Monday, May 18, 2009

Breeding Rabbits: Rabbit Vaccination and Neutering

Breeding Rabbits

Rabbits are increasingly popular pets within the UK. There are a large number of breeds, which range from the Dutch Dwarf weighing about 1 kg when adult, to the Flemish Giant, which can weigh more than 8 kgs when fully grown.


As the popularity of the rabbit increases, so does the number that are kept as house pets. However, the majority are still kept in a hutch.

With such a large variation in breed size there is no ideal hutch design or size but there should always be sufficient space for the rabbit to lie at full stretch and to stand up on its hindquarters.
A clean dry bed of wood shavings, hay, straw or newspaper should be provided and inspected daily to avoid the build up of any dirt that could encourage disease.

A secure outdoor run is preferable, which will allow the rabbit to exercise and graze and can also be a site for toys such as tunnels or boxes.

Rabbits kept outdoors should be in a well insulated hutch protected from wind and rain and sheltered from excess sunlight.


Rabbits are herbivores and have a complex digestive system requiring both digestible and undigestible fibre types.
Fresh grass or hay should make up about three quarters of the diet and other fresh vegetables like carrot or cabbage can be added to provide some variation. Burgess Excel or Supa Excel are top-quality commercially available rabbit diets.
Rabbits need access to clean water at all times. Feed and water bowls should be cleaned daily.


Rabbits are prone to digestive disturbances resulting in diarrhoea. This may be serious, and even life threatening. Probiotics such as protexin are particularly helpful in maintaining or restoring the normal gut micro-organisms required to digest food properly.

Diarrhoea often results in matting of the fur around a rabbits anus which can in itself be distressing to your pet, but is also a common cause of 'fly-strike' during the summer months. It is recommended that a preventative application of 'Rearguard' be used early in the summer to prevent maggots. 'Advantage' is a spot-on product normally used for flea control which can also help control flies and maggots. These products are available from your veterinary surgeon.


Rabbits become sexually mature at between 16-24 weeks of age.
Baby rabbits or 'kits' are born after 30-33 days of pregnancy and litter size ranges from

To avoid mis-mothering or abandonment, the nest area should not be disturbed and the young kits should not be handled until they are weaned at around 7-8 weeks of age.


Rabbits are prolific breeders and care should always be taken to avoid unwanted litters. Neutering not only prevents unwanted matings, but also can make both does and bucks less territorial and aggressive. In addition, does have a very high risk of developing uterine tumours if not neutered.
Bucks are castrated from about 5 months of age. A general anaesthetic is given and both testicles are removed from an incision made on the scrotum.

Does are spayed from about 6 months of age. A general anaesthetic is given and an incision made in the middle of the does tummy. Both ovaries and the uterus are removed during the operation.


Like dogs and cats, rabbits are susceptible to many diseases and some of these can be prevented by routine vaccinations.

Myxomatosis is a viral disease seen commonly in wild rabbits in the UK and unfortunately it can affect pet rabbits too. The disease is spread from infected to non-infected rabbits via flea bites. The virus causes swellings around the eyes, ears and genitals and feeding soon becomes difficult. In the vast majority of cases treatment is futile.

Viral haemorrhagic disease (V.H.D.) is another widespread viral disease that is present in the UK. The disease is spread via direct contact with infected rabbits or contaminated feeding or drinking bowls. Affected rabbits rapidly become ill and often sudden death is the first sign that is seen.

Both Myxomatosis and V.H.D. can be prevented by a single annual vaccination.

Maricel Gomez is the Webmaster of a supplier of pharmacuticals for Pets. Frontline spot from Ivet has a team of dedicated professionals including a pharmacist, a pharmacologist, and two veterinary surgeons who oversee sales and provide the free, practical advice for your pets in the form of numerous on line information sheets.

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