Basic Care: Rabbits


The domestic rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) can be a fantastic and loving pet. When well kept, the average rabbit can live for up to 10 years or more! Typically, dwarf breeds live longer than giant breeds. Let us help you set your rabbit friend up for success at home!

Domestic rabbits are a crepuscular species, meaning that they are most active around sunrise and sunset so that might be when your rabbit wants to play. Many bunnies will adjust their schedule so that they are most active when you first wake-up and between your dinnertime and\ bedtime. It is important that your rabbit has a dedicated “bed-time” so as not to interfere with normal circadian rhythms. Studies have shown that rabbits with interrupted sleep cycles while dealing with illness have a poorer prognosis than rabbits that are allowed to have normal sleep cycles.

Most rabbits are gregarious animals meaning they enjoy the company of other rabbits. Typically, rabbits live as a bonded pair. However, not all rabbits get along and some rabbits are best kept alone. For more information on bonding rabbits visit: https://rabbit.org/faq-bonding-multiple-rabbits/.

While rabbits are typically regarded as a species that does not vocalize, rabbits actually have a variety of verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate how they are feeling. For example, a happy rabbit may hum or jump and kick their back legs (referred to as a “binky” in layman’s terms). An angry rabbit my thump their hind feet or grunt. A rabbit in severe distress may even scream. If your rabbit screams while being handled, immediately put the rabbit down.

If your friends like your rabbit and want one of their own, recommend that they adopt a rabbit from a rescue or check with a local humane society. We don't recommend buying them from pet stores.

Veterinary Laser Therapy

Veterinary laser therapy is an innovative treatment that has gained popularity in recent years as veterinarians recognize how it benefits pets. Used similarly to acupuncture, massage therapy, and other alternative therapies, laser treatment can be used in conjunction with medication to manage pain, inflammation, and wound healing. Photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy results are achieved when a sufficient dose of light energy reaches target tissue and results in decreased inflammation, decreased pain, immune stimulation, and accelerated healing.

Encephalitozoon cuniculi associated Phacoclastic Uveitis

E. cuniculi-associated phacoclastic uveitis is a recognized disease in rabbits, particularly dwarf rabbits. There is no sex predilection and the condition is often seen in younger rabbits. The lesion occurs after rupture of the lens capsule releases lens protein into the anterior chamber, which results in granulomatous uveitis; however, the posterior chamber usually remains unaffected. The mass originates at the lens capsule, and the inflammation is centered on the break in the capsule.

Osteoarthritis and Senior Rabbit Care

As rabbits age, it is common for them to develop conditions that make it challenging for them to go about day-to-day activities. Most commonly, rabbits will develop osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease making it difficult for them to ambulate and groom themselves. Osteoarthritis is a painful condition of the joints that results in inflammation and a decreased range of motion. Most affected joint spaces are the knees (stifles) and the area where the spine meets the pelvis (lumbosacral).

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2

Rabbit Viral Hemorrhagic Disease is caused by a Calicivirus.  Though multiple types of this virus have been identified, the serotype that has been seen in the most recent outbreaks here in the United States involves Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus serotype 2 (RHDV2). RHDV2 is a non-enveloped, single stranded RNA calicivirus that targets the liver and causes destruction of the cells within the liver leading to severe liver damage and dysfunction as well as problems with the animal’s ability to clot his/her blood.

Encephalitozoonosis (E. cuniculi)

Encephalitozoon cuniculi (ECUN) is a microsporidium parasite related to fungi. Rabbits can either become infected while they develop within their mother's uterus or by either ingesting or inhaling spores passed in the urine or feces from rabbits already carrying the disease. Ingested spores pass through the walls of the intestine into the blood where they then travel to other areas of the body. In most rabbits,the disease spreads onward to the kidneys, eye and brain.