Health Benefits of Spaying or Neutering Your Pet Rabbit

Did you know that there are health benefits to spaying or neutering your pet rabbit? For example, expect a longer lifespan when you have your bunny spayed or neutered. It is as important for rabbits to be spayed or neutered as it is for cats and dogs.

What is Spaying/Neutering?

This type of surgery is often referred to as “sterilizing” or having your pet “fixed” or “altered.” The term for female rabbit surgery is called “spaying”; for males, it is called “neutering.”

The procedure renders the animals incapable of reproduction, which benefits not only the individual rabbits but the community of rabbits as well.

Overpopulation in the pet world means that animal shelters are unable to house or arrange adoption for the number of rabbits produced and brought to them. Many people have released unwanted bunnies into the wild, which is a death sentence for these little pets who have no idea how to survive on their own.

How and When Should Rabbits be Spayed or Neutered?

For female rabbits, spaying is best performed when your pet is between four and six months old. Spaying is when the uterus and ovaries are removed. For male rabbits, the surgery is best performed when males are between three and five months old. The procedure is castration, which is the removal of the testicles.

Rabbits younger than these ages are prone to complications from surgery. If you adopt your bunny from a shelter, be sure and ask if he or she has already been sterilized as you may not be able to tell by examining your new pet.

Generally, your rabbit’s veterinarian will have a good idea on the right time to sterilize your rabbit. If you have any concerns about the surgery, be sure and ask and also request an explanation of the procedure. Find out what kind of preparation is required and when it will be okay for your bunny to go home with you.

Rabbits Receive Many Health Benefits When Spayed or Neutered

  1. Females no longer run the risk of cancer in the ovaries and/or uterus, and they’ll have a reduced risk of cancer of the mammary glands.
  2. Males have a lowered risk of testicular cancer.
  3. Both sexes will have a lowered risk of contracting diseases that can be passed through the exchange of bodily fluids.
  4. Both sexes will have less chance of suffering from urinary tract infections.
  5. Males are less likely to roam, urinate to mark their territory, and engage in fights with other animals because of their sexual aggression.
  6. Females no longer have to endure the stress and discomfort experienced during heat periods, and will no longer attract the attention of unneutered males.

There are Other Benefits, Too

  1. Having your pet rabbit sterilized helps resolve the problem of animal overpopulation.
  2. Female rabbits are less likely to bite, lunge at, and scratch their owners and other pets.
  3. Males will become happier and more relaxed.
  4. Both sexes will become easier to train and will bond better with their owners after sterilization. They will also be able to have friends of their own and of the opposite sex, which isn’t possible after sexual maturation unless they are altered. Altered rabbits make much better companions when they are no longer preoccupied with the urge to mate.
  5. Both sexes will become less destructive and will chew and dig less, but will remain mischievous and fun.
  6. Not only unsterilized males but also females use urine to mark territory, and male urine in particular has a very strong odour. If he or she is not sterilized before reaching sexual maturity, territorial marking may become a habit even if it no long serves its original purpose of keeping rivals away.

Give Your Pet Special Care After Surgery

When it is time to take your pet home after sterilization, make sure you have your rabbit vet’s instructions and pain or anti-inflammatory medication, and know what to expect.

Check on your rabbit’s surgery site regularly to make sure everything looks normal and there is no sign of infection—i.e. redness or pus. Go back to your rabbit vet if things don’t look right.

Keep the location of your pet rabbit’s cage in a quiet area and don’t encourage your bunny to move around too much. Your rabbit will know what is comfortable and you can expect him or her to avoid hurtful movements.

As you can see, your pet rabbit will reap many health benefits from spaying or neutering, including living a longer, happier life. Your rabbit will also become a much better companion for you and other pets after the procedure is done.

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Why Is My Cat Drooling & What Can I Do About It?

Cats don’t drool very much and when owners discover their cat drooling at all, they often worry about it. Sometimes, there is good reason to worry. It is important to note if your cat drools only now and then or if it is ongoing or excessive, in which case, it indicates a problem needing treatment.

In general, the reason for cat drooling falls into one of three categories:

  • Emotional stimulation
  • Mouth or jaw irritation, or a foreign body in the mouth or throat
  • Disease, poison, or respiratory condition

If your cat drools only once in a while, don’t worry, they’re probably fine! However, if your cat drools a lot, it means there is a problem and you need to take your cat to a veterinarian. Watch for other symptoms that accompany the drooling and report these to your veterinarian. Providing as much additional information as possible can help speed up the diagnostic process and determine the appropriate treatment needed. Remember that preventive solutions and, if needed, early treatment equals a more successful outcome.

Emotional Stimulation Can Cause Drooling

  1. Happy and Relaxed – Cat drooling often occurs when pets are happy or when they are asleep. Drooling in these cases means you have a happy cat. When being pet and cuddled, some cats show that they are relaxed and are enjoying your attention by drooling blissfully. When sleeping soundly and relaxed, they sometimes drool slightly just as humans do. Drooling will stop when the relaxation or joyful period ends.
  2. Fearful and Nervous – Some drooling occurs when cats are afraid and nervous, such as when travelling or reaching a new destination, or when a new pet is introduced into the household. After a period of drooling, some cats will vomit, especially if travelling and the motion causes nausea. Drooling will stop soon after the travelling is over or after kitty adjusts to the new surroundings, or the new situation.

Don’t worry if drooling occurs now and then under these conditions and only a small amount of saliva is produced.

A Cat Drooling Because of Irritation or Trauma Needs Attention

  1. Dental Problems or Gum Disease – Both of these conditions can cause drooling and require veterinary care and attention. If a cat has a broken tooth, cavities (known as resorptive lesions), a lot of tartar on their teeth, or is suffering from irritated gums or gum disease, your cat will drool in an attempt to remove whatever is hurting from his or her mouth. Other symptoms you may see of dental problems in cats are traces of blood in the saliva or their mouth may have an unpleasant odour, or your cat may resist or absolutely refuse to chew on their favourite hard food and treats.
  2. Jaw Trauma – If your cat has been injured by an encounter with another animal or a fall or by any accident that has caused a problem with the jaw, your cat will start drooling because it is too difficult or painful to close his or her mouth. Your cat may refuse to let you touch their jaw and face.
  3. A Foreign Body Swallowed – Occasionally a cat may accidently swallow something that gets caught in the mouth, tongue, or back of the throat such as a fish bone or sharp grass blade. Anything that causes your cat pain in the mouth or throat will cause him or her to drool in an attempt to soothe the pain or remove the foreign body.

All these problems will cause excessive and ongoing drooling, so your cat must be taken to a veterinarian to determine exactly what happened and what can be done to help.

Seek Urgent Care for Cats Drooling from Disease, Poison, or Respiratory Problems

  1. Various Diseases Cause Ongoing Cat Drooling
  • Oral Cancer – Owners should keep watch for clinical signs of cancer in cats, especially in the mouth. These signs can include drooling, bad breath, refusing to eat, dropping food from the mouth, and weight loss. Early treatment means a prolonged life.
  • Kidney Failure – This is a serious illness to which cats are prone to. Clinical signs of kidney problems are drooling, bad breath, weight loss, increased thirst, and increased urination as shown by larger than usual clumps in the litter box. Mention all these signs to your veterinarian so that tests for, and treatment of, kidney problems can begin immediately.
  1. Poison Needs Immediate Attention
  • Corrosive poisons – These are as dangerous to cats as they are to dogs. Laundry detergent and various cleaners can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, but much bigger problems in cats include burns in the mouth, tongue, esophagus, and stomach, indicated by excessive drooling. If this happens, carefully flush out the mouth of your pet with water and offer a tasty liquid like canned tuna water or milk to soothe your pet and dilute the substance. Contact an Animal Poison Control Centre and your veterinarian for advice and help.
  • Plant poisons – As with corrosive household products, some plants can cause intense burning of a cat’s mouth although they are not nearly as dangerous to a cat’s life. (An exception is the deadly Easter lily—don’t allow one in the house!) For most other plants, flush your pet’s mouth out with water and then offer some to drink. Consult a veterinarian if your cat continues to drool excessively and also vomits and refuses to eat.
  1. Respiratory Conditions
  • Some cats can contract a viral respiratory condition that leads to mouth ulcerations. The sign is the development of excessive saliva, and the pet parent can check inside their cat’s mouth and see the ulcers. The veterinarian will treat the respiratory infection as well as the cat’s sore mouth.

How to Prevent Your Cat from Drooling Too Much

Taking your cat to your veterinarian for an annual checkup can certainly reduce some of the problems that cause ongoing or excessive drooling. Keeping your cat’s vaccinations up to date reduces the chances of illnesses, and having your veterinarian monitor your cat’s teeth and gums will ensure they remain healthy, which also reduces drooling problems.

An indoor cat runs less risk of encountering dangerous animals and situations that can cause poisoning, injury, or respiratory infections compared to outdoor cats.

Introduce your cat to a carrier by placing it in a room nearby with treats and toys inside. When your cat learns to go in and out, you can close the door a few times very briefly. When your cat is used to this action, you can take him or her outside in the carrier and place your cat in the car with a special treat for a little while. Eventually, you can drive around the block and then go for longer trips until your cat is used to the carrier, the car, and the traveling motion. Few cats ever enjoy traveling, but you can lessen your cat’s fear and the drooling that accompanies it.

Cats don’t drool very much or very often; therefore, if your cat starts to drool excessively, pay attention. Note all the other symptoms that are present at the same time and take your cat to a veterinarian and report them. Something is wrong and your cat is depending on you to take care of their problem.

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How Often Should My Dog’s Ears Be Cleaned?

This is one question our vets get asked a lot! Your dog’s ears need to be cleaned only as per recommendation of your veterinarian, or when there are signs of an ear problem. In any case, your dog’s veterinarian should always be the one to make the diagnosis and take care of the problem with treatment and any ear cleaning necessary.

What Can I Use to Clean My Dog’s Ears?

This is another frequently asked question we get, and the answer is: not a whole lot, and for a very good reason. It is actually not a good idea to try to clean your dog’s ears yourself; cleaning may not even be necessary.

Let us explain. The cleanliness of your pet’s ears, in general, depends on your dog’s breed, coat, activities, age, and the amount of earwax produced. Your dog’s ears may be floppy, long, short, or stick right up, and there may be a lot of thick hair, or the hair in the ears may be thin and sparse. Whatever it may look like on the outside, however, on the inside, a dog’s ear canal is always L-shaped with vertical and horizontal portions, which makes cleaning difficult. That means you should never take on this job yourself. There is a lot of potential to create a problem when there may be no reason for concern.

A professional groomer will be happy to remove thick hair in the external ear and around the ear canal opening to reduce chances of water or pollutants being trapped inside, but will not venture further into a dog’s ear than a half inch. If your dog displays any symptoms of ear problems, don’t go to a groomer but to your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Many dogs never need to have their ears cleaned. As a pet parent, your job is to make sure your pet’s ears are dried well after swimming or splashing in the water, and to watch for signs and symptoms of ear problems. Your veterinarian can advise you on whether or not your dog’s ears need grooming to keep shaggy hair out of them before the excess hair causes problems.

Ear Problems in Dogs Can be Triggered in Several Ways

There are lots of do-it-yourself (DIY) instructions for cleaning your pet’s ears online, but don’t follow them. It is best that you examine your dog’s ears routinely for discharge or redness and sniff them for odor, and leave the cleaning to an expert. There are too many concerns with taking on this job yourself, including the fact that your dog may not be very cooperative if you try!

Here is why dog ear problems can develop:

  • Excessive hair in and around the ears or excessive earwax can make it difficult for your dog’s ears to dry out well after water gets into them.
  • Ear mites, a foreign object stuck in the ear, tumours or polyps, or water trapped in the ears can lead to bacterial or yeast infections.
  • Ear cleaning too frequently can cause irritation of the skin inside your dog’s ears, which can lead to an infection.
  • Ear cleaning with the improper tools, such as a poor cleaning solution or not enough cleaning solution, or Q-tips can all be sources of infections.
  • Allergies, hypothyroidism, or a ruptured ear drum can all cause ear problems.

Signs and Symptoms of Dog Ear Problems

Keep in mind that floppy-eared breeds such as basset hounds, retrievers, and spaniels are more prone to ear infections. If this is your dog’s breed, then you should be diligent about checking their ears often. Take your dog to the vet if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Excessive ear scratching
  • Frequent head shaking or head tilting
  • A foul smell from the ears; a strong, very unpleasant smell usually indicates a bacterial infection; a musty smell, like moldy bread, usually means a yeast infection
  • Loss of balance or walking in circles
  • Discharge from ears that is yellow, brownish, black specked, or bloody
  • A scabby or waxy or brownish build up in the ear folds or the ear canal
  • Hearing loss
  • Ear sensitivity, i.e. the dog avoids having anyone touch their ears

Veterinarians Test for Dog Ear Problems and Treat Them Carefully

Your veterinarian will examine your pet’s ears and may take a sample for further examination under a microscope. Further testing may also be required if the cause of the ear problems are not readily apparent.

The main problem could be affecting the outer ear, but may involve the middle or inner ear as well. Outer ear problems can be treated easily, but when an infection spreads to the middle or inner ear, treatment takes longer and your dog’s balance and hearing can be affected. As well, inner ear infections can cause a lot of pain to dogs.

The usual treatments for infections and other ear problems are:

  • Medication, which can be either oral or topical or both, and may be antibiotic or antifungal depending on the problem. A bacterial infection will be treated with an antibiotic. A fungal infection, such as a yeast infection, will be treated with an antifungal medication. Corticosteroids may be used in addition to antibiotic or antifungal medications.
  • A veterinary prescription will be needed for pain and possibly steroids for inflammation
  • Ear flushing may be recommended by your vet for infections.
  • Further testing for allergies or complicated or chronic problems by a dermatologist may be necessary.

If your dog is a very shaggy breed and there is a lot of hair in your pet’s ears, ask your groomer to remove the hair in and around the ear canal. Otherwise, carefully examine your pet’s ears as part of your regular at-home dog ear care program, and wait until you see symptoms of a problem, which may never happen (fingers crossed!).

We cannot state it enough. If you should see any of the symptoms or signs listed above, leave the diagnosis to your veterinarian. If cleaning your dog’s ears is necessary, you can rest assured it will be done correctly and no further problems occur.

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These Tips Make Litter Box Training for Kittens Easy

Have you adopted a kitten recently? If so, congratulations! Now the next step after you bring your new kitten home: litter box training.

However, you don’t have to worry about training a kitten to use the litter box if you have chosen a good location for it and have all the supplies on hand before you bring your new kitten home. Kittens instinctively want to relieve themselves in sand or dirt—or its equivalent, such as kitty litter—so as long as you show your kitten where the litter box is, nature will take care of the rest. A little help in training from you is always welcomed though!

Tip 1. Have Supplies on Hand When You Bring Your Kitten Home

There are a lot of choices when it comes to selecting a litter box, a suitable type of litter, and the tools needed to keep everything clean and fresh.

Buy a Good Litter Box: a “good” box means one that is the right size for your pet not only when your kitten is small but also when he or she becomes an adult. Kittens grow very fast!

  • Make sure your kitten can get into the box easily when small, and if there is any difficulty at all, add a little ramp of plywood or some other suitable material attached to the underside to the box. It can be removed when your kitten is bigger.
  • The box should be big enough for your kitten to turn around and become comfortable when using it, and deep enough to bury the feces.
  • You may want to provide an enclosed litter box with a top, which helps contain the litter and the odors. If so, plan to remove any doors and hood at first so that your kitten doesn’t feel the space is cramped.

Provide Suitable Litter: there are lots of choices for kitty litter. You should buy one that is as dust free as possible and is readily available in most stores. Cats become used to their favourite litter and may object if you decide to change it or can’t find it when shopping.

  • Unscented litter is more popular with kittens, and you should avoid perfumed litter just in case it bothers your pet’s nose or lungs.
  • Avoid buying clumping litter when your new pet is still a kitten. Kittens sometimes eat clumping litter, which can harm their intestines.

You Need a Scooper and a Drop Cloth: put a drop cloth under the litter box so that any litter that is kicked out is easy to clean up. A scooper is necessary for the daily ritual of scooping out the urine and feces so that the litter box doesn’t smell which does disturb your kitten as much as it disturbs you!

Tip 2. Prepare Your House

When you first bring your kitten home, make sure you have chosen a good place for the litter box and introduce your kitten to it right away.

Find the Best Location for the Litter Box: the box should be in a quiet, private place in or by a room where your kitten may spend a lot of time.

  • If you put the litter box in the laundry area beside the washer and/or dryer, the sounds of the machines may frighten your kitten. You don’t want your pet to look for and find a quieter location instead—like behind the sofa!
  • If you have more than one cat, have a litter box for each pet. The anecdotally accepted rule is to have a litter box for each cat plus one.
  • If you have to move the litter box after your kitten is used to its location, move it a few feet at a time over a period of several days so that your kitten is not confused.
  • Avoid placing the litter box near your kitten’s water and food dishes. Your new kitten will not be comfortable with that arrangement.

Confine Your Kitten for a Few Days: it is a good idea to confine your kitten to one or two rooms when he or she is first brought home to reduce the likelihood of accidents happening. Most kittens know immediately how to use a litter box, but it takes some kittens a few days to adjust to where it is and its purpose. If it’s possible, remove nearby carpets and rugs to make cleaning up after your cat easier until their litter training is completed.

Remove Potted Plants: to prevent your kitty from finding an alternate source of litter than what’s in the box, remove your big potted plants out of sight and reach. Keep them away until it’s established that the litter box is the spot your kitten must choose each time.

Tip 3. This is How Actual Litter Box Training for Kittens Takes Place

Most kittens will know all about litter boxes and how to use them if they have been with their mothers for a while. If not, they usually catch on fast, but it may take some kittens a few days to learn. Always be patient.

What to Do First: as soon as you arrive home, place your new kitten in the litter box to introduce it to the location, smell, and the feel of their litter box. Your kitten may not use it right away, but the familiarity will help.

What Not to Do: Kittens don’t need to be shown how to cover up their feces by, say, your taking hold of a paw and helping with the digging. Kittens will not react well to this action! Covering feces and urine is instinctive for kittens, so even though it may not happen at first, it will soon.

How to Keep Your Kitty on a Schedule: Pick the kitten up and place him or her in the box upon waking up, after each meal, or after some interval of time has occurred. You may have to do this frequently at first or maybe only for a day or two.

  • If you see your kitten squat outside the litter box, assume the box is needed and then pick him or her up and place your pet in it.
  • Establish a regular feeding schedule and assume your kitten will likely need to use the box about 20 minutes later.

Offer Praise, not Punishment: if you see your kitten use the box correctly, pet and praise your little pet. Never scold or get angry at your kitten if they forget.

How to Deal with Accidents: if an accident occurs, help your pet smell the box’s location afterwards. Pick your kitty up and place him or her in the box as a reminder of where they are supposed to go if they have to. Don’t ever rub the noses of kittens into the feces or urine! Doing this is confusing and frightening to them. Clean up the accident area thoroughly so there is no smell remaining; it could encourage your kitten to consider the spot as their bathroom.

Tip 4. Keep the Litter Box Clean

Kittens don’t like unpleasant odors as much as we don’t. They will tend to avoid using a dirty litter box, so you need to keep it clean.

Clean the Litter Daily: use the scooper on a daily basis to remove the urine and feces.

Clean the Box Frequently: about once a week, dump the litter into a garbage bag and wash the box with soapy water or a non-toxic cleaner. Rinse, dry, and fill it with fresh litter after washing.

Unlike potty training dogs, which can take a little while, litter box training for kittens is usually a simple matter of finding the right box, finding the right litter, and making sure the box is easily accessible and regularly kept clean. Kittens can usually be trained in a day or two—it’s easy-peasy!

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Great House Training & Cage Training Tips for Rabbits

If you have decided that adopting a bunny (or two) would be perfect for you and your household, you can prepare for their arrival using these tips for cage training and house training for rabbits.

To start, you will want to find a cage even if you decide to give your bunny the run of the house. It is nice to be able to confine your pet now and then, especially when litter training and at night for safety and for your own peace of mind. It also may be your choice to keep your rabbit in a cage normally, and let your bunny out for exercise each day.

If you live in a part of Burnaby or the Lower Mainland in BC where there’s space to keep your bunny in a cage outside, or you want to keep him or her inside but allow them freedom to run in a well-enclosed yard during the day, please remember to take your rabbits into the house at night. Rabbits are considered to be prey by most animals, so by taking them inside every night you lessen the risk of harm coming to your pet.

Cage Training Tips for Rabbits

If you decide to keep your bunny in a cage most of the time, be sure to prepare a room or a safe place in a room or in the yard where your little pet can get the exercise he or she needs. Let them jump and run free for two or more hours a day. If you are using a room inside your home, train your pet to use a litter box so there isn’t a mess to clean up every day.

  1. Choose the Best Cage for Your Bunny
  • The right size and type – Most important is getting a cage big enough to house your pet (or pets, if you have decided to adopt two at once). It must be big enough for a litter tray and a little hidey box, as well as room to play, eat, and sleep.
  • If your rabbit is less than 8 pounds when it is fully grown, you need a cage at least 24” by 36”; buy one that is 30” by 36” for larger rabbits. Your rabbit should be able to stand on his or her hind legs without touching the top of the cage.
  • Wire sides give a bunny good airflow and lots of natural light—diffused sunlight is perfect. If the sides are tall enough, an open top is wonderful as long as the bunny can’t jump out and escape.
  • A side door helps. Your rabbit needs the ability to get in and out of the cage without your help; a side door allows that. When it is time for your bunny to come out, leave the door open; when it is time to go back inside, take your bunny to the cage but let him or her enter without your assistance. Clap your hands softly behind and say, “Cage time.” Also, don’t reach into the cage to get food or water dishes when the bunny is inside. The cage is his or her personal space.
  • Solid flooring – If the bottom of the cage is made of wire, cover part of it with something solid like plywood or heavy cardboard. The litter box must be solid, too. Bunnies can develop problems with sores on their feet if they stand on wire floors for too long.
  • Leave room for a “hidey” box. Rabbits love to burrow and they enjoy their privacy, especially when they’re asleep. There should be a covered box in the cage for the bunny to crawl inside and hide.
  • A litter tray should fit nicely inside the cage and leave your bunny enough room to sleep, play, and eat.
  • Don’t forget to attach a water bottle to the cage’s side to supply fresh water daily.
  1. Provide Bedding, Food, and Litter
  • The litter box should contain organic litter made of paper or wood pulp, and also some hay on which a bunny can munch on when it’s using the box.
  • Cover the bottom of the cage with straw, and add grass hay over it for your bunny to eat.
  • Provide items that your bunny can chew on, such as rabbit chew sticks and cardboard items such as paper towel and toilet rolls.
  1. Provide a Runway for Your Bunny’s Exercise Routine
  • Portion off a sizable area in a room where your bunny can exercise and hop around safely. Bunny-proof the area so there is nothing your little rabbit can chew on and destroy such as wooden furniture, and nothing that can harm him or her such as electrical cables and cords or plants.
  • House training is a very good idea even for caged bunnies. When your bunny is outside the cage for exercise or for playtime with you, train your bunny to use the litter box using the same methods used to train a kitten. This will take only a week or two.
  • Keep the cage clean, and clean it when your bunny is not inside it. Change the hay daily and use white vinegar to scrub down the floor and the litter box once a week.

House Training Tips for Rabbits

Before letting your bunny roam freely around the home, keep him or her confined to the cage and a portion of a room until their litter training is completed. Enlarge the free area gradually until it’s okay for your bunny to explore the entire room—and eventually other rooms—without forgetting where the litter box is located.

  1. Bunny-Proof Your Home
  • Conceal cords and cables. Rabbits love to chew, and these items are the right size and texture to be very tempting. Keep them out of reach.
  • Protect wooden baseboards and furniture. Put up plastic barriers to protect baseboards and use plastic shields for the wooden legs of furniture. If you have a lot of wooden furniture in a room, it’s best you keep your bunny out of that room altogether.
  • Hide dangling upholstery and carpet ends. As well as tucking away any tempting loose threads or cloth, you can prevent your bunny from chewing on the underside of an upholstered chair or sofa by placing a plastic runner underneath.
  1. Provide a Good Litter Box and Litter
  • A litter box suitable for cats also works for rabbits. The box should be big enough that litter can’t get kicked out. However, if your rabbit is a big “litter kicker,” consider getting an enclosed box with a cover over the top.
  • Choose the same litter for the litter box outside the cage as the type used inside the cage.
  • Don’t forget to provide hay on which your bunny can munch on while using the litter box.
  1. Make Sure Your Bunny has all the Comforts of the Cage
  • Provide lots of chewable toys to occupy your little rabbit and to discourage him or her from chewing on household items.
  • Have a water dish, a food dish, and a bed with hay, as well as a litter box outside the cage.

Provide These Necessities for Both Caged and House-Free Bunnies

Whether your rabbit spends most of the time in the cage or most time running free, the following necessities are always important:

  1. Consult an Experienced Veterinarian. Our rabbit veterinarian has had special training to deal with rabbits. Call Dr. Sheelagh Shanahan in advance before you take your bunny to her for a visit.
  2. Playtime with You. Rabbits are very social creatures and they need interaction with their owners. They will follow you around if they can and will greet you when you approach. Most bunnies like to be cuddled and they all become very attached to their pet parents. If you don’t have a lot of time available to socialize, consider buying a pair of rabbits together.
  3. Natural Light and Even Temperatures. Rabbits like natural light and filtered sunlight. They also thrive in mild, even temperatures.
  4. Keep Loud Noises and Predators Away. Rabbits are fearful of loud noises and many household pets, too. If you own a dog or cat, keep the bunny’s cage up high so the dog can’t sniff around it. Keep other pets out of the room when the bunny is enjoying playtime outside the cage.
  5. Spaying or Neutering. About 80% of female rabbits develop cancer of their reproductive organs before reaching six years of age or even earlier if they are not spayed. Unneutered males, after four to six months, develop biting, scratching and grunting behaviors, spray their urine around and refuse to use their litter boxes. After spaying or neutering, rabbits are more easily litter box trained, and are happier and healthier.

Prepare for your new pet’s arrival with these useful tips for cage training and house training for rabbits. Bunnies make great companions. Have fun!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Are There Supplements/Natural Remedies that Would Help My Dog?

This is a question our veterinary staff gets asked a lot at our clinic! Dogs are dependent on their pet parents to supply everything necessary for them to be healthy and happy. They need a healthy diet to support growth, healthy bones and teeth, a shiny thick coat, a strong immune system to ward off diseases, and a high energy level.

Safe supplements can be added to your dog’s food to improve its nutritional value and to assist in the treatment of various health issues. As well, there are many natural remedies that can be introduced to enhance a dog’s happiness and well-being, or are starting to develop problems as they age.

It’s best that you always consult your veterinarian about supplements and natural remedies. 

Quality food for your dog is a good investment and it is important for your dog to have a high-quality well-balanced diet.

Specific problems require special supplements

  • Glucosamine – This is the most commonly recommended supplement for dogs with stiff joints and mobility issues or for dogs with arthritis. It helps to reduce inflammation.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids – This is the second most popular supplement. It essential fatty acids that are needed to improve a dog’s coat, skin health, and help reduce inflammation.
  • Antioxidants – These supplements, such as vitamins C and E, help reduce the negative effects of aging, improve memory, reduce the risk of heart disease, and reduce inflammation. Good quality well balance diets contain these important supplements.
  • Probiotics – These supplements increase the growth of good bacteria and yeasts that live in the digestive system. Probiotics are especially important to restore balance in the digestive system after a stressful incident such as vomiting, diarrhea, or the use of antibiotics, etc.

Be cautious with supplements

  • Use only supplements made for animals and prescribed by your veterinarian. Never substitute the dog supplements with those intended for human consumption; those are sometimes dangerous for dogs.
  • Carefully follow the dosages at the direction of your veterinarian. Never exceed the recommended doses.
  • Remember that supplements do not produce overnight results. Be patient and expect results to show up slowly with regular usage over time.
  • Don’t ever expect impossible claims to be true. Supplements cannot replace prescription medication when your dog is ill, and they cannot cure cancer or any other serious disease.

Add to Your Pet’s Health and Happiness with Natural Remedies

We all know that it is important for your pet’s health and happiness to provide a balanced diet, and to give your pet as much companionship as your schedule will allow, coupled with sufficient daily exercise. However, there are natural remedies you can also use to keep your four-legged best friend mentally healthy and alert and to calm your pet when necessary.

  1. Change-up the exercise routine to keep your dog alert. Dogs love routine and, when you start on your walk, will turn and pause at all the usual places; however, it is a good idea to introduce some variety now and then. Take a new route or reverse the one you usually take.
  • If throw-and-fetch makes your pooch happy, find a place where you can play the game with a ball or a Frisbee or another suitable toy.
  • If your dog loves to splash in the water, head to the beach or a place where dogs are welcome to swim and enjoy the water.
  • Add a few extra short walks to your day, or take doggy on a run, or to a park where he or she can run off-leash.
  • Allow your dog time to stop and smell the roses or the stinky stuff—but stop him or her from eating or rolling in whatever it is!
  1. Mental stimulation. Give your dog some opportunities for mental exercise and stimulation.
  • Dog parks are great places for your pooch to interact with other dogs.
  • If your dog doesn’t make friends easily, try the occasional doggy date with a friendly neighbourhood dog and owner.
  • Teach your dog tricks to help spice up his or her life. Start with the basic commands of “sit,” “stay,” and “down,” and to come when his or her name is called. You can then move on to teaching your dog to shake hands, roll over and play dead, or to bark on command. You will need lots of patience and treats, and a signal such as snapping your fingers, or a hand signal, or a word. Keep the sessions short—no more than 10 minutes—and stop if you or your dog find yourselves losing patience or stressing out.
  • Add new toys and interactive puzzle toys to your doggy’s toy box.
  1. Music can help calm a stressed dog. If you have a nervous dog or one that becomes anxious when travelling or when a routine is changed, try adding some music to the scene. Yes, dogs do like music, especially classical music. Bach is particularly soothing and seems to be a favourite with most animals. Interestingly, they don’t react well to heavy metal, rock, hip hop, or jazz.
  1. Massages and grooming. Grooming your pet is great for bonding, and so are massages.
  • Grooming: Use a brush daily or as often as you can to keep your dog’s coat clean, to keep it free of mats and tangles, and to reduce unpleasant smells.
  • Relaxing: You can help dogs relax by petting and massaging them when they are stressed, such as during a thunderstorm or when they are restless. Pet your dog from the top of the head with long, even strokes down the spine and over the tail. Repeat this motion several times, increasing the pressure gradually—but not on the lower spine—and then rest your hands on the head and the high point on your dog’s hips. These areas control relaxation responses.
  • Sore joints: Massage can ease the stiffness and pain in a dog’s joints resulting from overexertion, inactivity, or aging. Pet the areas around the joints to warm the locations and then apply gentle compression to them. Finish off by gently petting and stroking the areas again.

Supplements can be added to increase the nutritional value of your dog’s diet and to ease various health problems. Be sure and check with your veterinarian to make sure the choices being made are appropriate ones. Other natural remedies can be used to enhance your pet’s well-being, alertness, and happiness. At the end of the day, your dog will reward you with a wagging tail and lots of affection!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Smelly Cats & Other Questions About Cat Anal Glands

Yes, just like dogs, cats can develop unpleasant, smelly odors. Are you a fan of the TV series Friends? If so, you may already be familiar with the song “Smelly Cat” that Phoebe sings. It’s a funny song because, after all, everyone knows that cats are fastidious about keeping themselves clean. How could a cat be smelly?

As it turns out, it really can happen! Everyone can see that cats are constantly bathing themselves, which is why it is always surprising if you suddenly realize you have a smelly cat.

There are several reasons for a bad odor, and that smell may be coming from your cat’s mouth, skin, ears, or the rear. If the bad smell really is coming from your cat’s rear, there are several possibilities as to why, some of which include their anal glands.

Mouth, Skin, and Ear Odors in Cats

Again, you must first check for the source of the odor and then look out for other symptoms.

Causes:

  1. Mouth Odors – Dental disease can cause bad breath. Plaque, tartar, inflamed gums, food particles lodged in gum pockets, bacterial infections, and oral tumors all produce foul odors. As well, bad breath can be a symptom of various diseases such as kidney disease, which produces an odor similar to ammonia; diabetes, which sometimes makes the breath smell fruity; or liver disease which may make the breath smell like feces.
  2. Skin Odors – A yeast infection produces a musty smell; a wound that becomes infected or an abscess with pus draining from it usually smells putrid. Allergies, parasites, or any serious skin problem can also cause a bad odor.
  3. Ear Odors – Ear odors usually stem from bacterial ear infections, yeast infections, or an ear mite infestation.
  4. Other Symptoms – Biting and licking an area can help point you in the direction of the problem. Remember that your cat will try to conceal their pain and discomfort from you. If your kitty stops eating or hides from you, it means the problem is very serious.

Solutions: All of these problems require a visit to your cat’s veterinarian for treatment or for further testing to discover the underlying cause. Ear problems in particular can cause excruciating pain, and other problems can be very painful or itchy and must not be ignored.

Rear End Odors Can Be Particularly Smelly

Causes:

 

  1. Matting – The fur around your cat’s rectum and genitals can matt and collect smelly urine and feces, which cause terrible odors.

Matting is a problem for long haired cats in particular because their hair is prone to mat. Any cat can have a matting problem causing a smelly rear if there is a cut or scrape under or around the tail to which the fur is sticking.

  1. Poor Grooming – It may have become difficult for kitty to groom his or her rear end.

If your cat is overweight, grooming will become increasingly tricky for your cat, and there may be more skin and fat folds around the rear that make thorough cleaning a problem. If your cat has arthritis, the pain and stiffness will make it difficult for your kitty to reach all parts of the body that would normally be groomed, especially around the rear and genitals.

  1. Urinary Tract Infection – If your cat develops a urinary tract infection, the bacteria may cause the urine itself to smell unpleasant and it may dribble out in the urethra area and cause a bad odor around your cat’s rear end. Urine may be bloody or cloudy and your cat may be uncomfortable when trying to urinate.

 

  1. Diarrhea – It can be difficult for a cat who suffers from diarrhea to keep the area around the anus clean, especially if fluid is leaking out of the rectum and onto the fur and folds around it. Your cat may bathe even more frequently but can’t keep up with the job, and may be feeling a bit sick as well. If you examine the litter box, you can see if there is only liquid rather than stool being produced which is the biggest sign something is wrong.

 

  1. Other Symptoms: For any problems that result in smelly rears, cats may try to reach around and grab their tails; scoot, or drag their bottoms along the ground or floor; lick and bite their rears; and sometimes strain or cry when using litter boxes.

Solutions: You should brush long-haired cats daily; use baby wipes to clean around the anus and genital areas of cats who are not able to groom themselves properly; and try to help overweight cats lose weight by cutting back on the treats and providing extra play time. Consult your veterinarian for help with weight loss, arthritis, and any suspected infections, or ongoing diarrhea, which may indicate food allergies.

Another Cause of Smelly Rears is an Anal Gland Problem

Having a problem with anal glands is less likely for cats than dogs, but it is something for which pet parents should watch. If you examine your smelly cat’s mouth, skin, and ears and find no odors and no symptoms of a problem, and if your cat has no barriers to good grooming such as being overweight or arthritic or long haired, and if diarrhea is not a problem and there are no symptoms of a urinary tract infection, you must consider the possibility that your cat is exhibiting trouble with his or her anal glands.

Cats have two anal scent glands, which are sacs located just inside the rectum that are used to help mark a cat’s territory with dark, smelly liquid. The liquid is normally squeezed out along with the stools when your cat uses the litter box; however, treatment is needed if problems develop.

In regards to the subject of anal glands, our clinic receives these two questions the most from our clients: “What happens if I don’t express my pet’s anal glands regularly?” and “How often should my pet have their anal glands expressed?”

Here is the answer to the first question:

      1. Glands can become impacted – The ducts or tube by which the anal sac is emptied may become clogged. If that happens, it becomes difficult and painful for your cat to relieve himself or herself and may become constipated as a result, which makes the situation even worse.
      2. A bacterial infection may continue to be present – If bacteria accumulates in clogged anal glands, a full-blown bacterial infection will develop and cause terrible pain and itching in your cat.
      3. An abscess can develop – this pus-filled mass is the most painful of all the problems, and your cat’s vet must lance and drain it.
      4. Chronic soft stools can cause a problem – If your cat suffers from chronic soft stools, they will not exert enough pressure to release the fluid in the glands, which causes a painful build-up of liquid.
      5. Other Symptoms: Other symptoms are the same as those of other problems that result in smelly rears.

Solutions: If your cat’s anal glands become infected, clogged, or abscessed, they will cause a foul odor around your kitty’s rear end. You need to consult a veterinarian to empty their anal glands, to drain an abscess, to receive antibiotics to deal with an infection, or to diagnose the problem behind the soft stools.

To answer the second question, your cat’s anal glands should be expressed regularly only if your cat has a medical history of infected anal glands. If not, you can leave them alone.

As a pet parent, you must take any development of an unpleasant odor in your cat seriously because the reasons for it may be serious. If your cat’s rear or any other area is always smelly, get the help your kitty needs so they can smell nicer again.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Why Does My Dog Smell Bad?

When you first realize your dog has a bad odor, it’s natural to maybe feel embarrassed and also worried! However, there are several causes for that bad smell, and you can do something about it besides frantically bathing your poor pooch over and over again.

The first step is to understand the many reasons dogs develop a bad odor, to note the source, and to recognize the symptoms your dog is exhibiting. Once you know the possible causes, and in certain cases received help from your dog’s veterinarian, you will be able to cure or control the smell.

Problems, Symptoms, and Treatments for Your Dog’s Bad Smell

1. Skin Issues. Skin problems can range from canine seborrhea (oily skin with dandruff), allergies, a hormone imbalance, a fungus, parasites, dermatitis, and scratches or bites that become infected, or moist skin folds that become a site for bacterial growth.

  • Symptoms – One of the first signs of skin issues is a bad skin odor that might be rancid, or musty, or stinky cheese smelling, followed by your dog’s excessive scratching and/or licking, a rash, flaking skin, or thinning hair.
  • Treatments – For any skin problems it’s best you consult with your dog’s veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. As there are so many possible causes of skin issues, the treatments can vary from one condition to another. This may include external and/or internal medication for infections and dermatitis, to treatments for parasites or a fungus, to a change in diet, or for problems related to hormone imbalances, and allergies. Skin folds, especially for bulldogs, pugs, or any dog with overlapping folds, need careful and regular cleaning to keep them clean and dry.  Your dog needs to be bathed often enough to keep the skin and hair and skin folds smelling sweet but not so often that there is not enough natural oil to prevent skin irritations. Your veterinarian can advise you on how much is too much or not enough.

2. Ear Infections. Bacterial infections can be caused by a lack of ear cleanliness and too much wax, or because there is a lot of hair in and around your dog’s ears which keeps them from drying out easily—and your dog loves splashing in the water!

  • Symptoms – A light, yeasty odor usually means your dog’s ears need cleaning, but an ear infection is indicated by a really strong, unpleasant smell and your dog may also start shaking his head more so than usual.
  • Treatments – An ear infection can be quite painful, and is serious business. You need to take your pooch to the veterinarian right away so that the pain can be eased with medication and the problem cleared up.  

3. Bad Breath. Your dog’s bad breath should never be ignored. It may be caused by a dental problem, such as a build-up of heavy tartar, a dental infection, or periodontal (gum) disease. Any of these problems are not only painful, but can also they can lead to more serious mouth infections. Bad breath in dogs can also indicate gastrointestinal issues, liver or kidney problems, or diabetes.

  • Symptoms – As well as bad breath, a dog with dental or mouth problems may have red or bleeding gums. Teeth might become loose and dogs may shy away from having their heads touched.
  • Treatments – You should take your dog to the vet to see if the bad breath is coupled with dental or gum disease and, if so, your veterinarian can help solve the problem. If not, your veterinarian will test for other problems, which may require medication or other treatments.

4. Yeast Infection. An overgrowth of yeast is a fairly common problem for dogs and causes a pungent, musty smell that will remind you of moldy bread or cheese popcorn, and can result in ear problems, stinky paws, and smelly skin.

  • Symptoms – As well as the yeasty odor, itchy paws, itchy ears, and butt scooting—because of an itchy butt—are the usual symptoms of a yeast infection.
  • Treatments – Yeast are opportunistic infections that can occur on your pet’s paws, ears, or skin folds. A yeast infection usually indicates an underlying problem that creates inflammation of the skin, such as allergies. Your veterinarian can prescribe the best treatment, which usually involves either a topical or oral antifungal medication.

5. Gas Problems – A big increase in the normal amount of gas that your dog expels—flatulence—and an increase in burping and gurgling usually indicates an intestinal problem, which may be caused by various foods or from an inflammatory bowel disease.  

  • Symptoms – There are breeds of dogs with flat noses, such as bulldogs, pugs, and boxers, that are well-known for gas issues because the structure of their faces causes them to draw in a lot of air when they are eating, which leads to an excess of air in their digestive systems. However, if gas increases in frequency and intensity in any breed, there may be bowel issues to address.
  • Treatments – It is best to consult your veterinarian to see if pooch is suffering from an irritated bowel problem and to recommend the best diet for your dog’s breed.

6. Anal Gland Odors – Impacted anal glands, which are located on both sides of your dog’s rectum, cause an odor like rotting fish that won’t go away with bathing. These glands contain an oily secretion that is released during your dog’s bowel movements.

  • Symptoms – If the glands become infected or filed with thicker secretions than usual, they can’t be emptied fully, and are painful for your dog.  The extremely foul odor will be left on pooch’s bed and blankets and anywhere he or she sleeps or rests.
  • Treatments – Your veterinarian can empty these glands to bring relief to your dog and will suggest dietary changes to reduce sensitivities to foods causing the problem.

7. Urinary Tract Infections – Just as humans can develop urinary tract or bladder infections, dogs can too and they are just as painful for dogs as they are for us.

  • Symptoms – Your dog may smell like urine and may want to go outside more frequently, may drink more water than usual, and may show signs of straining or pain when urinating. In some cases there may be blood in the urine.
  • Treatments – Your veterinarian will check your dog for infections, kidney stones, and diabetes, and will prescribe the appropriate medication to deal with the pain and the problem.

8. Inadequate Grooming – If he or she isn’t bathed and brushed often enough, your pooch will carry the odor of everything smelly in which he or she has rolled, run through, and come in contact with. Rolling is a natural behavior and not one your dog has dreamed up to irritate you.

  • Symptoms – The odor will be unpleasant, such as the smell of feces, and changes from one day to the next, depending on where your dog has been.
  • Treatments – A good dog shampoo will remove these odors. Give your dog a daily brushing in between baths. Brushing removes dead skin, dirt, and smelly particles in your dog’s hair and on the skin. It’s also a great way to bond with your dog in general!

9. Wet Dog Smell – No matter how well-groomed your dog is, when wet, suddenly all kinds of unpleasant odors surface.

  • Symptoms – The dog smells fine until wet.
  • Treatments – No, the cure isn’t simply to towel-dry your pooch. A hair dryer or the warm sun will thoroughly dry the skin and hair, which is what is needed.

10. Other Terrible Odors – for example if a skunk sprays your dog, you will know by the horrible smell that’s like no other!

  • Treatments – A good shampoo will take care of most bad odors, but not skunk spray. Forget all the home remedies such as bathing stinky pooch in tomato juice, and head straight to the pet store for a shampoo designed to remove skunk odors. It should be used within 30 minutes for best results.

Don’t worry if your dog develops a bad odor. Look for other symptoms and try to identify the particular smell. There is always a reason for it and there is always a solution. Your veterinarian can help.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

How to Prepare for Your Bunny’s First Vet Visit

It’s always a little nerve wracking to take your bunny, or any other little pet, in for their first vet visit, isn’t it? What’s most important is for you to limit the stress that both of you will be under. Your bunny will be nervous and you’ll be nervous, too, and you can’t explain to your rabbit that everything will be fine.

Let us help you prepare for this visit! Learn more about what information your veterinarian will need, what you can expect during your rabbit’s examination, and what items you can bring that can help comfort and reassure your little bunny that all is well.

Our Veterinarian is Experienced in Rabbit Care

If you live near our veterinary clinic in Burnaby, then we have a rabbit vet who may be able to help your little pet. She is compassionate and caring, and will answer any questions you may have prior to necessary treatments.

We recommend that when you make your appointment with Dr. Shanahan you arrive a little early so that you can fill out the necessary paperwork.

Bring Information Needed by the Vet

As well as providing your name and address and your pet rabbit’s name, this is the information you will be expected to provide:

  • How long have you owned your rabbit?
  • Where did you acquire your pet? Was it from a breeder, a pet shop, a shelter, a farm, or as a gift?
  • How often is your rabbit handled, picked up, and carried? This information helps the vet understand how nervous your bunny may be at being touched or lifted.
  • Is your rabbit housed indoors or outdoors? If housed inside, is bunny allowed to roam in a yard or is he or she frequently taken outside?
  • How many other rabbits do you own and are they housed together?
  • What is the size of the cage in which bunny is kept, how often is it cleaned and what cleaner do you use?
  • What is your bunny’s diet? How much and what kind of hay is in the cage? Is your bunny given pellets, and, if so, what kind and how many? What veggies, fruits, and treats does he or she receive? How much does your bunny eat in general?
  • Do you know if the bunny has been neutered or spayed?
  • Bring any medical records that you have.
  • Bring a stool sample that is no more than 24 hours old.
  • Bring a list of any questions you want to ask your rabbit veterinarian.

Bring These Items to Comfort Your Bunny

  • Have a comfortable and easy-to-use pet carrier.
  • Put a soft blanket or towel at the bottom of the carrier so the bunny won’t slide around, and bring a replacement in case it is soiled.
  • Have a towel or small blanket to put over the carrier in case your bunny gets frightened by the journey or by the other animals and odours in the waiting room.
  • Bring along some comfort food, like one or two small pieces of your bunny’s favourite fruit.

Expect a Thorough Physical Exam

After your veterinarian has checked your pet’s history, diet, and living conditions with you, the physical examination will be conducted:

  • Ears – If there is any debris, the vet may swab the ears and check for mites, yeast, and bacteria under a microscope.
  • Eyes – The eyes should be bright and alert. The vet will look for any signs of infection, swelling, and tear duct obstructions.
  • Teeth – The front teeth, or incisors, will be examined to make sure they have not overgrown and can no longer meet the bottom teeth properly—this is called malocclusion, which puts pressure on the other teeth and creates various tooth problems. The back teeth will be examined to make sure the molars have no sharp points—called spurs—that can damage the gums. The lips will also be examined for sores, drooling, or swelling.
  • Fur and Skin – The vet will check for parasites and any fur loss, and the skin will be checked for lesions and signs that your rabbit is biting or scratching, which signals a problem. The areas around the neck and tail will be examined for mites.
  • Body – The vet will listen to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope, and will palpate the abdomen to check the size and shape of the organs and for irregularities. Any lameness, stiffness, or hunched posture will be noted as these are signs of health problems.

As well as testing the stool you have brought along, the vet may recommend a blood test, and an urinalysis, as means for further testing. The vet will check under the tail to make sure your bunny is male or female—whichever you were told! Expect a discussion about the benefits of spaying or neutering if surgery has not already been done.

Take your pet rabbit in to the office for a checkup every year so that your vet has a record of the signs of your bunny’s good health and will be able to quickly identify problems if they are beginning, or have already occurred. Health problems are easier and less expensive to treat if they are caught early.

You can expect your bunny’s first vet visit to go smoothly if you gather the information needed by your veterinarian, understand what to expect during a physical examination, and have a few items of comfort for your pet. After it’s all over and you are back home, you and bunny deserve a good rest and a treat. You’ve both earned it!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

 

Rabbit Food: The Best and Worst Foods to Feed a Bunny

If you’ve always thought that lettuce and carrots are enough to feed a bunny, you’d be wrong! Rabbit food must cater to their unique digestive system. Thankfully, it doesn’t require a lot of work to feed them. Keep these facts in mind and you’ll find it is easy to keep your rabbit healthy and happy with the right diet. Here is the lowdown on the “good, the bad, and the never, ever” foods for rabbits.

Bunnies Thrive on Good Rabbit Food

Bunnies love a good meal! The right combination of hay, vegetables, pellets, and treats will make pet bunnies very happy and healthy, control the growth of their teeth, and keep them satisfied. Remember, rabbits are herbivores, which means they should only be fed plants, never meat. Don’t forget that water is also an important item in a bunny’s diet. Easy access to water should always be available.

Hay

  • Fresh hay is the most important item in a bunny’s diet. A constant supply of Timothy grass hay or oat grass hay should be available. Alfalfa hay is fine for young bunnies, but is only safe in limited supply for adults because of its higher sugar content and calorie count.
  • Make sure the hay looks and smells fresh. It should not be kept so long that it turns brown, develops mold, and ceases to smell like grass.
  • Hay provides the fiber necessary to prevent diarrhea, obesity, and hairballs, and assists with digestion. It also helps wear down a bunny’s constantly growing teeth and keeps their incisors healthy.
  • Place hay in one end of the bunny’s litter box because bunnies like to munch on it when they are using the box.
  • It is cheaper to buy hay from a farm than at a pet store, but whatever you buy should be stored in a dry place where circulating air can keep it from becoming moldy.

Vegetables

  • Vegetables are the second most important part of bunny’s diet, and you can offer three different kinds in small quantities during each feeding.
  • Veggies should be fresh and free of pesticides, and should be washed thoroughly.
  • Green, leafy vegetables are good for bunnies. You can include arugula, basil, bok choy, broccoli leaves, carrot tops, celery, clover, collard greens, dandelion leaves, dill, endive, kale in small quantities, romaine and dark leaf lettuce, mint, mustard greens, parsley, and watercress.

Pellets

  • Pellets should not be a mainstay of a bunny’s diet, but they can be offered in addition to fresh hay and fresh vegetables.
  • The pellets must be high in fiber and low in protein and should not contain seeds, corn, or other foods high in calories.
  • Bunnies will eat pellets only if they are fresh, and the amount in their diets should be reduced as they age.
  • Pellets should be uniform in size, shape, and colour.

Treats

  • Treats should be healthy foods too, and only given in very small amounts, such as when training (e.g. teaching your bunny to use the litter box).
  • Good treats are small amounts of fruit such as strawberries, bananas, raspberries, pineapple pieces, apples without seeds, and melons. Veggie treats include a small amount of fresh carrot, pieces of green pepper, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Make sure the fruits and veggies are thoroughly washed before feeding.

Bad Foods for Rabbits That Can Cause Problems

Some foods are difficult for rabbits to digest or cause tooth or tummy problems, or add calories and cause weight gains but are of no nutritional value.

  • High-carbohydrate sugary foods like bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, cereal (like muesli), and potatoes are on the “bad food” list. They add calories and can cause digestive problems.
  • Iceberg lettuce and other light coloured lettuce adds no nutritional value to a bunny’s diet and it can even contain lactucarium, which can be harmful in large quantities to rabbits.
  • Silver beet (chard) causes colic and bloating, as well as cabbage, cauliflower, onion, and broccoli stems and tops.
  • Walnuts and peanut butter are hard to digest and can cause tummy aches.
  • Hamster food will add no nutritional value to your rabbit’s diet and neither will oatmeal.
  • Don’t offer uncut celery.

Stay Away From the Dangerous or Never, Ever Foods

The downright dangerous foods should be kept out of bunny’s reach and never, ever offered:

  • Both raw rhubarb and avocado are poisonous to bunnies.
  • Yogurt drops can lead to enterotoxemia, a bad bacteria growing in the intestines, which can be poisonous. These drops are not an appropriate “treat” for bunnies.
  • Chocolate is also not a treat and is as poisonous for bunnies as it is for dogs.
  • Common houseplants are usually poisonous and all of them should be kept out of your rabbit’s reach, just in case.

A Feeding Guide for Bunnies

1. Amount of Food for 6-pound Rabbit

  • Hay – Body–sized amount of 100% grass hay per day
  • Vegetables – Head-sized amount or 1-2 cups per day
  • Pellets – Small handful or ¼ cup (50 ml) per day
  • Fruit – Maximum 2 tbsp per day, preferably less often

2. Life Stage Suggestions Per day

  • At 12 weeks – alfalfa-based pellets and hay; veggies; teaspoon-sized piece of fruit
  • At 7 months-1 year – 50% grass hay; ½ cup pellets; +/- fruit treat; green veggies
  • At 1 to 5 years – 100% grass hay; 1-2 cups of veggies; 2 tbsp fruit or less; ¼ cup pellets

Encourage Natural Foraging and Chewing Behaviors

When you encourage your bunny’s natural foraging and chewing behaviors, it provides mental stimulation, occupies and entertains your little pet, promotes exercise, keeps teeth healthy, and is fun for both of you.

Aside from having unlimited access to hay and water, your bunny should be fed twice a day, preferably at times a rabbit would naturally like to graze and forage: morning and late afternoon or evening. Once you have established regular feeding times, try to stick to the schedule as rabbits like predictability and it reduces their stress levels.

Cardboard articles such as empty toilet tissue rolls or paper towel rolls or old phonebooks help keep bunnies occupied with chewing safe items. That way they will be less inclined to chew on your personal or household objects or unsafe things, which they will do if they can get their teeth on them.

Hang greens high on your bunny’s cage. This will force your pet to stand on his or her hind legs to reach them, which is good exercise.

Scatter greens or the daily ration of pellets around the cage or the room, and hide some food under boxes, or wrap it in brown paper, or tuck it inside a cardboard tube with shredded paper stuffed in the ends so that bunny has to hunt for some of his food.

Check at night to make sure bunny has enough hay in his cage to last until morning. You never know when the munchies will strike!

Bunnies thrive on good rabbit food that caters to their unique digestive systems. Remember the “good, the bad, and the never, ever” feeding rules and you will have a happy, healthy little bunny.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.