A message from our Specialist Veterinary Adviser, Richard Saunders
We are aware of lots of comments regarding cardboard at the moment.
Cardboard toilet and paper towel roll inners can be very useful as an enrichment tool, and many many rabbit owners use boxes filled with hay and with holes cut inside, or toilet roll inners stuffed with hay etc without problem, and have done for years, because we didn’t have the vast array of toys to chose from that we have now. Cardboard boxes filled with bedding are useful for extra insulation in the winter. Cardboard boxes with 2 holes cut in them are useful as a bolt hole for the rabbits to feel safe.
Obviously as rabbit owners, if you see your rabbits eating a lot of the cardboard, rather than just enjoying destroying it, then remove any cardboard items, and consider seeking veterinary advice.
As a Specialist Vet, I see rabbits eating both appropriate and inappropriate fibrous and indigestible materials when they have GI problems, and this may be a sign of such issues. As with “hairballs” it’s often that the fur, hair, cardboard etc is in the gut in large amounts BECAUSE the GI tract is moving slowly, not causing the problem. What I am saying here is that when the rabbit starts to become ill, they often eat things that are not appropriate, and the cardboard or hairball is in the gut because of the gut slowdown, and is not the cause of it. Of course, there are certainly rabbits out there (as with dogs etc), who definitely eat things to excess, inappropriately, and in such cases, in any species, it’s sensible to prevent a problem by not allowing access to the material in question.
So let your rabbits enjoy their cardboard toys, but as with any toy, be sensible and monitor them. There are lots of things that you can give your rabbits to actually chew and eat that are safe such as apple branches, willow branches, hazel branches and forage trays.
Richard Saunders BSc (Hons) BVSc FRSB CBiol DZooMed (Mammalian) DipECZM(ZHM) MRCVS; RCVS Specialist in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine (Mammalian); European Specialist in Zoological Medicine (ZHM); RWAF Veterinary Specialist Adviser
We are sometimes asked about letting houserabbits play in the garden, especially in cold or wet weather.
Our Specialist Veterinary Adviser Dr Richard Saunders has provided this advice
“General: I would say that all rabbits outside in runs should have a hide box area with at least 2 exits, to retreat into if feeling insecure, as well as for protection from extremes of cold or wind.
Low temperatures: assuming they are healthy rabbits in social groups or pairings, with no significant areas of missing fur etc, if they are able to move around freely and are protected from rain and wind, they should be OK in runs down to about 5C. Below that, access to a well insulated indoor area, whether attached to or within the run, or both, must be provided. Rabbits in poor body condition, or with missing fur, or sole animals, must be provided with shelter before temperatures get down to 5C.
High temperatures: OK, assuming the rabbits are not obese, and do not have respiratory disease, and have shade and plenty of places to keep cool.”
We know it can be hard to find pet-friendly rental accommodation.
We hear frequently of people having to give up their much loved pets when moving into rented property. This is very distressing for owners and can also place huge burdens on animal rescues who very often have to try and accommodate space for pets when owners are faced with landlord ultimatums and time constraints for rehoming of their pets or the real possibility of having to give up their rental home.
The good news is things are gradually improving and one of the big reasons for this is the introduction of Pet CV’s
A Pet CV can be a great help in providing Landlords with added information and the reassurance they need that you and your rabbits will make great tenants.
The RWAF has put together a brief thoughts list of areas for you to consider together with an online Pet CV Builder which can either be completed on line and exported to PDF or a download version which can be printed and completed manually.
Renting With Rabbits – A Landlord’s View
Renting property is a risky business.
Landlords rent property to complete strangers and there is no doubt that in some instances landlords have been left with out of pocket expenses as a result of tenants leaving property with serious pet damage.
Landlords also have to adhere strictly to government legislation in regards to rental deposits which can results in very nervous landlords in terms of being able to ensure costs can be recovered for pet damage to property.
However, many landlords are coming around to the idea that not all pets are equal when it comes to potential property damage.
Many landlords are becoming more open to the idea that a well-presented Pet CV can illustrate evidence of a responsible pet owner and reassurance that your pet rabbit is supervised and well behaved.
Considerations Indoor v Outdoor Rabbits
We have detailed below some thought provoking ideas which can be areas of concern for landlords – it’s a great idea to give planning time to these areas and think how you can incorporate solutions and ease your landlord’s concerns. We have detailed a few typical scenarios which may arise together with some possible solution ideas as follows: –
Landlord Concern: Rabbit will dig resulting in an unsightly lawn Reassurance: Rabbits graze area will be rotated and supervised. Have dedicated grazing area with under-grass mesh. Rabbit will be housed on concrete area with grazing box.
Landlord Concern: Rabbit husbandry Reassurance: Responsible welfare standards will be followed to ensure rabbits are kept in a clean environment.
Landlord Concern: Waste & soiled bedding removal Reassurance: Give Assurances that all waste will be regularly removed and will not build up. Rabbit area will be kept tidy so as not to attract vermin.
(Check local refuse collection regulations to ensure the council’s Environment Department doesn’t have restrictions, and if they have, what arrangements need to be made)
Landlord Concern: Rabbit will chew timber skirtings and electric cables, strip wallpaper Reassurance: Rabbit will have restricted supervised play. Timber skirtings, cables and wallpaper will be protected wherever possible.
Landlord Concern: Rabbit hair will transmit to carpets and furniture. Reassurance: Reassure a quality vacuum regularly used. Rabbit is regularly groomed outdoors to prevent build up. Consider professional carpet clean on leaving property and/or additional deposit to cover carpet clean.
Home Search Under Way?
Plan ahead and give yourself the time you need to research pet friendly landlords. If possible, build in some flexibility regarding your property type and the area in which you want to live.
Try and adopt a calm and friendly can-do attitude with your landlord and try not to get frustrated if they decline, it is after all their decision but hopefully a well thought-out approach may help you and your landlord work together to look at solutions to initial concerns.
A reference from your previous landlord can provide reassurance of your rabbit’s good behaviour and ease of maintenance. Include photographs of your rabbit and accommodation. Your vet may be able to provide an additional reference regarding your rabbit’s general health in that your pet is free from fleas and undergoes regular health checks. Any additional pet references can of course be included with your CV or separately.
Landlords will understandably have concerns regarding damage caused by rabbits kept as pets both indoor and outdoor. Particularly for indoor rabbits, flea infestations and rabbit dander and coat accumulations leading to dirty carpet and possible future tenant allergies will also be a worry for landlords.
Try negotiating a mutually agreeable increased deposit to cover the cost of any damage and offer to pay for a professional house clean when you move out. You may need to consider that some landlords may ask for a non-refundable up front deposit to cover house cleaning.
If you unable to keep your rabbit……….
Always plan and allow yourself plenty of time to plan for the rehoming of your pet.
You will want to do the very best you can to ensure your rabbit’s future welfare. Try and give rescue centres as much notice as possible as most rescues will have a waiting list for rabbits awaiting rehoming.
If you are rehoming your rabbit direct then please ensure you follow welfare guidelines here on our website: –
If you are already in rented accommodation try negotiating with your landlord and show evidence that you are actively seeking to rehome your pet. By doing this your landlord may show empathy and allow you sufficient time to ensure you find your rabbit a suitable home or rescue space.
Now you are ready to create your Rabbit Pet CV – don’t forget to include as much information as you can to promote reassuring responsible pet ownership for your landlord.
This post is also available in Word format, link below
“We here at the RWAF are aware of a number of posts regarding cases of RVHD2 following vaccination, and, whilst new information is constantly being obtained and updated, we wanted to make a statement.
Firstly, it is REALLY important to obtain that information, and to make sure it is being reported properly, to the correct authorities, and with as much detail as possible. Only then can accurate data be obtained and decisions made. Its possible to hear of the same case from multiple sources and forums, and equally, to not hear about some rabbits at all. So we do urge people to ask their vet to report any concerns about vaccine side effects or failure (or any drug adverse reaction) to both the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, and to the drug/vaccine company directly. Reporting it to the company as well means that they can act more quickly, and may be able to offer advice and assistance. So far, both the VMD and Filavac have monitored the situation and not found higher than expected numbers of vaccine failures.
Secondly, it is important to realise that no vaccine offers 100% protection, and that sensible biosecurity measures should also be employed, especially after cases of RVHD2 have been suspected or confirmed in an area. And sadly some of those unprotected rabbits will succumb to the disease, even with a protective dose value of 90% for Filavac and sufficient antibody titre of ≥70% for Eravac.
Currently only about 14% of UK domestic rabbits are vaccinated against RVHD2, and that means that the level of protection in the community, or “herd immunity” is poor, making spread of the disease rapid and easy for the virus.Most rabbits (85%) have been vaccinated using Filavac, and so most vaccine failures reported online have been associated with this vaccine.
While we are aware that vaccine failures have been reported, we would urge owners not to stop vaccinating their rabbits, as the current vaccines are the best level of protection we have available. Please continue to report any problems, via your vets, to the VMD and the vaccine manufacturers.
Richard Saunders BVSc DZooMed MRCVS European Veterinary Specialist in Zoo Health Management
Keep your rabbits safe over Christmas. There’s a variety of dangers
Chewing the tree or its lighting cables. Real dangers. Whether you have a real or an imitation tree, put up a barrier around it and keep those electric cables where your bunnies cannot get to them
Holly and mistletoe are both very toxic. Make sure your beloved pets can’t get to either. If you have them, keep them both well away from rabbit accessible areas
Wrapping paper and the gifts themselves. Nobody wants a chewed present and of course ingesting that paper with its inks and possibly sometimes polymers too is very dangerous for rabbits, so keep gifts out of reach of bunnies
Eating too much of the wrong thing. We all eat some treats in the festive season, probably more than we should, but be careful not to let your rabbits get to anything that might be toxic to them or too much of what they might like. Chocolate is highly toxic to dogs and in fact is bad for most species including us. For rabbits, the sugars may well be the biggest problem, so as with other treats, keep them away from your rabbits and if you have appropriate treats for them – low carbs, no egg, no dairy – remember, they are still just that, treats, and should only be given in very small amounts. You don’t want to be taking your beloved rabbits to the emergency vet on Christmas afternoon!
Company, hustle and bustle – Christmas and New Year are times for families, visitors, people who generally wouldn’t be in contact with your rabbits, and likely not in large numbers. It’s often noisy as well. Remember this can be very confusing and sometimes frightening for your rabbits. They are prey animals, used to you and your immediate family so make a visitor-free zone where your rabbits can feel safe and can keep away from noise and bustle, won’t be handled inappropriately and won’t be fed the wrong things….and cannot escape out of your door when people are coming and going.
Sadly we are still receiving reports every single day of cases of sudden deaths. We know people getting this message will have ensured their rabbits have fully up to date vaccinations – both Nobivac (Myxo & RVHD1) plus either Filavac or Eravac (RVHD2) – but not everybody receives this, not everybody knows about our advice and there are very clearly a lot of rabbit owners out there still not vaccinating. Please share our new vaccination poster wherever you can. You can download it here https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Vaccinate-Poster-new.jpg
Owners don’t all follow our social media, not all of them are aware of our website and sadly for whatever reason, aren’t getting proper advice from vets, so we’re asking you to find places to display the poster. Pet shops, vet waiting rooms, libraries, any shop/supermarket that sells rabbit food (ask them to display it beside the food), anywhere else you can think of that rabbit owners might see it, including any online social media you might visit.
This important information is being added to all emails. Please disregard if your rabbits have already been vaccinated with both Nobivac Myxo RHD and either Filavac VHD K C + V or else Eravac.
There is a mutated strain of RVHD that is deadly, RVHD2. Unvaccinated rabbits don’t stand a chance against it. It is present all over the UK and vaccination against it is vital. Unfortunately the standard Nobivac combined vaccine doesn’t cover it, although that is still essential to protect against Myxomatosis and RVHD1. If your rabbits aren’t already vaccinated against it, what you need is either Filavac VHD K C + V or else Eravac. Discuss frequency of vaccination with your vet. The two vaccines (Nobivac and the RVHD2 vaccine) should not be given at the same time, there should be at least 2 weeks between them. If you need to have this done and your vet doesn’t stock the vaccine, there is a map here that shows vets who do. Another tab on the same website shows reported cases, which we know only shows the tip of a very large iceberg, as this disease is very hard to recognise having few to no symptoms at all and so is generally unreported.
If you are in the sad position of losing a rabbit unexpectedly please let us know, along with the first part of your postcode so that we can notify the owner of this map http://rhd2map.buntools.org.uk/index.php?&p=cases and also our own social media followers. Another tab on the map site also shows vets who stock vaccine, useful information for us all.
We’ve been asked to share this survey. Chloe Macgeath, who is second year veterinary medicine student at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is undertaking a research project. She says, “I have decided to do mine on rabbit behaviour, specifically looking at whether there is any behavioural differences between outdoor rabbits and those that kept entirely indoors and have no access to outdoor space. I will also look at the influence of other factors such as diet, sex and companionship.”
We’re very happy to see photos and videos from rescue and of those already in their forever homes, where they are finally able to exercise all the typical rabbit behaviours that they haven’t ever been able to previously. Such a very sad start in life for these lovely souls, but a great life for them now, at long last. We inevitably incurred significant bills – some had health problems, all needed to be vaccinated, all the adults neutered, and once the babies are old enough, we’ll be funding their neutering too, so if you haven’t already donated, please do. People have already been very generous and although we haven’t yet had the final bill, we estimate it to be about £3000. Even £1 will help though of course if you can manage more, that would be fantastic – and don’t forget Gift Aid if you pay Income Tax. That will bring us in an extra 25% direct from HMRC, at no cost to you.
Of course we can’t leave without reminding you to keep membership subscriptions up to date. We’ve been able to introduce Direct Debit for online subscription so you no longer need to have a PayPal account to have automatic renewals. You still can if you want, but Direct Debit costs us less per transaction (which helps keep down your membership subs costs) and doesn’t rely on you keeping your card details up to date with PayPal. You can renew here https://shop.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/product-category/memberships/renewal-memberships/
Here at the RWAF we have been asked, over the past week or so, about Myxomatosis in native wild brown hares in the UK. Its important to be aware that this information is subject to change as the investigating continues, but is correct at time of posting.
Sporadic cases have been reported in the past, of suspected of confirmed myxomatosis in hares, including one which was written up in the veterinary press in 2014. However, this appears to be different in that multiple cases, from a wide geographical spread, are being reported to Dr Diana Bell, University of East Anglia <email@example.com>, and, whilst some have obvious external symptoms of myxomatosis, other dead hares look fine/in good condition or are seen dying with unusual neurological symptoms including inability to move and seizures. A number of possible causes are being explored, including a change in virulence of myxomatosis virus, infection with Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RHD2), or European Brown Hare Syndrome, individually or as co-infections, and its possible that other factors are involved.
What would really help the ongoing study into the large scale deaths of this iconic species, would be for any members of the public finding a dead or ill hare to contact Dr Bell and to store the body refrigerated whilst contacting Diana to arrange full post-mortem analysis.
Here at the RWAF we are aware of 3 significant fatal viral diseases of rabbits in the UK. Myxomatosis (covered by the vaccine Nobivac Myxo-RHD); Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 1 (covered by Nobivac Myxo-RHD), and Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (covered by the vaccines Filavac KC and V, or Eravac).
We are not aware of any further versions of RVHD present in the UK, although the variant K5 has been discovered in Asia and Australasia.
We are not aware of any viral infections that are acutely fatal to rabbits and rodents recently arriving in the UK.
If anyone has documentary evidence of any exotic diseases arriving in the UK in future please inform us and the Animal Plant and Health Agency.
Richard Saunders BSc(Hons) BVSc MSB CBiol DZooMed (Mammalian) MRCVS
We are often asked about keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together. This is not advisable for the following reasons:
Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract of a number of species, including dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs, related to B pertussis, which causes whooping cough in humans. It is often described as commensal in rabbits (ie found in this species without causing harm), however, it can be a primary disease causing organism, and can complicate other infections such as Pasteurella. It can, though, be fatal in guinea pigs, and so keeping them in the same airspace as rabbits is not advised.
Rabbits and Guinea pigs have different dietary requirements, particularly guinea pigs’ need for Vitamin C.
Rabbits and Guinea pigs are not the same species, and cannot respond appropriately to one another’s behaviours. This may result in inadequate social behaviours, up to and including severe bullying.
The main reason these species used to be kept together was for companionship without the risk of pregnancy. With improvements in anaesthetic safety and more widespread neutering of both species, this is less of a problem now. Whilst we would not recommend putting them together in the first place in this day and age, we would not advocate splitting up a stable sole rabbit:sole guinea pig pairing
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.
Emma Milne is a vet who has written several books about animals, their welfare and the ups and downs of life as a vet. ‘Are Rabbits the Right Pet for You – Can You Find the Facts?’, is the first book in the Pet Detective Series.
Emma has written these books for children and their parents to introduce some important aspects of owning rabbits. The reader is the detective, assigned to investigate and work out the needs of pets and the responsibilities of owners, in a fun and authoritative way.
“Often owners misunderstand pets and pet behaviour” says Ms Milne “It is therefore important that potential owners fully understand the needs of their pet and also the huge responsibility of having a pet brings”.
Emma is so passionate about supporting the welfare needs of animals she is donating 10% from the sale of every book ‘Are Rabbits the Right Pet for You?’ to the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF). In addition, a further 10% from the sale of any book in the Pet Detective Series will go directly to the Animal Welfare Foundation.