be avoiding by having them neutered!

Firstly, there’s the disease risk. Studies show that up to 80% of entire does will develop cancer of the uterus by the age of 5; whereas a neutered doe cannot develop this disease. In addition, she is much less likely to develop mammary tumours or reproductive infections (like a pyometra). This is less of an issue in bucks, but (like dogs and humans), they can develop testicular tumours and prostate disease if not castrated.

Secondly, there are pronounced behavioural improvements in many neutered bunnies. Entire bucks and does will mark their territory by spraying and leaving faecal pellets around, which although not harmful, is decidedly unpleasant for the rest of us. In addition, rabbits of both sexes usually become less aggressive after neutering and are more relaxed about the company they keep (which means they can live with friends ). As social animals, it is quite cruel to keep rabbits on their own; however, it is risky to keep entire bunnies with anyone else – all too often they’re constantly trying to either mate with or kill one another. As a result, a lot of entire rabbits spend their lives essentially in solitary confinement.

This leads on to the third benefit – no more litters! Left to their own devices, a pair of entire rabbits can have a litter (averaging about 6) every month from sexual maturity (at roughly 6 months, but as little as 4 months for miniatures such as the Netherland Dwarf). Over 7 years this means that, in theory, a single entire pair and their descendants could produce over 180 billion rabbits in a mere 7 years… Would you want to try and find homes for them all?!

There’s no right answer for every owner or every rabbit; so give us a ring if you want to talk about options.