Home Health Exam

original content by Dr. Sari Kanfer, Exotic Animal Care Center
additional content by Dr. Stephanie Lamb, Exotic Animal Care Center, and Cat Logsdon, Zooh Corner Rabbit Rescue
For more information, see the Rabbit 911 lecture from the Rabbit Care Seminar Series 2014

Evaluate diet:

  • Unlimited fresh grass hay
  • Adult rabbits: limited timothy pellets
    • (1/4) cup per 5lbs. of bunny per day [split portion between morning and night]
  • Baby rabbits (under 3 months): 50/50 mix timothy hay and alfalfa pellets
    • reduced alfalfa pellets for babies older than 3 months
  • Fresh green leafy vegetables (for rabbits over 3-4 months of age)
  • Limited treats such as fruit and carrots. No bread products. No yogurt or yogurt drops. No seed treats or cereals.

Evaluate environment:

  • Indoors, under 78 degrees F
  • All electrical cords covered/hidden
  • Litter boxes with rabbit safe litter (recycled newspaper, corncob, aspen…) changed daily. (taken out every other day)
  • Fresh water supplied daily, ideally in bowls (heavy ceramic crocks and attachable crocks work well)
  • Flat, non-wire surfaces available to stand on, as well as cushioned areas like rugs and towels to protect hocks. Dog exercise pens (x-pens) make IDEAL bunny habitats. At Zooh Corner we prefer x-pens to cages.
  • Many hours of out of pen/cage time (3-5+ daily)
  • All outdoor time must be closely monitored for safety from heat and other animals
  • Toys to chew and toss
  • Bunnies should be paired to avoid loneliness; rabbits are very sociable animals.

Hands-on exam:

  • Check eyes for discharge (note color), redness, swelling, or bulging
  • Check nose for any discharge (not color and thickness) or crustiness
  • Check ears for buildup of debris, crustiness, redness, or odor.
    • Do not clean ears on your own unless directed to do so by a veterinarian.
    • Any discharge – go to the vet. They may have ear mites.
  • Check under jaw for any lumps or asymmetrical areas.
  • Check mouth for drooling, redness, or bare skin, sores.
  • Check incisors (front teeth)
    • Edges should be an even horizontal line, upper and lower teeth should meet fairly evenly.
    • Have any abnormalities checked out ASAP.
    • Rabbit teeth are continuously growing and may grow abnormally and cause abscesses.
    • Your Rabbit Vet should check molars (cheek/back teeth) at least once a year.
  • Check coat for excessive shedding, flaking, hair loss, signs of fleas and flea dirt (looks like black specks), lumps, and scabs.
  • Check all over body for lumps, bumps, swelling, heat.
  • Check weight: Feel if rabbit is excessively bony or chubby.
  • Examine posture for symmetry
    • Is the bun sitting normally or is hunched, standing up, leaning to a side
    • Look for any signs of head tilt
  • Check for dehydration
    • Pinch & lift skin over shoulder area, and watch how it responds
    • Normal rabbit’s skin should be elastic and return to normal
    • Dehydratred rabbit’s skin should more slowly return to normal
  • Palpate abdomen and feel for lumps, hardness, or look for pain reaction
  • Check perineal area (private parts) for discharge, crust, hair loss, lumps, swelling
  • For heavier, older, arthritic, or disabled rabbits:
    • Check area around anus frequently. Make sure there is no urine staining of fur, no feces stuck to fur.
    • Overweight rabbits have trouble cleaning themselves properly. Irritated skin attracts flies, even indoors, and fly eggs hatch very quickly into maggots which burrow into the rabbit’s skin. If your rabbit’s underside is dirty, clean it ASAP using mild soap and warm water. If the skin looks irritated or you see eggs, go to the vet for treatment ASAP.
  • Check bottoms of feet for hair loss, swelling, sores, pus
  • Monitor feces and urine, and note any changes in appearance or amount. Small irregular feces or diarrhea are reasons to visit the vet. Red urine can indicate bleeding from the uterus or bladder, or the color change may be due to plant pigments in the diet. Veterinarians can determine if it is blood or not.
  • Monitor energy level and attitude.

Most importantly, closely monitor appetite and water consumption! If your bunny is eating or drinking less than normal, see a vet ASAP. If your bunny has not eaten a single bite in 4-6 hours, this is an EMERGENCY.

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