Health survey of 167 pet rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in Finland

Adult pet rabbits need regular vet check-ups

Source: J. MĂ€kitaipale, F. M. Harcourt-Brown, O. Laitinen-Vapaavuori
Veterinary Record, Vol. 177, NÂș. 16, 2015, p418

A survey of 167 pet rabbits which owners thought were healthy has been carried out at the Small Animal Teaching Hospital, Helsinki University, Finland, and has uncovered many hidden problems. The rabbits were handled by a vet in clinical examinations, and were X-rayed. Health problems were found in 118 rabbits, or 70.7% of the total of 167 rabbits. Dental problems were the most common health problem, affecting 67 rabbits, or 40.1% of the total. Spinal column problems affected 52 rabbits, or, 31.1 % of the 167 rabbits, and skin problems affected 28 rabbits, or 16.8% of the total. There were also 12 rabbits, 7.2% of the total, with eye problems. Dwarf lop rabbits were found to be especially prone to spinal deformities. Rabbits older than three-years-old were more likely to have a health problem of some sort. This applied to 51 older rabbits, or 82.3% of the older rabbits.

Rabbits are prey animals. Prey animals tend not to show distress when they are ill because it would make them vulnerable to predators, so it is easy for owners to miss symptoms of illnesses that vets can diagnose at a routine check-up. These Helsinki check-ups of rabbits that seemed healthy uncovered a high percentage of rabbits with problems. This result suggests that pet owners should take their rabbits for regular vet checks, especially older adult rabbits, so that any problems can be treated before they become serious.