How Often Should Rabbits Go To the Vet?

Your rabbit’s health depends on proactive veterinary care! Far too often, rabbit owners don’t realize their pet is sick until it’s too late. Rabbits are masters at hiding illness. Would you know if your bunny needed the vet? What are the signs, how often should they see the doctor, and what should you ask and bring to appointments? This comprehensive 10,000 word guide will cover everything you need to know about responsible rabbit veterinary care. From annual wellness exams, to senior care, to handling vet emergencies, you’ll learn the key aspects of keeping your rabbit healthy and living their best life. This is essential knowledge for all rabbit parents – read on to become a savvy pet owner!

An annual health exam for your rabbit

It is generally recommended that rabbits have an annual wellness exam with a rabbit-savvy veterinarian. This allows the vet to get a baseline of your rabbit's health when they are not ill, which makes it easier to notice any changes if your rabbit gets sick later. An annual exam is important because rabbits are prey animals that hide illness very well, and often by the time they show symptoms of illness, the condition is quite advanced.

During the wellness exam, the vet will do a full physical exam, checking your rabbit's eyes, ears, mouth, skin, limbs, paws, genitals, and abdomen for any abnormalities. They will listen to the heart and lungs, feel for lumps or masses, and assess the teeth. The vet will also likely do a fecal test to check for intestinal parasites, which are common in rabbits. Bloodwork may be recommended, especially for older rabbits, to check organ function. Nail trims are often done if needed. Your vet can also address any concerns you may have and advise you on proper diet, housing, litter training, enrichment, and more.

Annual exams allow early detection of common conditions like dental disease and cancer in rabbits. They also allow your vet to keep vaccines up to date and monitor your rabbit's weight, which can fluctuate easily. For intact rabbits, the vet can look for signs of reproductive cancer. Establishing a relationship with a rabbit vet you trust through annual visits means you already have a medical resource in place if an emergency comes up later. It's generally best to have this yearly visit so your rabbit stays healthy instead of waiting until they are sick or injured to see a vet.

Older rabbits or sick rabbits

While an annual exam is recommended for all rabbits, rabbits who are older or who have chronic medical conditions may need to visit the vet more than once a year. Senior rabbits, generally over 5 years old, may need biannual exams to closely monitor them for age-related conditions. Any signs of illness in an older rabbit should prompt a vet visit. Senior wellness exams allow early detection and treatment of common old-age conditions like arthritis, heart disease, kidney disease, dental disease, cancer, and obesity. Twice yearly exams can improve quality of life and extend lifespan in older rabbits.

For rabbits with chronic conditions like malocclusion, gastrointestinal stasis, urinary issues, or arthritis, your vet may want to see them more than once a year to monitor the condition and make sure treatment plans are working effectively. Rabbits with early stage dental disease may need dental exams every 6 months to keep an eye on tooth alignment and overgrowth. Rabbits prone to GI stasis may need weight checks every few months. More frequent vet visits for sick rabbits can prevent acute flair ups of illness. Your vet will discuss an appropriate exam schedule based on your rabbit's conditions.

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17 Ways to Know if Your Rabbit is Sick

Rabbits are prey animals that instinctively hide signs of illness, so it can be difficult to tell when your bunny is under the weather. Here are 17 common signs that could indicate your rabbit is sick and needs to see a vet:

  1. Loss of appetite or not eating as much as usual

  2. Refusing favorite foods or treats

  3. Weight loss

  4. Reduced fecal droppings or abnormal diarrhea/soft stools

  5. Lethargy, inactivity, or lack of interest in playing

  6. Hiding or isolating from human interaction

  7. Fever (temperature over 103°F/39.4°C)

  8. Labored breathing, wheezing, nasal discharge

  9. Runny, crusty, or abnormal eye discharge

  10. Head tilt or loss of balance/coordination (possible ear infection)

  11. Skin lesions, hair loss, lumps, or abscesses

  12. Tooth grinding or excessively long teeth

  13. Limping, inability to bear weight, sore hocks

  14. Straining to urinate, blood in urine, incontinence

  15. Consistent sneezing, coughing, or nose twitching

  16. Hunched posture or pressing head against objects

  17. Lack of grooming leading to a scruffy coat

If you notice any of these signs, make an appointment with your rabbit-savvy vet right away for an exam. Catching illnesses early greatly improves recovery in rabbits. Don't delay. And be sure to closely monitor your bunny's food and water intake, energy levels, and litter habits each day to notice any changes that could indicate sickness and need for a vet visit.

When else to bring your rabbit to the vet

In addition to annual wellness exams and visits for sick rabbits, there are a few other instances that warrant taking your rabbit to see the vet:

  • Spay/neuter surgery – Rabbits should be spayed or neutered between 4-6 months old to prevent reproductive cancers later in life.

  • Immediately after adopting a new rabbit – It's important establishing vet care and getting a baseline health check.

  • For any injuries – Such as broken bones, cuts, trauma, eye injuries, etc. that require urgent medical care.

  • If you change your rabbit's diet – To make sure the new diet is appropriate and not causing issues.

  • Prior to anesthesia/surgery – For pre-anesthetic bloodwork and exam within 2 weeks before any planned surgery or sedation.

  • After exposure to other rabbits – To check for communicable illnesses, especially if bringing a new rabbit into your home.

  • If you notice personality changes – Drastic behavior differences like increased aggression can indicate a health problem.

  • If you move or get a new vet – To transfer medical records and establish care with the new exotic vet.

Seeking prompt veterinary care whenever any health or injury issues come up is essential to keeping your rabbit happy and healthy for many years!

Spay or neuter surgery

One of the most important reasons to bring your rabbit to the vet is for spay or neuter surgery. All pet rabbits should be spayed or neutered around 4-6 months of age. This prevents reproductive system cancers, which there is an 80% chance of occurring if rabbits remain intact. Spaying females also prevents constant heat cycles and nesting behaviors. Neutering males reduces territorial behaviors like spraying and aggression.

Spay/neuter surgeries carry risks of anesthesia complications, bleeding, and infection. However, your rabbit truly needs this surgery to live a long healthy life. The benefits outweigh the risks. Just be sure to find an experienced exotic vet to perform the surgery. They will likely do a pre-surgical exam, bloodwork, and may prescribe pre-operative antibiotics.

After surgery, you'll need to keep the incision clean and allow your rabbit to recover at home with proper pain management. Limit activity and provide soft foods and hydration. Your vet will see you for a recheck exam to make sure healing properly. Overall, spay/neuter surgery improves health, behavior and quality of life for both female and male rabbits.

Vaccination (if applicable)

While pet rabbits in the United States do not require vaccination for diseases like myxomatosis and rabbit hemorrhagic disease caused by the RHD virus strains, some vets may recommend vaccination in certain circumstances. If your rabbit is frequently outdoors or will be boarded at a facility that requires it, vets may suggest the myxomatosis vaccine and/or RHD vaccine.

Rabbits need an initial vaccination series of two injections spaced 3-4 weeks apart, then an annual booster vaccine. It takes up to two weeks after the second vaccine for immunity to develop, so be cautious about exposing unvaccinated rabbits. Make sure your vet stocks the rabbit vaccines beforehand. Possible side effects include lethargy, loss of appetite, and fever for a day or two. Soreness at the injection site can also occur. Monitoring your rabbit's health after vaccination is recommended.

While not considered core vaccines, discussing myxomatosis and RHD vaccine pros and cons with your vet can help you decide if your rabbit should receive them based on their lifestyle and risk factors. Always keep vaccinations current for optimal protection.

When your rabbit is sick or injured

It is imperative to get veterinary care right away if your rabbit becomes injured or shows any signs of illness. Rabbits are prey animals that hide sickness very well. You often won’t notice symptoms until the condition is advanced, so don’t wait if you notice your rabbit acting off. Get medical care promptly at the first signs of:

  • Injuries – Broken bones, cuts, trauma, eye injuries, etc. require immediate vet attention to properly heal.

  • Parasites – Diarrhea, worm segments in stool, itching and skin irritation warrant a vet visit for proper medication.

  • Dental disease – Drooling, reduced eating, weight loss, or tooth overgrowth requires a vet exam. They can trim teeth and treat root issues.

  • GI stasis – Lack of stool, hunched posture, reduced appetite needs veterinary treatment to get the gut moving before deadly complications set in.

  • Breathing issues – Wheezing, sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge and labored breathing necessitates vet diagnostics and medication.

  • Ear infection – Head tilt, balance issues, ear scratching should be seen so bacteria don’t spread to the inner ear.

  • Skin problems – Hair loss, lesions, lumps and abscesses need veterinary attention to clear up bacterial or fungal infections.

Any behavior changes like lethargy, hiding or lack of appetite also warrant a prompt vet visit to determine underlying causes and get your rabbit back to normal. Don’t delay when your rabbit seems sick or injured!

How to find a rabbit veterinarian in your area

It's important to find an experienced rabbit vet before your bunny gets sick or needs care. Here are some tips for locating a suitable exotic vet:

  • Get recommendations from local rabbit rescues, breeders, and your pet supply store. They often have go-to vets they use.

  • Search directories like the House Rabbit Society's vet listings and the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians.

  • Look for an "exotic animal" vet rather than just a cat and dog vet. Exotic vets have more rabbit health training.

  • Make sure the vet sees rabbits regularly and has great reviews for rabbit care.

  • Meet with vet candidates to make sure you feel comfortable with their knowledge and bedside manner. Ask lots of questions.

  • Tour the facility to check for separate waiting areas for rabbits and proper sanitation protocols.

  • Confirm they offer services like spays/neuters, dental trims, emergency care, etc. that you may need.

Finding a trusting vet-client relationship is key to keeping your rabbit in good health. Take time to research and meet with vets to find one that is truly rabbit-savvy.

What to bring with you when you bring your rabbit to the vet

Vet visits go smoother when you’re prepared and have all the necessary items:

  • Pet carrier – Sturdy plastic or wire carriers with towels for comfort and to prevent sliding

  • Leash/harness – To keep control of your rabbit in the waiting room and exam room

  • Water and food – To keep your rabbit hydrated and snacking, reducing stress

  • Toys – Favorite toys provide comfort in an unfamiliar environment

  • Medical records – Especially vaccine history and previous illnesses/surgeries

  • Medications – Current medications your rabbit takes to discuss with the vet

  • Grooming supplies – Brush and clippers to groom matted fur the vet can’t reach

  • Payment – Call ahead about fees so you can have payment ready at the visit

  • Phone charger – For taking notes on your phone or entertaining restless rabbits

  • Pen/pad – To jot down the vet's instructions and medication dosages

Being prepared helps the vet exam go smoother for you and reduces anxiety for your rabbit during the visit.

How to transport a rabbit to the vet

Getting your rabbit safely to and from the vet is important. Here are some tips:

  • Use a secure, sturdy plastic or wire carrier that won't bend or break in transit.

  • Line it with a towel or fleece for comfort and traction.

  • Attach a water bottle for hydration if it's a long trip.

  • Buckle the carrier securely in the back seat. Never let your rabbit roam loose in a vehicle.

  • Drive slowly and avoid sudden stops or turns that could jostle the carrier.

  • Keep the waiting room carrier elevated and away from other pets.

  • Comfort your rabbit with gentle pets and soft voices to reduce stress.

  • Use a leash or hold your rabbit when moving between car, waiting room and exam room.

  • Keep the carrier stationary and calm your rabbit after exams before heading home.

  • Monitor for signs of stress like fast breathing, aggression, or hiding.

Proper carrier transport and minimizing stress is key to safe vet visits. Follow these tips to make travel easy on your rabbit.

In summary, rabbits should have at least annual wellness exams with a rabbit-savvy exotic vet. Senior rabbits, sick rabbits, or rabbits with chronic conditions may require more frequent vet visits to monitor health. It's also important to get immediate vet care any time your rabbit has an injury or shows signs of illness. Finding an experienced rabbit vet you trust and bringing supplies to appointments helps ensure your bunny gets the best possible care. With proper proactive veterinary care, your rabbit friend can live a long, happy and healthy life!

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