• Small exotic mammals are well known for hiding symptoms of illness until late in a disease course. Yearly health examinations are essential to uncover health issues before it is too late. Blood tests, radiographs and/or fecal tests may be recommended during an annual exam.

  • Rabbits and guinea pigs commonly present symptoms related to the urinary system. At home, the owner may notice urine collecting in the hair on the inside of the rear legs, a more pungent smell to the urine, the pet straining to urinate, or hematuria (bloody urine). After a proper physical exam and a thorough palpation of the urinary bladder, the veterinarian may identify bladder stones (a firm, oval hard mass in the bladder) or "bladder sludge" in rabbits (a bladder filled with a grainy, sand-like material). X-rays of the abdomen allow the veterinarian to identify the type of bladder disease and/or the number of stones.

  • Rabbits have incisors plus molars in the back of the mouth for grinding and chewing. Rabbits also have two small, tube-shaped incisors (peg teeth) behind the large upper incisors. Since the teeth continuously grow, the upper teeth must meet the lower teeth to allow for proper wearing of tooth surfaces, preventing overgrowth. All teeth must meet and wear at the same rate as they are growing, or improper tooth wear and overgrowth of the incisors and/or molars can occur. Overgrown teeth can cause many problems and lead to pain and infection. Rabbits with chronic dental problems need regular veterinary care. Feeding rabbits a diet of mainly high-fiber hay to promote chewing and teeth wear may help reduce the development of dental problems.

  • Rabbits are herbivores and are considered grazers. Rabbits should have a daily diet of mostly hay, a smaller amount of fresh vegetables, and a limited number of pellets. Hay is the most important part of a rabbit's daily intake. Over-feeding pellets is a common cause of obesity and soft stool. Rabbits must be fed and provided with fresh water daily. Hay should always be available. A pet rabbit's diet should be supplemented with a variety of leafy green vegetables every day. The high sugar content in fruits (and even carrots) may upset the normal GI tract bacteria if given in excess.

  • Rabbits can become infested with fleas, especially if they go outside or live in a house with other pets that have fleas. Rabbits with fleas may show no signs or may bite, lick, or scratch themselves. Young rabbits with heavy infestations may become anemic. There are no rabbit-specific drugs for managing fleas. Certain topical anti-parasite medications appear to be safe but should only be used under the guidance of a veterinarian familiar with rabbits.

  • Medicating or giving oral liquids to small mammals requires some basic guidance. Syringe-feeding rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small rodents may require you to wrap your pet in a "burrito". Knowing the proper location in the mouth to introduce the syringe will be essential to success. Having the right size syringes and the right amount of liquid for your pet is very important.

  • Pet rabbits have several unique problems and disease concerns. Dental disease is very common in pet rabbits, as are gastrointestinal problems. Rabbits have unique gastrointestinal tracts and need a high-fiber, low-carbohydrate diet to help keep the normal GI bacteria fermenting their food. Rabbits need a soft bedding area to prevent sore hocks from forming. Rabbits that eat high-calcium, alfalfa-based diets or high-calcium vegetables are prone to developing bladder stones that must be removed surgically. Bunnies housed at temperatures over 80°F are prone to heat stroke.

  • A large, well-ventilated cage with a plastic bottom and wire walls and top is suitable. Wire-bottom rabbit cages are acceptable, but to decrease foot trauma, at least half of the wire floor should be covered with plastic, Plexiglas, or untreated wood. The bottom of the cage can be lined with hay or commercially available recycled paper products. Rabbits can be trained to use a litter box. Rabbits should never be allowed to run loose in the house unless they are supervised or contained in a rabbit-proof room.

  • There are four major infectious diseases seen in pet rabbits: myxomatosis, rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD), encephalitozoonosis, and pasteurellosis. This handout discusses the causes, signs, and treatments for these diseases. Be sure to have your rabbit checked annually by a veterinarian to keep them as healthy as possible and minimize problems.

  • The common rabbit pinworm, Passalurus ambiguus, is an intestinal parasite. It does not posea serious health threat to rabbits, but it can cause uncomfortable itching and skin inflammation or redness around the anus. Rabbits become infected with pinworms by eating feces that contain pinworm eggs. Pinworms are challenging to treat because rabbits are coprophagic, so can potentially reinfect themselves during treatment.