It’s summer…are your rabbits cool dudes or hot, cross buns?

With summer well underway, we’ve had some stiflingly hot weather…how are your rabbits coping with the heat?

Even though rabbits originate from much hotter parts of Europe and North Africa, they are crepuscular, that is most active at dawn and dusk. In the wild, they would be able to hide from the more intense heat in underground burrows where the temperature varies by only a few degrees. Pet rabbits, especially those who live outside, are reliant on their owners to provide conditions where they can be safe and comfortable. Shade from direct sunlight is essential, so consider where your rabbit hutch or shed and run are situated. Is there any plant cover that will provide shade? A shrub or creeper will be a great help in keeping off the most intense rays of the sun. Plant a tree, but while you wait for it to grow and bush out, also plant something that is going to provide cover quickly, for example a Montana Reubens. Ensure your rabbits can’t get to it and eat it though.

Shade provided by a cover on the run and under a large bush. Make sure the rabbits can’t nibble anything harmful. The mesh allows a cool breeze

Is your hutch inside a shed? If not, that would be a good idea. Garden sheds can be fairly inexpensive – sometimes you might be able to get one from your local Freecycle or Freegle group – and that would provide an extra insulation against the sun, with the extra bonus of being somewhere to store rabbit possessions, winter insulation, somewhere you can sit with the buns, give them more sheltered living/exercise space and so on. Site it somewhere shady or plant some creeper/tree cover as mentioned above. Be wary though as sheds too can get very hot, so consider double-skinning it and putting insulation between the layers – cavity wall and roof insulation for rabbits. In fact, turf roofs provide excellent insulation and although you’d need to water them in the dryer parts of summer, they do a great job. Insulation keeps heat OUT as well as IN, so whatever you do along these lines for the summer will be of benefit in the winter months too.To keep the shed cool, you will need to keep the door open, so it’s a good idea to fit a wire screen to keep it secure but still let in the fresh air.

A shed with a mesh door for ventilation and under a shady tree. Shade also provided by the covers on the run and den pipe

FANS. These can be wind or solar powered, battery driven or connected to the mains. But be sure that if they are connected to a power source, your rabbits can’t get to those wires and nip them. Rabbits have a natural instinct for snipping things that look to them like tree roots. Use some hosepipe or trunking to cover wires and keep checking it…you’d be amazed just what buns are able to nibble their way through. Remember too that fans only move the air around and while that makes our skin feel cooler it doesn’t reduce the temperature of the air. So consider having the fan blowing over a frozen pop bottle and that will reduce the air temperature by a few degrees. But don’t aim a fan directly at a rabbit somewhere that it can’t get away, many of them find this very distressing.

Fill up plastic pop bottles with water and freeze them. Have a few so that some are re-freezing while one or two are in use. You can put one in the path of the fanned air to act as a mini-air conditioning system. Your rabbits might also like one to lie on to keep them cool. Cover them though so that your rabbits don’t have to be in direct contact with them. Visit Snugglebunnies for bottle covers in different sizes https://www.facebook.com/snugglebunniesfortheRWAF/?hc_ref=ARTUhdAVekTRQqYvYYENXPOEgNWi4mK8UxglYtocS7BFuuVie-fl1T7PtPU4TnWevUg You can buy Scratch and Newton ice pods too and Snugglebunnies heat pad covers fit those too. https://scratchandnewton.com/products/ice-pod

Once frozen, these will stay cool for hours. And if you cover an ice pod with the upturned large terracotta drip try from a plantpot, the temperature will remain low for longer. You can also freeze ordinary ceramic floor and wall tiles for hot buns to lie on and cool down. Some materials are naturally cool to the touch, marble for example – remember nothing’s too good for your rabbits!

Obviously always supply plenty of fresh cool water, as even though they only sweat through feet and tongue, a cool drink will make rabbits feel better, and some will even find it helpful to lie in a water dish. Rabbits can access much more fluid from a bowl than from a bottle so it’s best to provide both so they have the choice. Remember to check and refill regularly. If you do find a bun panting, it is in distress and should be brought immediately into a much cooler environment, but don’t dunk them in freezing water as the sudden temperature change could do untold harm and send their system into shock. If this was an emergency, they need to see a vet. Cool them as gently as you can by laying a damp towel over them to slowly reduce the temperature, and cover the carrier with a damp towel on the way to see a vet if you’re really worried, but generally just providing them with a much cooler space is best.

Have you somewhere they could safely tunnel underground? Could you sink wide pipes under your garden? Buns could keep lovely and cool in these, but always think about being able to get access to the rabbit – this is less advisable if your bun is already hard to catch.

FLIES. The horror of rabbit owners. Flies of course, lay eggs, and those hatch out into maggots, which literally eat their way into your rabbit’s flesh and organs – an often fatal condition for rabbits. If the eggs have been laid on your rabbit by a blowfly (a greenbottle or a bluebottle), then there is a very real danger of flystrike. So do all you can to keep flies away. Plant herbs that are thought to repel them, keep bun an dbedding/litter area scrupulously clean, buy a battery or solar powered bug zapper to hang in your shed, check your rabbits several times every day. If you have the slightest suspicion of flystrike, it is an emergency. Phone your vet and tell him or her what the problem is and get your rabbit there at once. Rather a false alarm in these circumstances than a dead rabbit. If your bun is prone to wetting itself or having caecal pellets stuck to fur, you need to work out the reason why and work with your vet on eliminating that…is your bun obese and unable to clean itself or to squat properly? Is there the possibility of arthritis? This is far more common than people realise in older rabbits. You can get products like Rearguard from your vet or from online pharmacies (no prescription needed). This product can be used if your rabbit is at risk of flystrike, as recommended by your vet. There are other products on the market. Rearguard works by preventing the maggots from developing mouth parts so they can’t eat your rabbits alive. It only needs to be applied at intervals of a few weeks. Other products need to be applied daily and are insect epellents/killers. But nothing is better than regular checks of your rabbits’ rear ends and scrupulous hygiene.

In summary, your buns need to be checked even more regularly in the hot summer months, and owners should always err on the side of caution. Best to take a bit more time than to have the unthinkable happen.

Shaped

We have had fantastic news from artist Seb Lester recently. He had contacted us around Christmas time and said that he intended to donate profits from the sale of his limited edition print ‘Shaped’ to our charity. We love the sentiment expressed in the print. How much our love for our wonderful rabbits has shaped us all!
 
Seb had made 160 prints and most have sold although some are still available. He is donating almost £870 to help us with our campaigns.
 
With some prints still available from the limited edition please have a look at Shaped and other items from Seb’s collection which you’ll find here https://www.seblester.com/
 
This is a fantastic help to us and will enable us to keep up the pressure on manufacturers and retailers to keep improving what’s available for our favourite pets, under our A Hutch Is Not Enough campaign which you can read about here https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/campaigns/a-hutch-is-not-enough/
 
Thank you Seb

Binky Day 2018

Every year we celebrate Binky Day on 1st June.

As rabbit owners know a binky is a rabbit’s happy dance.  In fact it demonstrates joy in a-bun-dance.  Rabbits will shake their heads, jump in the air, kick out, twist, even turn around in mid air, all to show joy and happiness.  They need plenty of space all the time but especially so that they can binky.

To celebrate Binky Day 2018 we’ve made this video using clips and photos submitted by owners of some very happy bunnies.  https://youtu.be/w_3vM_tA57Q

We hope you enjoy it and that you’ll send us your clips and videos next spring for next year’s Binky Day  video.

Summer 18 Campaign update

Welcome to another Campaign Update, keeping you informed of our constant fight to make things better for bunnies.

Rabbits sold online via classified ads in the what they did UK: when, why, and how many?

What they did

Vikki completed an internship with the RWAF

When Vikki Neville started her internship at the RWAF, the team were keen to investigate the problem of rabbit rehoming. Elaine Line and Keith Hinde had been collecting data on rabbits advertised via online classified websites for some time, which not only allowed them to count the number of rabbits rehomed online but also gave them the opportunity to look at the reasons why people were doing so. They trawled through the data, picking out the reasons the owner gave for rehoming their rabbit, and then looked for trends in the data that might hint at the real reasons for rehoming. They’ve just published their findings in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science – a peer-reviewed journal co-sponsored by the Animals & Society Institute (ASI) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

How many rabbits were advertised online?

They found that 7,315 different adult rabbits were advertised on the website Preloved in 2016 alone. The average age of these rabbits was 14 months, and most were less than two years old. The average lifespan of a companion rabbit is four to thirteen years (depending on size), so these rabbits were very much in the first flush of youth.

What reasons did people give for selling their rabbit?

The main reason people gave for giving up their rabbit was that they didn’t have enough time to care for the rabbit (21%), closely followed by issues with housing such as moving home (16%) and a change of circumstances (14%). In 10% of cases, the caregiver said that their child was no longer interested in the rabbit.

What does the data suggest is the real cause of rehoming?

When they looked at the number of rabbits advertised for free in each season, they noticed a significant spike in the number of rabbits advertised during the winter. There are several possible reasons for this. Firstly, most companion rabbits are housed outdoors, so in winter when the weather is cold and rainy, cleaning is likely to become an extra onerous task for most caregivers. Inclement winter weather could also influence how often caregivers interact with their rabbit; perhaps caregivers had great fun sitting in the garden with the rabbit in summer, but not so much in winter. It’s also possible that interest in the rabbit wanes after Christmas when children receive toys that they find more interesting than the rabbit.

Were there any findings that aren’t depressing?

Yes! They found that the total number of rabbits advertised online had decreased over the last few years. In September 2013, a voluntary scheme was launched in which advertisements on several UK classified websites, including those investigated in this study, which contravened the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) Minimum Standards were removed from the websites. So, it seems like this scheme has worked to reduce the number of advertisements. Of course, it’s possible that people are rehoming their rabbits through other websites that aren’t regulated or via other means.

Conclusions

It seems like many people don’t know what they’re getting in to when they purchase a rabbit. That’s why the findings suggest that education is key. Giving potential caregivers information about the lifespan of rabbits and their substantial husbandry requirements, especially in winter, might deter the purchase of rabbits by caregivers unable or unwilling to care for them in the long-term. Working to prevent the impulse purchase of rabbits could also be useful in reducing the number of rabbits rehomed. Implementing legislation and shifting human behaviour is a slow process, but highlighting the problem rabbits face in an academic journal is an important first step towards getting people to pay attention to the issues.

RWAF note: It was a pleasure to have Vikki as an intern and we are delighted that her time with us was so useful. We wish her luck for the future and we know that she is going to have a brilliant future ahead of her.
Ref: Neville, V., Hinde, K., Line., Elaine., Todd, R., Saunders, R, A. (2018). Rabbit relinquishment through online classified advertisements in the United Kingdom: when, why, and how many? Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.

Time flies: are you taking the time to protect your rabbits from flystrike?

 

Flystrike is often a rapidly fatal disease, caused by flies, notably ‘Green Bottles’, laying eggs on damp areas of a rabbit’s skin and fur. When these eggs hatch, the maggots can eat the flesh of the rabbit causing severe pain, tissue damage and infections, and many affected rabbits will go on to die. You probably know that flies and their maggots are more normally associated with things that are already dead, and they are commonly to be found around our dustbins. However, if pet rabbits are not kept in clean conditions, or are unable to keep themselves clean, they too can be affected by flystrike. When it occurs, it is a serious welfare concern. Fortunately however, it can be prevented.

Researchers at the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) based at the University of Liverpool have been investigating what puts rabbits at risk of flystrike. SAVSNET collects data from veterinary practices and labs across the UK to help further understand the diseases of our pet animals. SAVSNET worked with 389 veterinary practices right across the UK to collect information from over 30,000 rabbit consultations, identifying 205 rabbits that had been diagnosed with flystrike. It is well known that the flies that cause flystrike

are present at certain times of the year. SAVSNET has, for the first time, described the effect of seasonality on flystrike occurrence in rabbits. The research team found that flystrike was first recorded in the month of April, and almost 70% of cases occurred between June and August. In addition, for every 1°C rise in the average temperature, the risk of flystrike increased by 33%. Rabbits who were aged five years or more were almost four times as likely to have flystrike than younger rabbits, and unneutered does were over three times more likely to be affected than does that had been neutered.

Rachel Turner, a veterinary student who carried out the work as part of her veterinary undergraduate course said, “As well as confirming the seasonality of the disease and other risks, we can now use these results to warn owners when to check their rabbits for any signs of flystrike and treat their rabbits to prevent it.”

With 45% of the affected rabbits from the SAVSNET study either dying or being put to sleep, these risks are important for owners to keep in mind. There is lots of information available about measures to prevent flystrike, such as keeping rabbits and their environment clean, making sure rabbits do not become overweight (which reduces their ability to groom themselves), and most importantly, taking the time to check rabbits frequently for signs of dirty fur or flystrike. In addition, preventive treatments aimed at deterring flies from rabbit accommodation can be obtained from veterinary practices. If owners have any concerns, they are strongly advised to take their rabbit to see their vet immediately.

SAVSNET collects data from veterinary practices and laboratories so that researchers can help improve understanding about what makes pets ill. Find our more information at www.liverpool.ac.uk/savsnet and on Facebook and Twitter @savsnet.

Richard scoops prestigious award for dedication to rabbits

Richard with his CEVA award

We are sure you will all join in saying huge congratulations to Richard. As our Specialist Veterinary Adviser, Dr Richard Saunders has been recognised as an Animal Welfare Hero and been awarded the prestigious title of the Chris Laurence Vet of the Year at the 2018 Ceva Animal Welfare Awards.

Richard was nominated for his dedication to improving pet rabbit welfare, in particular the huge amount of work involved in getting a new vaccine into the UK to protect all pet rabbits against an emerging deadly disease (RVHD2). We all owe Richard a huge debt of thanks for his success with the vaccine. So far it is estimated that in the region of 70,000 rabbits have been vaccinated thanks to Richard.

Richard’s day to day work educating vets and clients on the needs of rabbits as pets has been as vital as his work on the vaccine. Rabbits are amongst the most neglected of pets, and people like Richard who raise awareness of the needs of the species, have a huge impact on the welfare of these hugely misunderstood pets.

No more ‘stress rabbits’ at Heathrow

At the start of the Easter holidays we were horrified to see that there were rabbits in the terminals, being offered as stress relief for travellers. Obviously a busy airport is no place for rabbits. Not only will this have been stressful for them, but the biosecurity risk was a real concern. We contacted the company that provided the rabbits and the local authority responsible for the airport and they began to investigate. We do have a contact at Heathrow airport and we also contacted them and discussed our concerns. We also shared our concerns on social media, where of course Heathrow was inundated with messages pointing out the obvious; it was a bad idea. We’re not exactly sure what did the trick but within an hour Heathrow had confirmed that they would cancel the event. Thanks to Heathrow for acting so swiftly and to everyone who contacted them.

Rabbits in the news

 

The RWAF supported Burgess’ Suzanne Moyes on This Morning

Pet Rabbit Welfare Guidance – Scotland

 

The RWAF is happy to have been involved with working on Pet Rabbit Welfare

Pet Rabbit Welfare Guidance – Scotland

Guidance, now available on the Scottish Parliament website. This is a great step forward in giving formal structures to ensure that pet rabbits are properly looked after throughout their lives: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2018/04/3112

The Healthy Pet Guide

We have had a very busy few weeks around Easter. Easter is

The Healthy Pet Guide feature reached far and wide

always a busy time for the media and we were really delighted to be invited on the BBC Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours’ to discuss the Easter Amnesty. We then did a live interview for BBC Radio Gloucester and then a pre-recorded session for BBC radio Somerset.

We also had a great two-page spread in the ‘Healthy Pet Guide’, which was inserted in the Mail on Sunday, so had great reach, and also a brilliant one page article in ‘Yours’ magazine.

As if that was not enough, during the Easter holidays we worked with our friends from Burgess Pet Care on the set of This Morning (thank you to Runaround for providing the binky box and tunnels), and it was a really great piece promoting rescue rabbits. We were behind the camera making sure the right message was given to the millions of viewers.

From there we went straight to Birmingham to the CEVA awards where we celebrated Richard Saunders being recognised as a Welfare Hero for his huge amount of work involved in getting the RVHD2 vaccine into the UK.

We then spent two days with Burgess at the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) Congress, talking to veterinary professionals and launching Rabbit Awareness Week. It’s great to work with other such dedicated people.

Dunelm remove cage from sale

The power of social media worked again when we shared a small hutch for sale on Dunelm’s website. Dunelm very quickly removed it from sale and promised to look into their range. If you see something that worries you please share it with us on one of our social media platforms.

Easter Amnesty

Once again this year Pets Corner, Pets at Home and Jollyes suspended sales of rabbits over the Easter period. Good news, especially with the release of Peter Rabbit in cinemas. We’d like to thank these retailers for taking part in the Easter Amnesty.

Congratulations to Richard CEVA Vet of the Year 2018

The Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWA&F) are absolutely delighted that their Vet Specialist Advisor, Dr Richard Saunders has been recognised as an animal welfare hero and awarded the prestigious title of Chris Laurence Vet of the Year , at the 2018 Ceva Animal Welfare Awards.

Richard was nominated for his dedication to improving rabbit welfare, in particular the huge amount of work involved in getting a new vaccine in to the UK to protect all pet rabbits against an emerging deadly disease (RVHD2). We all owe Richard a huge debt of thanks for his success in doing so, and for protecting all pet rabbits. So far we estimate in the region of 70,000 rabbits have been vaccinated thanks to Richard.

We’ve been busy bunnies!

We have had a very busy few weeks. Easter is always a busy time for media and we have done three interviews for BBC radio, including BBC Radio 4,  as well as having articles published in several magazines including the Mail on Sunday.

On Wednesday we worked with our friends from Burgess on the set of This Morning (thank you to Runaround for providing the binky box and tunnels) and it was a really great piece promoting rescue rabbits. We were behind the camera making sure the right message was given to the millions of viewers.

From there we went straight to Birmingham to the CEVA awards where we celebrated Richard Saunders being recognised as a Welfare Hero for the huge amount of work involved in getting the VHD2 vaccine in to the UK.

We then spent 2 days with Burgess at the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) talking to Vet Professionals and launching Rabbit Awareness Week. It’s great to work with other such dedicated people.

Just a few of the things we have been up to!