With the heat wave continuing, please remember any outdoor rabbits. Here is some advice from Richard Saunders BSc(Hons) BVSc MSB CBiol DZooMed (Mammalian) MRCVS
RCVS Specialist in Zoo And Wild Animal Medicine
Offer a water bowl so that they can get a better drink; they will drink more efficiently and faster this way, and that’s important in the heat. Cool water will help to cool them down a bit. Don’t chill the water, but make sure it’s not boiling in the sun
Do not give your rabbits to ice cubes as they can cause problems with their digestion system.
Sun tan lotion is a no. They are likely to lick it off, and we have yet to see a rabbit with ear skin cancer. Instead, make sure you offer them plenty of shade, but if you are draping something over a run, make sure the air can circulate. Use of a battery operated fan on runs or enclosures can help.
Frozen water bottles or cool pods are helpful. ,
No need to change diet at all just, to stick to usual diet and make sure they drink lots by following the tips above.
Access to a safe shady exercise area 24/7 is even more important in this heat as they will want to exercise when it cools down am and pm.
If you’re on Pinterest please help discourage people from posting pins of trancing. We’ve been notified today that there’s a growing number of pins there from people who genuinely believe it’s okay which we as knowledgeable owners know it isn’t.
We’ve posted our Trancing posters on our own Health and Welfare board today with very clear messages, so if you’re a Pinteresteer (just made that up, you can probably tell!) please share our pins to help people understand that it’s a major welfare concern.
Please everybody share this poster and message in your emails and on social media, and on any rabbit or pet group you might be on.
Rabbits need vaccination every year to protect them against RVHD2 as well as against Myxomatosis and RVHD1. Unfortunately that can’t be given in one jab. There are two. For Myxi/RVHD1 they need the Nobivac combined jab and then for RVHD2 there is a choice of either Filavac or Eravac. There should be at least 2 weeks between the jabs.
Following on with more hot weather advice are all your rabbits’ vaccinations up to date? There will be biting insects everywhere and particularly places where there is any standing water at all. These are the main vectors of myxomatosis and they will also carry deadly RVHD virus from infected rabbits. All reports that we have had we have passed on to the owner of this map http://rhd2map.buntools.org.uk/index.php?&p=cases and she does updated regularly. You’ll see that there are places that appear not to have any outbreaks. Don’t be complacent if you live in those areas. It doesn’t mean the disease isn’t there, it only means that nobody has reported sudden deaths. This horrible disease has crossed the Atlantic, nowhere in the UK is safe. The best available protection is vaccination with Filavac or Eravac vaccine in addition to your rabbits’ usual Nobivac. Our latest advice is here and it contains a link to the very recently updated further information https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-health/rabbit-vhd/
Some of you have contacted us when you’ve had messages from BT MyDonate to say that our account was closing down. Don’t worry we are still here. As you will know we changed our charitable status fairly recently and we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to update everything with the websites that gather donations for us. While that was an easy process with some websites, it hasn’t always been the case, and the system at MyDonate means that they had to close our existing account and open a new one. Because of data protection MyDonate was not able to give us contact details of all donors and so we weren’t able to inform everybody in advance. Our apologies for not warning you, we simply were not able to.
Our new account can be found here https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/rabbitwelfarefundcio Don’t be confused by the CIO following our name. This was necessary for the transition period between the two accounts but MyDonate assures us those initials will soon be removed. They stand for our new charitable status, Charitable Incorporated Organisation.
We were contracted recently by some rabbit owners from Australia. You may know that myxomatosis is rife in Australia and also that there are huge restrictions in some Australian states on keeping rabbits as pets because the Australian government as a whole considers rabbits to be such a pest.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of that view the fact remains that pet owners desperately need vaccination to protect their beloved rabbits. We’ve asked you in the past to sign petitions to encourage the Australian government to allow pets myxomatosis vaccine and we’re asking you again now. They have compiled this page to describe the situation and it contains a link to the petition https://www.myxo-vaccine-aus.org We are asking you to sign and to share with family and friends.
It’s with a smile that we introduce the next topic. Our Amazon Smile account. This is a way of fundraising new to the UK although it’s been in operation in the USA for some time. If you shop with Amazon, please register with Amazon Smile and choose the Rabbit Welfare Fund as your charity. Buying from Amazon then won’t cost you anything more but if you always shop at smile.amazon.co.uk we will receive money from Amazon and its sellers. Register now at https://smile.amazon.co.uk
We can safely say that our recent annual conference was a rip-roaring success. Once again it covered 2 days. On the first day there were parallel streams for veterinary professionals in one stream and owners and rescues in the other. On the second day everybody came together for a behaviour and welfare day, and that was a resounding success. The sales of clickers on Amazon must have gone through the roof! We’ve already shared one video on social media but here’s a link to another showing rabbits’ early target training https://youtu.be/qU_ZiohPo9c If you have a Facebook account you’ll be able to see what this can progress to https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2132775030345059&id=1601736846782216&fs=5&focus_composer=0&ref=page_internal
Of course this kind of operant training wasn’t the only thing covered on the day but it’s certainly grabbed owners’ attention and demonstrated how very useful it can be to train your rabbits to perform specific tasks.
As always if you have moved house and forgotten to tell us please email email@example.com with your up to date details.
The next issue of Rabbiting On is well on its way to being completed so if you want to receive it on time we need to have your address. Please also ensure that your subscription is up to date. If you subscribed online it should automatically renew.
As usual you can expect the new issue to land on your doormat in early August.
And finally just in case anybody missed it we want to congratulate our wonderful Specialist Veterinary Adviser Richard Saunders once again for having been awarded the CEVA Vet Of The Year. As you can imagine we all had smiles splitting our faces when he won https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/richard-recognised-for-welfare-work/ How richly this was deserved. All UK rabbit owners owe Richard a huge debt of thanks for his amazing work getting RVHD2 vaccine into the UK and his ongoing commitment to rabbit welfare.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
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.
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
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.
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
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
Pet Rabbit Welfare Guidance – Scotland
The RWAF is happy to have been involved with working on Pet Rabbit Welfare
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
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.
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.