Rabbits and Guinea Pigs feature

Rabbits and Guinea Pigs

 

Rabbits

Rabbit facts

Rabbits in the wild spend more than half their time above ground eating grass and similar foods. Their teeth grow continuously throughout their lives and need to be worn down by long periods of grinding and chewing. Their guts are developed to digest these high levels of fibre through slow digestion. Therefore the bulk of your rabbits' diet should be grass or good quality hay and a rough guide is that they need a pile of at least their own body size every day! Rabbits produce a soft form of poo in the morning which they eat straight from their bottom so that they have a second chance to get nutrition from their grass and hay. This is quite normal and essential for health.

Food

  • Do not feed 'muesli'-style dry food because it can cause a lot of problems. Rabbits pick out the bits they like and leave the rest, leading to an unbalanced diet.
  • The food is almost too easy to eat compared to grass so their teeth overgrow which can have fatal consequences and many rabbits eat too much so become overweight.
  • You can offer dry food in nuggets alongside hay, to avoid selective feeding but only give small amounts. A useful guideline is to feed a tablespoon daily or twice daily if the rabbit weighs over 3.5kg.
  • Fresh vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, carrot tops and small amounts of dandelion can be offered daily too. Speak to your Vet or Nurse about which foods are safe and which plants are poisonous.
  • Don't make sudden changes to your Rabbits diet as this can upset the gut making your pet ill. We recommend that any changes are done over a period of 5 days. 
  • Try to avoid offering fruit. Rabbits would not naturally eat fruits and they are high in sugars and can quickly make your rabbit fat.
  • Make sure fresh water is available at all times.
  • Rabbits do prefer to drink from ceramic bowls. If you choose to use a water bottle remember to check the bottle regularly for blockages and leaks.

General health and welfare

You can prevent many diseases and avoid suffering for your rabbits by being informed and prepared.

  • Check your Rabbit daily to make sure that they are in good health. You can then check for any abnormalities or wounds and make sure that the back end is clean. In the summer months this is very important as it can lead to fly strike, which is very distressing for your pet.
  • Regular handling of your Rabbit is beneficial to both you and your pets as it will make it easier for you and your vet to examine when the time comes for a check up.
  • Rabbits can become ill very quickly so you need to check them twice a day for signs of problems. Make sure you know how to handle your rabbit properly by supporting their back legs at all times to avoid injury to you or your pet and NEVER pick a rabbit up by the ears.
  • Make sure that their hutches are cleaned out daily, this will give you the opportunity to monitor any changes in urine or faecal output. This is very important as should the number of pellets being passed reduce or stop you need to call your veterinary surgery immediately.
  • Rabbits teeth continually grow, so allowing them to graze as they would in the wild will help maintain their oral health and help to wear down the teeth. If their teeth get too long this can lead to pain and abscesses and will stop them eating properly. You can check the front teeth weekly but only your vet can look at the back teeth so have them checked every few months and follow our diet advice.
  • As with any pet make sure that you monitor food and water intake, if this suddenly changes you will need to call your veterinary practice immediately.
  • Rabbits are social animals so it is recommended that you have 2 rabbits, a neutered male and neutered female. Having a single rabbit can lead to boredom frustration and fear.
  • Neutering is recommended in rabbits. This not only stops unwanted babies but also  prevents some serious diseases like certain cancers.
  • Make sure your rabbits are vaccinated against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD). Both these diseases can kill. This is now given in one injection annually.
  • Rabbits can pick up fleas, lice, mites and other parasites.
  • E cuniculi is a parasite spread via urine. Rabbits should be treated regularly to control this parasite. Speak to one of our Vets about what to watch out for; preventative treatments and what to use if you have a problem.
  • Flies can lay eggs which turn into maggots on your rabbits. They can cause horrible injuries and even death, especially in the summer months, so ensure the hutch is kept clean. Ask one of our Vets about how to spot these problems, also how to check your rabbits' bodies every day so that you notice straight away when something is wrong. It is particularly important to thoroughly check your rabbits in warm weather when flies are active. Treatments are available, please ask the Vet on your next visit.

 

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs originate from the grassy areas and the lower slopes of the Andes Mountains of South America. They are "social" animals and live in herds. Remember, like rabbits they are also prey animals, so you need to make sure that their accommodation is safe, secure and predator proof.

As with any animal they have specific needs to help keep them happy and healthy. We recommend that anyone who is considering purchasing or rehoming Guinea Pigs should make sure that they understand the special care needs of these small companion animals before taking on the responsibility of caring for them. Before you take your new pet home make sure you know what food they have been eating as sudden changes in diet can upset the gut.

Food

  • Each species of animal have their own specific dietary requirements and Guinea Pigs are no exception. Ensuring that your guinea pig has the right diet and nutrition will help keep them happy and healthy.
  • Make sure they have access to plenty of fresh water, make sure that their water bottles / bowls are refilled daily with fresh water. As the Guinea Pig's natural home is on the grassy slopes of the Andes they are natural grazers, eating grass, herbs and plants such as dandelions.
  • Like Rabbits the Guinea Pigs gut is constantly active, so they need to be able to graze.
  • Remember though that they do need an adequate source of Vitamin C daily, so feeding them a proprietary grass based food specially formulated for Guinea Pigs will ensure that they are receiving all the nutrients they need. For this reason you can feed a Rabbit with Guinea Pig food but you should never feed a Guinea Pig with Rabbit food.
  • Remember that Vitamin C is destroyed over time and quickly with exposure to air. Make sure that any food given is fresh each day and that any bags of food are kept in an air tight container.
  • Make sure that your Guinea Pig also has access to good quality hay, and offer fresh vegetables in small amounts each day.

 

General Health and welfare (Pig facts)

  • Check your Guinea Pig daily to make sure that they are in good health. You can then check for any abnormalities or wounds and make sure that the back end is clean. In the summer months this is very important as it can lead to fly strike, which is very distressing for your pet.
  • Regular handling of your Guinea Pig is beneficial to both you and your pets as it will make it easier for you and your vet to examine when the time comes for a check up
  • Make sure that their hutches are cleaned out daily, this will give you the opportunity to monitor any changes in faecal output. This is very important as should the number of pellets being passed by your pig reduce or stop you need to call your veterinary surgery immediately.
  • Like Rabbits, the Guinea Pigs teeth continually grow, so allowing them to graze as they would in the wild will help maintain their oral health and help to wear down the teeth.
  • Don't make sudden changes to your Guinea Pigs diet as this can upset their gut making your pet ill. Any changes to your Guinea Pigs diets should be done gradually over a 5 day period.
  • As with any pet make sure that you monitor food and water intake, if this suddenly changes you will need to call your veterinary practice immediately.
  • Just like other mammals Guinea Pigs feel pain, but they are not very good at outwardly showing that they are in pain. A subtle change in your Guinea Pigs behaviour is always a good indicator that something may be wrong. Consult your vet if you are concerned in any way.
  • Guinea pigs are social animals and are happier when in a group of two or more pigs. Having social interaction with other pig's will keep them occupied and should avoid undue stress due to boredom or loneliness.
  • It is not recommended to keep Guinea Pigs together with Rabbits as this can lead to bullying of the Guinea Pig.