How to take care of a dwarf rabbit?

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It is important to realize that a dwarf rabbit can become a commitment for a period of even more than 10 years, so if you spoil something when he or she is a baby animal, it is usually difficult to set things right and it accompanies the bunny all their life. Whether it is a bad habit or a health-related problem.


Living

Cages – 100-120 centimeters is the ideal size, but you are expected to let the rabbit run around the apartment
Equipment of the cage:

  • a litter tray
  • a food bowl
  • a hay rack
  • something to drink water from (a bowl or a drinking basin, I prefer bowls)
  • a rabbit indoor house, a rabbit bed
  • a towel/carpet to put on the bottom of the cage

Toilet (Litter Tray)

You can choose from x variants, I personally prefer and recommend toilets with grates. Their advantage is that the pet rabbit doesn’t sit in wet bedding (bunnies like to sleep at the litter place and then their fur is dirty if it’s a toilet without the grate), he or she cannot dig out the litter and, most importantly, the cleaning of it is very easy. There is no need to put bedding in it, all you need is to pour water under the grate and empty the contents once a day into your toilet.
Tommi litter box with grate for dwarf rabbits.

Indoor Rabbit House/ Rabbit Bed:

There is a wide variety at shops, but, practically speaking, it is better to choose a house with a flat roof because bunnies like to lie on it. Or you can buy a board and secure it in the iron bars of the cage to create another floor. Buying a rabbit bed which rabbits can use when they are outside the cage also wouldn’t be amiss.

Toys

Physical activity and mental stimulation is important for bunnies. Their IQ is comparable to IQ of dogs. So various toys which will make them think and try hard are ideal for them. The same applies to learning tricks (although not every bunny enjoys that), hopping, etc.

Diet

1. The basis of the diet sheet consists of quality hay. That is important both for healthy teeth and for good digestive system.
2. Leaf vegetables/grass/herbs – fresh/dry
3. Quality pellets (grain free)
4. Root and fruit vegetables should be rather an occasional treat, the same with fruit

Listed according to their importance:
HAY > LEAF VEGETABLES/GRASS > PELLETS > ROOT VEGETABLES/FRUIT

It is also appropriate to give rabbits twigs and pieces of wood for chewing (not every rabbit wants them). So it depends on the rabbit if he wants the twigs; if he doesn’t, it’s not a big deal.

Pellets

The most appropriate choice by far are grain free pellets. Dwarf rabbits who are fed grain or corn (whether it is a mix or grain pellets) tend to get fat and reject hay which leads to serious health problems. Nowadays there is a wide range of grain free products. And don’t let the price fool you, Beaphar Nature Rabbit Adult 1, 25 kg are the most appropriate ones and are in fact favorable if you consider the price for one kilogram. Our dwarf rabbit Nuficek has this rabbit diet.

Treats

Leave out commercial puffs, rabbit drops, sticks, mineral and salt licks, and get a drying machine instead so you can dry fruit, vegetables, and even various herbs for your bunny.

Do not feed!!!

Bread causes digestive disorders and flatulence. Various molds appear on bread when we cannot see them yet (48-hours-old bread already contains them), these molds cause low immunity, liver diseases, problems connected to the digestive tract, kidneys and other organs and fertility problems. Bread is full of ingredients causing the rabbit indigestive disorders.

Food composition:

  • cereals (wheat flour, rye flour)
  • corn
  • eggs
  • dough conditioners
  • oil
  • fat
  • yeast
  • salt and others

Commercial treats like rabbit drops, sticks, etc.
Grain pellets



Domesticating and communication

A bunny rabbit doesn’t understand the way we behave, so we have to “talk” like a rabbit, then he or she will strongly bond with you.

Firstly, it is important to understand that even though pet rabbits are social animals, they enjoy their peace and quiet and personal space which we should not enter. Such a space is mostly the cage so the cage should be cleaned only when the rabbit isn’t inside. I have trained my rabbit enough to be able to put my hand into the cage, but it takes time and you have to respect the rabbit, or it can end with a severe bite.

It is advised to leave introduction to the pet rabbit. You let him explore the room and you should sit on the floor. Pet rabbits are naturally very curious and they will come to sniff you sooner or later. You can hold out your hand and if they brush their body against your hand, you answer by brushing against their face. This is the most considerate introduction of yourself. Treats in your hand cannot spoil anything.

Another important thing is rabbits’ behavior towards each other. Bunnies usually gently bite each other, but their skin is significantly coarser so they don’t understand it hurts humans. If your bunny bites you, don’t punish him, just tell him in the rabbit language “Don’t do this” and you can do that by hissing (he will notice something is wrong) and gently touch his side and push him away.

Another one of the important things is lifting pet rabbits. Lifting reminds them of a predator-like grasp, so they try to resist, their adrenaline level increases, their heartbeat increases – it is truly harmful for them in total. If you want to lift the rabbit, you have to put your hand under his bottom so he is supported and you also have to catch the skin on his neck so he doesn’t slip out. Falling from a small height or a potential back injury when he frees himself can have fatal consequences (dislocation, broken bones, or paralysis).
Most of pet rabbits can’t handle petting in one’s arms so don’t force on him this idea of petting and rather sit next to him on the floor and scratch him.
Of course, there are exceptions, but every bunny has to figure it out on their own, you cannot force them.



Taking care of their fur

Whether you have a shorthaired or a longhaired pet rabbit, it is necessary to take care of their fur. But forget shampoos and conditioners, rabbits can manage regular bathing on their own. What you have to help them with is old fur. In nature, rabbits rub against bushes and low vegetation and thanks to that they can remove old fur. In home conditions, they don’t have such options and they may eat a large amount of hairs when their fur is badly combed out, which leads to colon and gastric impactions and that threatens rabbits’ lives. Rabbits molt several times a year, however, some of them molt only once a year (from January to December). To help the rabbit get rid of their old fur, we need proper equipment. It may take you some time to try out different products and figure out what fits you and your rabbit most. There are many brushes, little combs and grooming gloves.

The general rule is: “The shorter the hair, the shorter the tooth”. I use a common hairdressing comb on the Lop and I have the comb for short-haired rabbit only to brush the rabbit and I remove the old fur with my hands. But that needs some special practice and the pet rabbit must cooperate. However, it is the most efficient and the most gentle option (unless you are careless and you pull out fur that didn’t fall out). You can improve the quality of fur by adding flax seeds into their dose of rabbit food. Either one tea spoon per week or a pinch per day. Similarly, with the product “Rodi Care Akut”, you can help the rabbit prevent fur molting and thus reduce the risk of choking on a small ball of hairs.

Bathing

We bathe pet rabbits for health-related reasons only (bathing when the rabbit suffers from a fungal infection) or when rabbits soak themselves in something which they really cannot lick (a paint, oil, wallpaper adhesives), but they can clean themselves on their own when they have dirt in their fur after a walk outside.



Taking care of paws, nails

We have to take care of rabbit nails in an appropriate way as well. At home, they do not have the possibility to wear down their nails so the nails will overgrow eventually. There are scissors and guillotine nail clippers available. I don’t recommend the guillotine nail clippers for small rabbits at all because handling it can be quite tricky and you can easily cut the small rabbit into the quick (the blood supply to the nail). By contrast, using guillotine nail clippers is great for large bunnies (not adult dwarf rabbits, but home “fatties”) because their nails can easily slip when using little scissors.

However, rabbits’ whole paws, not only their nails, deserve care. We have to comb out the old fur even on the underside of their paws so the fur won’t tangle; wet, tangled fur often leads to ugly skin diseases (that’s one of the reasons why a litter box with a grate is appropriate, the rabbit doesn’t soak their paws in used bedding). Sometimes we should take a close look at the heels of the rabbit, to check whether there are no red, hairless spots, or blisters. If there were, it would mean that the bunny has sore hocks and it is necessary to give him softer bedding (a carpet/a towel on the bottom of the cage, a soft rabbit bed for lying, a hanging hammock, a blanket in front of the cage where he often rests…). If the rabbit already has sore hocks and the sores are quite big, you should massage the paws using oil (cd Vet Oil for sore hocks). Other treatment options include socks, but honestly, just few pet rabbits let you give them socks and even fewer of them keep them for longer than 10 seconds. Nevertheless, it is still an option and it is not unreasonable to try it when treating sore hocks.

 

Trimming

We never trim the pet rabbits. They do not have sweat glands like us and they maintain their temperature with an air cushion between their skin and their fur and they change the blood flow in their ears. For the proper function of this system the fur must be properly combed out. Concerning dwarf rabbits, they really aren’t hot in summer, on the contrary – if you trim their fur, there is a possibility of them overheating and even collapsing, in extreme cases. But, for example, if you don’t have a bunny meant for exhibitions, there is no harm in cutting the “fringe” so he or she could see. But you must really change the fringe into a spiky hairstyle, otherwise the semi-long fur will get into the rabbit’s eyes and that might lead to inflammations.

Hairdressing scissors are great for trimming and thanks to the blunt tip you won’t cut rabbits into their skin. However, there is also a health exception concerning trimming and that’s when a hairier rabbit is having health problems and can’t wash their bottom, then it is not bad to trim the fur on the bottom to prevent getting it dirty. Tangled, wet and dirty fur is a paradise not only for bacteria and ectoparasites (mallophaga, fleas, scabies…) but also for fly larvae which feed on meat and may harm the rabbit very much.



Castration

Is not really pointless. Male dwarf rabbits’ testicles didn’t get atrophied by breeding, so in proportion to their small bodies they produce more testosterone than domestic rabbits. And high testosterone level leads to metabolic disorders and even to cancer. With females, there is a risk of cysts and uterine cancer. The favorite argument “So why not sterilize females” is flawed because wild rabbits are glad when they survive two seasons, give birth to several babies and goodbye. By domesticating the rabbit, their lifespan is significantly extended. But female rabbits don’t have anything like menopause, meaning a period of life when their sexual activity decreases (evolution-wise, wild rabbits didn’t need such a thing) and so female sexual organs are constantly overused until the cancer or cysts appear.

 

Medication

Flatulence, constipation – Sab Simplex, RodiCare Akut, chamomile tea, cumin
Probiotics – for digestion-related problems and after delivery of medication (Bio Lapis)
Disinfection – colloidal silver / the Betadine solution
Providing supplemental feeding – RodiCare

Material
Needle-free injectors 2, 10, 20 ml – for providing supplemental feeding, delivery of oral medication and wound care
Pincers – for ticks

 

Author: Luca Nádvorníková of group Zakrslí králíci on FB