10 Things You Should Know About Rabbits

This is based on Episode 7, where we talked about things we would tell anyone considering rabbits as pets. Some of these you may have heard before, and some of them, perhaps not.

1. Bunnies Need Buddies

Rabbits are very social animals and need a(t least one) friend of their own species for company. Their friend will also keep them warm in winter, groom them to keep them clean and healthy, and reduce their stress. A study by the University of Bristol in association with the RSPCA (http://www.biomedcentral.com/1756-0500/7/942) & presented at the 2014 Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) Conference prioritised a companion rabbit as the most important welfare issue for rabbits today. 

Despite being recommended in the 1980s, guinea pigs are no longer considered suitable companions for rabbits, as they can be bullied by the rabbit, they don't have the same dietary requirements, they don't behave in the same ways, and there's a risk that the rabbit might pass on a disease called bordetella to the guinea pig.

2. Rabbits Are Long Term Commitments

Rabbits now have an expected lifespan of 10-12 years - this is shorter in giant breeds but still a long term commitment.

3. Rabbits Are Expensive

With vet bills/annual vaccinations/insurance/replacement toys/holiday boarding/hay/pellets and greens, the RSPCA estimate that a pair of rabbits would cost in the region of £1,550 plus initial set up costs (hutch/indoor pen/neutering/vaccinations) of approx £800. Over the lifetime of the rabbit, this comes to a huge £16,000! http://www.rspca.org.uk/ImageLocator/LocateAsset?asset=document&assetId=1232729413756&mode=prd

4. You Need To Spend Time With Your Bunnies

If you just feed the rabbits in their cage, and sometimes transfer them from hutch to run, you will find your rabbits very boring. It's essential to spend time with your rabbits, so you can see their personalities and behaviours. 

You should think about how this will happen before getting the rabbit as it will need to be a bunnyproof area. You won't want to sit in a run in the rain or snow, but if you bring your bunny in to an area which isn't bunnyproof, expect chewed wires and furniture. 

RSPCA recommend 10 hours per week - for feeding, cleaning, but probably an hour a day to get the know the rabbit and to let it get to know you.  http://www.rspca.org.uk/ImageLocator/LocateAsset?asset=document&assetId=1232729413756&mode=prd

You don't have to be constantly fussing them during this time, particularly when they're getting to know you. Just sit quietly with them, maybe reading a book, watching TV or listening to the All Ears podcast! - they will soon come over to see what's going on and start using you as a human climbing frame.

Rabbits are very quiet animals but can be very effective communicators so also check out the Language of Lagomorphs website http://language.rabbitspeak.com/, and pay attention to your bunnies' body language.  

Knowing your rabbits and their engaging personalities will also help motivate you when it's time to change the litter tray in a howling gale, or when you really want  lie-in but know the bunnies will be expecting their breakfast!

5. Let The Rescues Do The Hard Work

If you buy a rabbit from a pet shop or breeder, you will have to neuter it, and bond it with a friend. 

Neutering sounds straightforward, but particularly post-spay, you feel so sorry for your doe -and so worried that she won't get through it, or ever eat again. But neutering is essential as 80% of does contract uterine cancer by the age of 4 years, and neutering reduces a lot of territorial and hormonal behaviour. 

Then you have to bond or re-bond your bunnies - which involves a lot of chasing and biting and humping so is also stressful for the bunnyslave. 

Also, rescues will find your bunny a partner it gets on with, and they have so many unwanted litters with beautiful babies that they bring up really well, handled and confident from a young age - as opposed to pet store bunnies who can often develop snuffles, or pasteurella from the stress of being transported and moved away from home so young. 

A rescue will also advise on good local vets, good accommodation, bunny proofing, and have lots of social events where you can meet other bunny slaves and share stories and advice.  And you get a warm fluffy feeling from knowing you saved a life.

6. Rabbits Are Strong Willed

Rabbits are really smart and can learn a lot if you have the patience to teach them and they have the inclination. But bunnies are prey animals, not pack animals like dogs, so they're not constantly seeking your approval, which makes them much harder to train. 

They can enjoy toys and solving problems, so can learn tricks - you'll be amazed by the bunny in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbxqVtWj9c0&t=11

However, if a rabbit is healthy, and neutered, and there's no other groups of rabbits around (which can make them territorial) they can very easily be litter trained, as they are very clean animals and will generally choose where their toilet spot will be. Note - they will choose, you just have to make sure that's where you put the litter tray…

7. Don't Believe Everything You're Told

Pet shops regularly mis-sex bunnies. Reputable manufacturer and retailers sell tiny cages as suitable for rabbits, when they're really not, along with bunny treats full of dairy, sugar and corn which aren't suitable for bunnies and can cause problems with their digestion. Most vets only get 2 weeks of training in exotics (bunnies are calssed as exotics). 

Make sure you know your bunnies and can tell if they're not themselves. Make sure you have a variety of information sources so you can evaluate what feels right - books, websites, groups, friends from rescues/RWAF hopper groups . 

Bunnies can go downhill very quickly if they’re not well, so as soon as you notice anything, however small, something as simple as your bunny doesn't seem itself or isn't eating, contact your vet immediately. Remember - it costs nothing to phone your vet - even out of hours. They are more likely to know if it's an emergency than someone on facebook. 

8. Rabbits Need Space

In the wild, rabbits run the equivalent of 30 football pitches in a day! So a 4ft hutch is not enough. The RWAF recommend a 6ft x 2ft x 2ft hutch attached to an 8ft x 4ft x 2ft run as a minimum (http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/ahutchisnotenough.htm) and have a list of retailers providing suitable accommodation http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/walloffame.htm. You will see the benefit of giving your rabbits space as they will have fewer aches and pains from being able to stretch and move, so be less grumpy and territorial and more entertaining as they exhibit natural behaviours such as binkies and bunny 500s 

9. Hay

Hay is another critical factor in a rabbits life and is the way to keep your bunnies healthy and happy. It keeps the rabbit's gut healthy, and teeth short, reducing the likelihood fo expensive vet bits and an ill rabbit. It also keeps the rabbit occupied, so they're less likely to get bored and take up antisocial habits such as chewing their cage bars or furniture. Their diet should be 80% hay, and according to a study that bunny supervet Elisabetta Mancinelli mentioned at the 2014 RWAF Conference, feeding multiple types of hay gives your bunny the best coverage of nutrients. It also means than when your rabbits decide they don't like a particular hay any more, you have another type in stock to tempt them with.

http://www.therabbithouse.com/diet/ is a good site to look at your rabbits' diet and seeing what foods are suitable. With respect to dry food, muesli is a huge contributor to dental disease in rabbits, as they are selective feeders and only eat the nice buts, so still to a pellet such as Science Selective, Fibafirst, Burgess Excel or Oxbow Bunny Basics.

Oh - and feeding a rabbit a carrot is like giving a child 10 cheeseburgers! It won't kill him, but it's not great for long term health. A small, 10p sized piece as a treat is more than enough.

10. Rabbit Are Not A Child's Pet

Rabbits are often though of as an easy starter pet for children, to teach them some responsibility, and because they look so cute. Children can't evaluate whether they're ready for a 10 year commitment, or the impact of having a rabbit when they move out, go to University or get a job. Children may be able to buy pellets and greens, but generally can't afford the insurance or vet bills that the rabbit may need. Also rabbits hate to be picked up and cuddled.

If you do decide that a pair of rabbits are right for your family, an adult must be ultimately responsible for the rabbits - for health checking them on a daily basis and picking up on any illness or changes in behaviour. The adult must also be prepared to give the rabbits commit the time to giving the rabbits a life of enrichment when the child gets bored. The child should be encouraged to interact with the rabbits on their level - to sit quietly with them and let the rabbits come to them. This will enable the child to build a deeper relationship with the rabbits, respect them more, and be less likely to get bored with the rabbits. Picking the rabbits up can lead to either child or rabbit being injured when the rabbit struggles as it does not feel secure or like being picked up.

 

What advice would you give to someone considering a rabbit? Or what do you wish you had been told when you got your rabbits?

FORAGING WITH DR TWIGS WAY

Following the success of her book, Foraging for Rabbits, Dr Twigs Way ran two foraging days at her home in May. Kathy was very excited to attend the first of these.

Like the Frances Harcourt-Brown Owners' Programme (which is running again in September, see here), the day was a fantastic opportunity to connect with other rabbit owners, and share stories and experiences. Also like the FHB Owners' Programme, the food was delicious, and special mention needs to be made of Steve's Amazing Banana Cake. 

I have to admit, that whilst I have had Twigs' book since it came out, my plant recognition was largely limited to plantain, groundsel, grass and dandelions. These grown in my garden, and Waffles and Dumblepaws like them, so it's a good, but incredibly limited, start. As I live in an area with lots and lots of dogs, I'm also very apprehensive about picking things in most nearby public places for risk of contamination from dog faeces. So my aim for the session was to learn to identify more plants, and to try and use the session to inspire me to make foraging for my rabbits into something I actually did.

We started off looking for common weeds in Twigs' garden - and found Herb Robert, Cleavers, Campion, White Dead Nettle, Plantain, Avens, Hop, Hogweed, Cow Parsley. I was particularly excited at recognising Campion as it was one that my dad used to point out to me on walks when I was a child. Between us, the group was able to recognise a lot of things, and all learned a few more.

We then went on a tour of the village, to try and find these things in the wild, and find some more including Comfrey (not good for rabbits unless they've got broken bones as it's super high in calcium), Speedwell, Chamomile, Mayweed, Hedge Bindweed, Vetch, Hedge Garlic, Silverleaf, Willowherb, Willow, Hawthorn, Field Mouse Ear, Birds Foot Trefoil, Scabious, Wild Mustard, Teasel. So we saw lots and lots of plants.

After lunch, we split up into groups and went out unaccompanied to see what we could find, and then regrouped to share and discuss our findings.

I'd never heard of Dead Nettle before, so enjoyed the excitement of deciding whether a nettle-y thing was a Dead Nettle or a Nettle, and seeing if it stung me when I picked it (it didn't). When Twigs subsequently identified a plant I have at home which was also in her garden as Variegated Dead Nettle I thought it was great as I could get Waffles and DP to munch through that overgrown section of the flowerbed. Unfortunately, which they can eat it, they're largely uninspired and so I have to do actual weeding :(

I was also fascinated by the similarity between Hemlock (deadly poisonous) and Cow Parsley (great for bunnies) so will be careful when I pick this.

We also got to look at Twigs' amazing set up for her 30 bunnies! Great spacious accommodation with lots of fox-proofing and beautiful bunnies. The lodges she has, made by Granddad Rob Designs, can be seen here).

On returning home, I had a look around my garden, and found something that looked a lot like Cleavers but wasn't sticky. Consulting my Foraging for Rabbits guide, I ascertained it was Woodruff, and it was a hit with the bunnies, so they have been helping me with that bit of weeding. I also found Herb Robert and what I thought was Hawthorn until it started growing gooseberries, so I still have a lot to learn.

I'm still worried about the prevalence of dogs in all my local parks and the woods seemed to be all nettles and evergreen - so foraging is not yet part of my routine. But I am enjoying recognising more plants when I walk to work, and I can recognise more than I could previously - even though looking back at my notes now, I'm noticing that what I've been mentally referring to as Chamomile is actually (Pineapple) Mayweed. And I kept getting mixed up between Vetch and Speedwell on the day.

In summary, a wonderful day, with a lot to learn and take in. It has succeeded in raising my appreciation of my local environment and improved my knowledge of plants - I now need to make the effort to check out other local places to find a suitable foraging ground, and to keep looking at my books and notes and continue to identify plants in the garden and the parks/woodlands etc to continue to expand my knowledge.

Huge thanks to Twigs and Steve, and to the day's Official Chief Forage Taster, Parsley Piert Parcels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to look for in a Rabbit Boarding Provider

Guest Blog Post from Lauren at Four Little Paws Petcare

  • Are the owners experienced and knowledgeable? 

    • Do they own rabbits themselves?
    • Any qualifications?
    • How long have they provided the service for?
    • Are references available? Reviews on website or Facebook page?
  • Do they use grass runs? The answer should be no, as its no possible to disinfect grass to remove the risk of infection or parasites
  • Is the accommodation well maintaining, of a suitable size, predator and weather proof? I’d recommend a visit to make sure the accommodation looks as good as the photos.
  • Do they board other species? Are predators boarded nearby? Such as dogs, cats, ferrets etc…
  • Do they have access to a rabbit savvy vet with an out of hours service?
  • Can they provide any special care the rabbit needs? Such as administering medication, level access accommodation…
  • Are the owners home all day or do they work? How much time do they spend with the rabbits?
  • How often are they cleaned out? What procedures are used to clean between guests? Should be high strength veterinary disinfectants like Anigene, Virkopn, Arklens…
  • Do they ask all rabbits are vaccinated?
  • What’s included in the price? Are hay and veggies included or extra?
  • Will they send you updates whilst you are away? Have they asked for an emergency contact?
  • Have they asked you to fill out booking forms, and sign a veterinary consent? Have they asked about your rabbits health, diet and routine?
  • Always visit and speak to the person who will be providing your rabbit with the daily care
  • Check their knowledge on common rabbit illness and problems
    • Do they know the signs of stasis and associated problems?
    • Do they know what EC is and how to prevent cross infection?
    • Do they know how to avoid and check for fly strike

Frances Harcourt-Brown's First Owners' Programme

PLEASE NOTE THIS COURSE WILL BE REPEATED ON 26th SEPTEMBER. BOOK HERE

Many thanks to Denise Devoto for proof-reading the first draft of this and adding lots of  things I'd missed

On Saturday 11th April 2015, All Ears were very excited to attend Bunny SuperVet Frances Harcourt-Brown's first training day for owners in Harrogate, UK. Frances is the only RCVS recognised specialist in rabbit medicine and surgery in the UK. She started the day by saying she was going to challenge a lot of our beliefs - and she did, creating some strong debate on the way home. But it was also interesting that there were small points where Nigel (Frances' vet husband) disagreed with Frances, or where Frances disagreed with All Ears Guest and Foraging Expert Dr Twigs Way - as there isn't always one 'right' answer - just compromises to be made or different approaches to risk. So I think as owners, we have a duty to learn as much as we can about our bunnies, and keep asking questions and challenging ideas, and then make our own opinions based on our research, our experience, and our bunnies.

Look out for future events here. As well as the owners' event, Frances is also offering a comprehensive series of continuing professional development courses for Vets and Vet Nurses, so if anyone knows a Vet that would like to improve their knowledge in rabbits, these courses offer a fantastic opportunity for them to learn from Frances' vast experience, and specialist knowledge. 

Frances was amazingly generous with her time and her knowledge, and Sabina asked if we were able to share her notes on the All Ears website. Frances very kindly said we could, so they're included below. However, as has been mentioned on both Facebook and the Rabbits United forum, the slides can be misinterpreted if taken literally, so I've also included some of the context and some of my own thoughts and reflections. Also some of the lectures contained videos, which can't be seen via these pdfs, but definitely helped to embed some of the knowledge and understanding behind her opinions.  

It was also suggested on Facebook that if this information is useful to you, you may wish to consider a donation to Camp Nibble, the Rabbit and Rodent Rescue that Frances Harcourt-Brown is a patron of. Donations can be made here

The day covered five presentations:
1. How the Digestive System Works
2. Ileus, stasis, bloat or blockage - how to tell them apart
3. Dental disease - what happens to the teeth
4. The anorexic rabbit - when to worry
5. What's the best diet - myths and truths

1. How the Digestive System Works

The first part of this was a detailed explanation of how rabbits' teeth grow and their structure before moving on to how the different particles are ingested. The more time a rabbit spends chewing, the stronger its jaw bone and muscles will become. You may see your bunny grinding its teeth to maintain the surfaces on the teeth - this is quite normal and different to the tooth grinding caused by pain.

Frances went on to say that proteins, lipids (fats), sugars and starches are absorbed similarly to other species, but rabbits are also able to use microbes to break down plant material - such as dietary fibre - to gain extra energy. Anything that isn't digested in the first stage passes into the colon, which separates the undigested materials into things which the microbes can convert which are fermented and broken down, and things which the rabbit cannot ever digest e.g. lignin (woody substance that provides rigidity to plants) and fur, which are excreted as hard faecal pellets. The caecum is an integral part of a rabbit and is effectively like a big eco-system that is crucial to maintaining the rabbit's health.

There's a theory that sugars and starches disrupt the caecal microflora and cause diarrhoea in rabbits which Frances believes originates from a Carbohydrate Overload Theory where commercial rabbits can die of enteritis. However, rabbits digest the carbohydrates before they reach the caeceum and so this is unlikely. Also enteritis is an acute, fatal diarrhoea, not just a mild sticky bottom. However, there is a risk of enteritis from antibiotics.

Although  sugary and carbohydrate rich foods are unlikely to imbalance the microbes in the caeceum, they can still cause problems as they make the rabbit fat, so it is physically unable to reach its anus and ingest caecotrophs. Additionally a diet low in fibre will affect the consistency of the faeces as the fibre is what makes the caecotrophs firm.  


2. Ileus, stasis, bloat or blockage - how to tell them apart

'stasis' is a term owners use to describe a rabbit not eating. 'ileus' is the vet equivalent. 'bloat' tends to involve a distended abdomen, and 'blockage' is an intestinal obstruction.

Rabbits are very susceptible to stress, and stress slows down their gut motility. So a huge range of things can stress the rabbit and therefore cause stasis, but there will always be a cause. It may be as mild as a cat walking through the garden or a change in routine or may be much more serious like severe dental pain or illness. In animals like humans, horses etc it's really obvious how much pain they're in - rabbits are far more subtle so it's hard to tell if the anorexia is due to something serious or not.

However, a study Frances undertook in her practice in 2012 evidenced that a rabbit's blood glucose rises in response to stress so if you test this, you can get an indication of how serious the problem is. 

More frequent, but lower doses of pain relief e.g. meloxicam (metacam) are more effective and safer than high doses. in Frances' analogy "Why take 20 paracetamols when 2 will do?". 

Bloat is usually due to a physical obstruction in the intestine. It differs from 'normal' ileum as it will be a more sudden, complete anorexia, and the stomach will be more distended. Pellets of impacted hair are the most common cause- not from grooming, but when the bunny has eaten its normal faeces (as well as the caecotrophs) and one of these hard pellets has caused a blockage. 

It's often mentioned that sprinkling herbs or food pellets in hay to encourage the bunny to forage for their food and eat more hay is a great idea - however Frances said that when she did this, three of her bunnies suffered from intestinal blockages from ingesting faecal pellets. 

Sometimes, ileus or a blockage will pass without interference and the rabbit will be ok. Other times, without medication or surgery, the rabbit will die. All Ears would ALWAYS recommend taking an anorexic rabbit to the vet as soon as possible, and to NEVER syringe feed a rabbit without having seen your vet to rule out the possibility of a blockage.

Please note - in the slides about Frances' rabbit Joe - infacol, massaging his stomach and making him run around were NOT options Frances would consider doing as massage/forcing him to move would cause him more pain in the short term, and re infacol, whilst many vets believe it may help, Frances thinks it's ineffective as it's designed to break down bubbles in frothy bloat in babies to make them burp or vomit. As rabbits can't do either, it doesn't really help.

  
3. Dental disease - what happens to the teeth

Dental disease can be caused by genetic problems, trauma, or tumours - however over 90% of dental disease was classified by Frances as Progressive Syndrome of Acquired Dental Disease (PSADD).

Fortunately, PSADD is less prevalent than 10 years ago, but basically is due to rabbits getting insufficient calcium from their diet (e.g. from selective feeding from muesli). This weakens their teeth and bones, so the teeth are not properly supported in the skull, so even if the bunny is rescued and moved to a hay based diet at this point, it still really hurts them to eat. So a bunny who doesn't eat hay may well not be because they're fussy/used to a bad diet, but because it hurts to eat the hay. If so, make sure the bunny has as many greens as possible, and if the bunny is on a pelleted diet, make sure it's not too many pellets and a good quality one.

Frances believes that quite often PSADD has already started with bunnies whilst they are still with breeders as tiny babies. Some breeders start feeding babies from 4 weeks old on muesli as it's the cheapest type of food available for them to feed on mass. Dominant siblings are the most at risk, as the will get the pick of the muesli, and via selective feeding will choose the 'tastier' morsels which often lack calcium, resulting in lack of bone density and setting them up for future dental issues.

Please note: Clipping is NOT an option for incisor malocclusion, and unless it's really really extreme circumstances, euthanasia also seems inappropriate.  

Frances personally prefers to use molar clippers and a rasp to reshape the molars to remove spurs. Whilst she considers burring an option for vets who are comfortable with power tools, she doesn't advocate burring teeth down to the gum line as then the rabbit will need to wait for the teeth to grow back before they can start eating properly again, and the teeth will lose their shape, preventing the bunny from maintaining them in the natural way.

4. The anorexic rabbit - when to worry

So this presentation was about the vast array of different causes of anorexia (or 'stasis') in bunnies, and how critical they were. I found the slides on this handout really hard to follow as the writing on the slide with the bullet pointed list was so small and without colour, it was hard to tell which items were highlighted each time the slide was brought up. But one really good way is to test your rabbit's glucose levels as an indication as to the level of emergency. The other thing I would highly recommend is getting your rabbit to the vet as soon as possible if it's not eating. If it's just mild stress preventing them from eating, a bit of pain relief and gut stimulant will speed their recovery, and if it is a life threatening emergency, then the vet should be more likely to notice and will know how to fix it.

Frances suggested that some of the often quoted home remedies are either a bit unfair (either forcing a bunny to move if it's in pain or massaging its stomach) or futile (simethicone) - but said that whilst pineapple juice won't dissolve furballs, it will hydrate the rabbit. 

The immobility response (putting a rabbit on its back) was also discussed in this lecture. There is currently a huge campaign from the RWAF (& others) to raise awareness of this as studies have shown that it can be incredibly stressful to a rabbit, potentially dangerous and is largely unnecessary.

However, Frances believes that the definition of 'tonic immobility' is different from an immobility response. Depending on the manner in which it is done (a gentle, experienced manner vs 'scruffing' or grabbing the rabbit) will affect the stress level of the rabbit, and it is a technique that Frances uses, for example when taking an ultrasound or x-ray without sedation, or to clip a rabbit's fur when it is unable to clean itself and at risk of flystrike. She showed us a video of her eliciting an immobility response in a rabbit in order to take an x-ray. This was done in a very gentle manner, gently weighting the bunny down with a small 'sand bag' so it could not move and it did not seem unduly stressed. She also said that the blood glucose level of rabbits treated in this way were not overly high, and showed us that rabbits on their back will still eat. 

Denise said "I've actually seen Frances do this with Beth when she had to examine her abdomen before operating and Beth is a 6kg boofer of a bunny! Whilst it's not something I would advocate, it clearly has its place for experienced vets - particularly if a bunny could not cope with a GA or sedation or has a potentially life threatening condition"

My personal view is that it is not something that should be done for fun or as a general way of handling a rabbit. However, sedating a rabbit to take an x-ray/ultrasound also has risks, and preventing flystrike in a limited mobility bunny is also very important for the bunny's health. So, I can accept it has a role where both owner and vet agree there is a medical benefit in using this technique in a certain situation on a particular bunny. However, I also believe that there is a lot of animal cruelty and neglect, and so there is also a place for a campaign to raise awareness that it is not an acceptable procedure in 'normal' circumstances. I guess not dissimilar to the idea that everybunny should have a bonded bunny friend - which also has exceptions based on bunny personalities/health issues/the rabbit's history. 

 

5. What's the best diet - myths and truths

Frances advocates a mainly grass and forage diet for a rabbit, keeping it as close to the diet of a wild rabbit as possible. Obviously, wild rabbits do not eat hay, but survive on a diet of grass and fresh forage, and a domestic rabbit would thrive on this diet. However, this would require approximately 500g of grass per rabbit per day, which might not be practical for pet rabbits living in urban areas where their owners have limited access to parks and bridleways, so hay is a convenient and healthy alternative.

Where owners are looking to try new plants and forage but are unsure what to go for, Frances highly recommended Dr Twigs Ways book Foraging for Rabbits available here.  Frances said that rabbits are resistant to toxins in plants, or don't eat the plants, so as long as the rabbit has a variety to choose from, Frances doesn't think owners have to worry much about making sure plants are safe for the bunny. However, Twigs said there is always somebunny who will want to just try a little bit of something highly toxic, so owners may wish to err on the side of caution. 

Frances also thinks that too many veggies causing diarrhoea is a myth too, and that it is more likely that the introduction of new veg stops the rabbit from eating its caecotrophs temporarily and the owner sees the caecotrophs and thinks it's diarrhoea so stops feeding veg and feeds more concentrated food - this then makes the rabbit fat which also stops it eating its caecotrophs. Rabbits should have more veg/greens/hay and less (or no) concentrated food. 

Lettuce was also mentioned, as this is often deemed unsafe on rabbit food lists and Frances disagreed with this. There is more on lettuce here.

Pre-biotics and probiotics were mentioned. It has been shown that they may increase the rate at which commercial rabbits can be grown, there is no evidence to support any medical benefit to rabbits or if they can help rebalance gut flora in poorly rabbits.

Calcium was also discussed - as this is a factor in urinary tract diseases in rabbits. Low calcium diets tend to recommend avoiding high calcium veggies - however, as veggies are mostly water, they still contain a low % of calcium.

Concentrated food (pellets/nuggets) are only 5-10% water, hay 15% water, whereas grass and veggies are 80-95% water. So, if calcium needs to be reduced, a much much greater impact can be had on the rabbit's diet by restricting or eliminating pellets from the rabbit's diet and increasing the proportion of fresh greens, than from eliminating 'high calcium veggies' - which are mostly water. 

Increasing water intake is also important as this dilutes the urine, and therefore the concentration of minerals in the urine, resulting in less sediment. Rabbits drink more from bowls than bottles. There is also more water in grass (or other forage/veggies) than hay.

Twigs also suggested bottled water/water filters for rabbits with calcium problems in areas with high  calcium in tap water (e.g. East Anglia).

 

I hope this has been interesting/useful. Please feel free to leave any feedback below or get in touch via email/facebook, and please keep an eye on Frances Harcourt-Brown's website (here) for future events, as they are very interesting and informative (and the cake is amazing!)

(donations to Camp Nibble can be made here. You can also support them via easyfundraising or Pets at Home VIP club by selecting 'Meanwood" as your home store)

New podcast!

Hello! And thanks for finding our new website and podcast.

The idea for All Ears came from Kathy's husband Paul, who listens to a lot of podcasts, and suggested Kathy might like listening to a bunny related podcast as a way of finding out more about rabbit care and welfare and as something enjoyable to listen to.

Kathy could only find 2006's My Rabbit Grace and 2008's The Rabbit Show With Dan the Rabbit Man. They felt a little bit out of date. 

With a mere six months experience of recent bunny ownership, Kathy didn't feel qualified to be the sole voice of the podcast, or to advise on complex bunny care issues. She also preferred the idea of a conversation instead of a monologue, and so recruited Sabina at a Rabbit Awareness event.

With the popularity of rabbit forums and social media pages, it feels like there is a place for a rabbit related podcast - something rabbit enthusiasts could listen to as they cleaned out the litter trays or on the way to work, and hear useful information about rabbit welfare, interesting tales of bunny exploits and regular fun features.

We'd love this podcast to become a valuable resource for the rabbit owning community and need your help!

If you're knowledgeable about any specific areas of rabbit care or welfare, or have any bunnies with interesting stories/histories please get in touch, as we'd love to interview you.

And if you have any constructive feedback on any of the episodes or suggestions on features or improvements please get in touch. We can be contacted via Twitter at @allears_podcast or via our comment form here.

Thanks for listening! We hope you enjoy it!

Sabina & Kathy