Posts Tagged ‘rabbit’

Neutering your Rabbit

Why is it important?

There are several different health and behavioural conditions that entire Buck (male) and Doe (female) rabbits suffer from that can be avoided (or at least minimised) by neutering. In general, a neutered rabbit is actually a happier rabbit… and there are less of them too!

Benefits

  • Population Control – Rabbits breed like, well rabbits! In an ideal situation (unlimited food, no predators), in just seven years, a pair of rabbits could produce as many as 184 billion descendants! Of course, such a situation cannot exist in nature, so most of those bunnies would die of starvation or disease. Not only is a neutered rabbit unable to breed, but they lack the desire to and as a result, it isn’t necessary to separate them.
  • Increased Wellbeing – If you keep a Buck with a Doe, they’ll breed incessantly. However, if you keep a pair of Does together, they’ll usually fight and a pair of Bucks will fight so much they could kill each other. You may be able to keep two sisters or two brothers in the same pen, but not always. However, if you separate them, they usually pine — rabbits are social animals who need to live in groups. A neutered pair, however, of either sex, usually get along just fine, as the hormones that drive aggression are lost along with their ovaries or testicles.
  • Avoiding Behavioural Problems – Aggressive Does and Bucks are known to attack people; Bucks may also attempt to mount any animal that comes their way (including guinea pigs and even cats). Additionally, entire rabbits tend to urine-spray. These are all generally undesirable behaviours that can be minimised or eliminated with neutering.
  • Preventing Disease – This is really the clinching factor. While entire Bucks tend to have a shorter lifespan than their neutered brothers, it’s the Does where this is a large issue. Unspayed females are at very high risk of two potentially fatal conditions – uterine cancer and pyometra (infection of the uterus/womb). Once neutered, this risk disappears; and the risk of mammary (breast) cancer is also dramatically reduced.
Neutering your rabbit blog

The procedure for Bucks (the boys)

In Bucks, the procedure is called castration, and involves the surgical removal of both testicles. It’s relatively straightforward, although the open inguinal rings mean that we are especially careful in closing the surgical wound, to prevent a hernia developing.

We’d usually recommend neutering from 10-12 weeks when their testicles have descended and the rabbit will be in for the day and go home the same evening, often with skin glue or internal sutures rather than external stitches, and two empty pouches between his back legs. However, it’s important to keep him away from Does post-op, as he may still have a few sperm “in storage” for up to six weeks!

The procedure for Does (the girls)

In Does, the procedure is called a “spay”, or an “ovariohysterectomy”. It involves the surgical removal of both ovaries and the uterus. We usually clip a patch on the belly and make an incision along the midline; this is usually closed with internal sutures and  glue to minimise nibbling!

Does can be spayed from 10-12 weeks however the age of 16-20 weeks is preferred. Neutering over the age of 6-months can increase the risk of pregnancy, and over 9 months the risk of complications. We recommend a pre-neutering consultation with a veterinary surgeon for rabbits over 6 months of age to discuss any concerns and preparations to be considered such as blood tests.

It is easier to administer an anaesthetic to rabbits over 1kg, therefore we may recommend waiting until your rabbit has achieved this weight.  In dwarf breeds, your rabbit may never achieve 1kg so the best time to spay will be between 16-20 weeks.

In conclusion…

A neutered rabbit lives a longer, happier and healthier life. As a result, we strongly advise neutering on humane and population grounds, unless you specifically want to keep a rabbit for breeding purposes.

What do I do if I want to know more?

To find out more on spaying or neutering, find details of your local branch, then just contact your local Goddard vet.

Top 10 tips for pets this firework season

From Bonfire Night to New Year’s Eve, over the years we’ve created a whole season of fireworks. Now, we’re all in favour of this, the more chances we get to celebrate, the better! But sadly many pets don’t feel the same way. In this blog, we’ve outlined our top 10 tips on how to keep your dogs, cats, and other pets safe this firework season.


TIP 1: DESENSITISE YOUR DOGS AND CATS

If your pet is afraid of the loud noises, start desensitisation therapy as early as you can. Try downloading firework sound effects from Dogs Trust and play them very, very quietly. Reward your pet for staying calm, and over weeks or even months, gradually increase the volume so they get used to the sound.

TIP 2: MAKE SURE THEY ARE MICROCHIPPED

Panicking pets tend to run, but they’re not so fussy where they run to! If they DO escape and are microchipped you can be sure you’ll be reunited again.

TIP 3: USE PHEROMONES

There are pheromone products available for cats and dogs such as Feliway and Adaptil. They are very effective at reducing stress and anxiety levels. Start using them at least 2-3 weeks before fireworks season starts if possible.

TIP 4: TRY OUT SOME CALMERS

There are a wide range of herbal and nutritional calmers on the market; some of which we stock and can recommend. Although the evidence for Zylkene isn’t conclusive, we think it really can help settle animals down if given over a prolonged period!

TIP 5: BUILD A NICE NEST

Your pets need to be kept safe and secure, with a suitable nest or den to hide in. This is especially important for dogs and cats, but also applies to rabbits and small furries kept in open cages or hutches. Make sure they can hide themselves away when the displays start!

TIP 6: KEEP YOUR ANIMALS SAFELY INDOORS

It may be a little tricky but make sure your cat and dog are safely inside. Not only will it stop them escaping (and then potentially coming to harm), but it will also muffle any scary sounds and frightening lights.

TIP 7: LIGHTPROOF AND SOUNDPROOF HUTCHES, CAGES AND AVIARIES

If possible, rabbits and other small pets in cages or hutches should also be brought inside — or at least, away from sight and sound of the fireworks. For example, a large hutch can usually be moved into a garage or shed. For cage birds, the aviary isn’t usually movable, but the bright flashes can panic birds into a smother. As a result, we recommend carefully covering the aviary (while leaving lots of air-holes!) to minimise any risk.

TIP 8: KEEP TO A NORMAL ROUTINE

Many pets are very sensitive to changes in routine and timing and can put them on edge. So as much as possible, keep everything the same. You really don’t need any extra stress — and neither do they!

TIP 9: DON’T REWARD FEARFUL BEHAVIOUR

Of course, if your dog is afraid, your cat is scared, or your rabbit is terrified, it’s only natural to try and comfort them. However, you need to be careful. Excessive fuss and treats can reinforce the fearful behaviour — as they learn this is what they need to do to get your attention! As a rule of thumb, make a moderate fuss of them if they come to you, but don’t go to them, or dramatically change the way you react. Remember, pets can pick up on our stress levels as well as vice versa, so it can spiral out of control!

TIP 10: COME AND TALK TO US

If your pet is really, really stressed and you’re worried they’ll hurt themselves — come and talk to us. Not only can we give you personalised and tailored advice, but our vets can, if necessary, prescribe anti-anxiety medications to relieve short-term stress, fear and panic.

Ten tips for keeping your pet safe this summer

We know you want to do all you can to keep your pet healthy, happy and safe this summer. There are a few things to think about to keep them from harm — we’ve listed our top ten tips below!

Tip number 1: Barbecues

  • Burns are common in both dogs and cats. Make sure your pet can’t get near the barbeque until it has cooled down.
  • Skewers and chicken bones in leftovers or in the bin are a big problem for dogs if they get to them. They may not even realise they have eaten them with the meat but they can do massive internal damage. To prevent this, make sure that skewers or chicken with bones aren’t left in your dog’s reach, or are put in a container. It’s also wise to take the bin out straight away to stop them from getting to any meat and skewers left in there. We know they’ll sniff them out otherwise, given the chance!

Tip number 2: Heatstroke

  • Hot cars are a common cause of heatstroke in dogs, which can be fatal. Never leave a dog in a car in hot weather, even if it is shady and you only intend to be 5 minutes. It isn’t worth the risk.
  • Shade and water is key at this time of year to prevent heatstroke. All of your pets should have this at all times in hot weather. If you are going out with your dog consider taking an umbrella and a pop-up water bowl so that they can rest in the shade and have a drink wherever you go.

Tip number 3: Hot pavements

Hot pavements can burn dogs’ paws. Ideally only take your dog out for a walk in the morning or evening when it is cooler. Also, you can try and walk on the grass instead. If you are unsure if it is too hot, follow the 7 second rule – you will soon know if it would burn their paws! Place the back of your hand on the pavement for 7 seconds, if it’s too hot for you – it’s too hot for them.

Tip number 4: Summer travels

It’s very important that when you are going away, your pet will be safe — if they’re coming with you or not!

  • If your pet is on regular medication, then make sure that you come to see us before you go away so you don’t run out.
  • If your pet is coming with you on holiday and you are travelling by car, then you need to schedule in lots of breaks (ideally at least once an hour) so that your pet can get out of the car, go to the toilet and just stretch their legs. Always make sure there is plenty of water for them to drink. Be prepared for travel sickness, many dogs and cats get travel sick. If they are beginning to look unwell then pull over at the next services to let them get some air and start to feel a little better. A long journey can be much more stressful than we can imagine, you can use pheromone sprays to reduce stress – get in touch with our team if you’d like more advice.
keep your pet safe this summer body

Tip number 5: Staying in the cattery or kennels

Make sure your pet is fully vaccinated, flea treated and wormed before they go in, you don’t want them to come out sick or infested! If your dog is going to stay with a sitter, or dog walker it’s advised that your dog gets the kennel cough vaccine, which is a quick and painless spray up the nose.

Tip number 6: Going abroad with your pet

If you plan to take your pet abroad then you will need to come in and see us in advance of your trip. Pets must have an Animal Health Certificate to travel and to qualify they will need a rabies vaccination and wormer in advance of the trip. Our vets will also give you advice about travelling and others risks when abroad.

Tip number 7: Flystrike

Rabbit owners, this one’s for you! Flystrike is where flies lay eggs on moist areas (often the back end), which then hatch to become maggots. This is very painful, as the maggots eat their way into the poor rabbit’s flesh. Any rabbit in the summer is at risk of flystrike, especially those with a wet or dirty back end as this attracts the flies. If you notice your rabbit has flystrike, ring us straight away. To prevent this, you need to check your rabbit’s bottom every day and clean it up. This should stop the flies from being attracted to that area and means you can catch it early if there is any flystrike.

keep your pet safe this summer footer

Tip number 8: Fleas

Fleas are very common at this time of year and if you have a pet that goes outdoors then it is inevitable for them to get fleas. You can’t always see fleas on your pet when they have them, so it is always best to treat whether you can see them or not.

  • It is important that you treat your pet regularly (once a month normally but check the product you are using) and ideally with a prescription-strength product bought from us – that way you can be sure it is safe to use and is going to work!
  • If your pet already has fleas your house will also be infested. You will need to wash all bedding at a high temperature, hoover thoroughly including crevices in sofas and treating the house with insecticidal flea spray.

Tip number 9: Ticks

These little bloodsuckers carry some very nasty and potentially fatal diseases such as Lyme disease and, more recently, babesiosis. This is mostly a risk for dogs that go walking through long grass (don’t forget about those pesky grass seeds either!). To prevent diseases from ticks, you can regularly treat for ticks (you can get a combination product with the flea treatment) and check your dog over every time you come back from a walk. We can always give advice on tick removal and there are specific tick removal tools, this allows you to be sure you have removed it all and have not left the mouthparts in.

Tip number 10: Suncream

In the summer months, the UV rays from the sun can be a problem for our pets, just like us. There is a form of skin cancer that can be caused by too many UV rays, especially in our white (or pink nosed) pets. You can buy pet-friendly sun cream at most pet supermarkets and this only really needs to be applied to the nose and ears (especially important in cats).

What rabbits should really eat

For years rabbits were commonly thought of as the ‘easy’ pet, one that was great as a ‘first’ or ‘child’s’ pet. However they’ve never been all that easy to care for at all, it’s just that many of their needs were being overlooked. Thankfully there’s good news! Rabbit owner awareness has come forward leaps and bounds in recent years.


There are a number of care requirements, now far better known to rabbit owners, serving the bunny population very well indeed. One of these is the requirement for an appropriate diet. As with people, dogs, cats, all animals in fact, a good diet underpins both physical and mental wellbeing. Gone are the days when a handful of rabbit muesli and a carrot will suffice, so here’s our guide to a rabbit-friendly healthy menu.

ROUGHAGE

Top of the list is the foodstuff of which they need most, unlimited quantities in fact. By far and away the largest component to your rabbit’s diet should be hay or grass, and we’re talking up to 90%. Not just any old hay will suffice, pinching a slice from the farmer around the corner won’t necessarily do. Those with rabbits must be prepared to become hay experts as there are many on the market. An adult rabbit should be fed what is known as grass hay. Meadow hay and Timothy hay are good examples of this and they tend to contain a balance of fibre and calcium better suited to the mature bunny; the calcium levels are on the lower side and adult rabbits that are fed excess calcium risk kidney and bladder problems. In contrast, young, pregnant or lactating rabbits will do better with calcium-rich legume hay such as clover hay.

There is good reason that roughage should make such a prominent appearance in a rabbit’s diet; you may be surprised to know that a rabbit’s teeth will never stop growing. So in order to keep them in good, short shape and therefore prevent dental problems, the grinding action of chewing hay or grass helps grind their teeth down. The consequences of overgrown teeth can be dire. As the teeth become too long and misshapen, the rabbit struggles to eat, then weight loss and steady starvation can ensue. Roughage also plays a vital role in maintaining gastrointestinal health. A rabbit’s gut must keep gently moving and the fibre in their diet will help it do so.

Gut stasis (when the gut ceases to work properly) is a painful and life-threatening problem which must be treated as an emergency, signified by lethargy, anorexia, sometimes hiding, and a lack of faecal pellets. It’s important to phone for veterinary advice immediately if you notice these signs.

RABBIT PELLETS

The next component of a rabbit’s diet should be a commercially prepared rabbit pellet. Mixed flakes or muesli type food should be avoided due to the ability for rabbits to selective feed. By this we mean they have a tendency to pick out the tasty bits and leave the rest, something we all know a bit about if we’re honest. It’s like giving a young child the choice between some broccoli and some sweeties, we shouldn’t be surprised that the broccoli remains untouched. As with all commercial diets, follow feeding directions for the individual brand, although one general rule of thumb for many diets is to feed one full egg cup of pellets per kilogram of body weight.

FRESH FRUIT AND VEG

Fresh fruit and veg is next on the menu. Take care with fruit as the sugar content is high and can cause obesity. See fruit as more of a treat and concentrate on fibre-full leafy greens as a daily option instead. Why not mix it up to keep their interest? Vegetables that are suitable for bunnies include asparagus, broccoli, tomato, spinach, radish and cabbage, as well as herbs like basil, parsley and coriander amongst many others. Avocados contain a substance called persin which is highly toxic to rabbits and therefore should never be fed. Whilst treats are available to buy, keeping bunnies in healthy, lean condition is important, so don’t underestimate the worth of alternating fresh fruit and veg instead. A handful (adult-sized) of veg each day is plenty and it’s important to introduce new foods to their diet slowly to avoid stomach upset.

CHECK THEIR WEIGHT

Getting a rabbit’s diet right will pay dividends to their health and wellbeing. Obesity in the rabbit population is sometimes overlooked, not least because it can be difficult to determine what the perfect bunny body should look like in the first place. Please ask us if you’re concerned about your rabbit’s weight (whether under or overweight) so that we can advise. Obesity should be avoided for a whole host of reasons many of which we humans can empathise with. From exercise intolerance to additional pressure on joints (especially in the aged bunny who might suffer with arthritis), obesity can also lead to diseases like diabetes.

There is one rather more sinister problem too – rabbits carrying extra weight can’t easily clean themselves, so they are less likely to keep their rear end in check. What’s more, the extra weight is also likely cause their behind to drag through faeces and urine. A dirty bottom will encourage flies (particularly during the summer months) to lay their eggs within your rabbits fur. These eggs develop into maggots which literally use your rabbit as a food source. A painful and sometimes heartbreaking condition, definitely one that’s best to be avoided.


So that’s our guide to get you started. We’d love the opportunity to tell you more about how best to care for your rabbits or answer any specific questions you may have.

Fly strike in rabbits – and how to avoid it.

An estimated 1.5 million rabbits are kept as pets in the UK. They are increasingly popular, no doubt for their sweet, amusing personalities and, what some might be surprised to hear, their surprising ability and willingness to learn and to be interactive members of the family. Awareness of the best way to care for rabbits is on the increase. From the requirement to keep them with at least one other rabbit, to their complex dietary needs, bunnies are being cared for better than ever. And yet there is one issue, one agonising problem that rabbits continually come to us vets with, and that is fly strike. Fly strike is an unpleasant, painful and sometimes fatal condition that, tragically, is often only noticed once it is well developed. We can help you to recognise the early signs, and to make some very necessary checks for this awful disease.

First it’s helpful for you to know what fly strike is (technical term for fly strike is myiasis), and it really is just as its name describes. The green bottle fly seeks an environment to lay its eggs. The perfect environment is one which is warm and preferably with a ready food source. Bunnies, as well as other animals such as sheep, commonly fit the description, especially if their rear ends are covered in faeces or urine, as the odour attracts the fly.

Having been laid upon the rabbit, eggs develop into maggots, which in turn feast upon your bunny’s flesh. It is as gruesome as it sounds and also extremely painful. The sooner we see these bunnies at the vets, the sooner we, along with our strong-stomached nurses, can painstakingly remove each maggot with special instruments. We will provide your bunny with pain relief, fluid therapy, and whatever else they might need for the best chance of recovery.

It is obvious then, that preventing this kind of suffering is far better than curing it. The first step in the fight against fly strike is to identify it early, so it’s helpful to know which rabbits are especially at risk.

Those with dirty derrieres is the best place to begin. It is vital that rabbit enclosures are cleaned out regularly, and this is especially true in the spring and summer months because a dirty environment will attract the green bottle fly. A large, suitably-sized enclosure is not only important for the mental well-being and physical fitness of a rabbit, but will also allow them to move away from dirty areas, keeping themselves clean. Given the chance, a rabbit is a clean creature, who likes to urinate and defecate in one area, and eat, play and sleep in another.

Another key risk factor for fly strike is obesity, due to low-slung rear ends dragging through faeces and urine, as well as the inability for overweight rabbits to get to the ‘hard to reach’ areas in order to clean themselves effectively. Ensuring an appropriate diet and keeping your rabbits in good, healthy condition can do wonders for preventing fly strike.

What’s more, an overly rich diet causes faeces to be soft, sometimes runny and therefore more likely to coat their fur. For example, you might be surprised to learn that 85% of a rabbit’s diet should be roughage such as hay or grass. For more information on the appropriate diet for your rabbit, and to ensure you’re feeding roughage, vegetables and commercially prepared pellets in the right proportions, please get in touch, we are more than happy to advise.

Another group of rabbits that are less fussy about personal hygiene are the aged. As a rabbit embarks on a slower pace of life, perhaps they are less inclined to move away from dirty areas in their enclosure. Arthritis is also a very real problem that can make it hard for rabbits to contort themselves in such a way as to allow themselves to clean every nook and cranny. Thus older rabbits are potentially more likely to be dirty and therefore are exposed to increased risks.

So as well as a clean environment, maintaining a healthy body weight and a good quality and appropriate diet, how else can we prevent fly strike?

Fundamental to the care of your rabbit is checking them from nose to tail regularly. Not only should you check for other parasites, cuts and bumps, the condition of teeth, rabbit owners also need to be checking their rear ends undercarriage every day. Checking for fly eggs, sores (another way-in for maggots) and cleaning away any muck is necessary.

It will have the added bonus of desensitising a rabbit to being handled, which will in turn make them a more sociable pet. Other signs indicative of fly strike include lethargy, anorexia and potentially a strong odour. Should you notice any of these signs, you should get in touch immediately.

There are topical treatments available for the prevention of fly strike and we highly recommend that you use them during the warmer months. Our preferred treatment is one that you apply to your rabbit every ten weeks and it acts as a repellent to flies – ask one of our vets for details of this prescription-only medicine.

We hope you have found this information useful. The key message here is check regularly and get in touch with us for advice if you are in any doubt.