Small Mammal Medicine: Rabbit:
Basic Information for European Rabbits
European Rabbit—Oryctolagus cuniculus
|Natural history||Originally from the Iberian peninsula, the rabbit was introduced to the Romans over 2000 years ago. Rabbits were fully domesticated by the 17th century, and they became popular as childrens pets during the Victorian era.|
European rabbits belong to the same family as hares and cottontail rabbits.
|Breeds||There are at least 42 pet rabbit breeds. Popular breeds include the Dutch,
Netherland Dwarf (adults weigh 1 kg or less), and Rex rabbits.
|Diet||Hay is essential to a rabbit’s health. Rabbits should also be fed a small amount of high fiber pellets (minimum 18% fiber), and a variety of vegetables including leafy green like cilantro and parsley as well as root vegetables.|
|Husbandry||Rabbits are crepuscular, but they can adjust their schedule somewhat to that of their human family’s schedule. Rabbits are also very social and
House rabbits on solid flooring with recycled paper product or aspen shavings. If wire flooring must be used, cover at least a portion with carpet remnants, grass mats, synthetic sheepskin, or towels (monitor for chewing). Rabbits may be litter pan trained.
Bunny-proof the home (or a room) by preventing access to electrical cords and other dangerous items while providing safe, chewable items and toys. Rabbits should also be provided with visual security such as a hide box.
|Normal physiologic values||
|Anatomy / physiology||
|Restraint||Rabbits possess a relatively lightweight, delicate skeleton paired with extremely strong, well-developed back and leg muscles. With improper restraint, rabbits that struggle or kick run the risk of a broken back or leg. Always restrain rabbits on a non-slip surface such as a large, heavy towel or pad.|
|Venipuncture||Collect larger volumes from the jugular vein or lateral saphenous vein.
Smaller samples may be taken from the cephalic vein.
|Important medical conditions||Crystalluria, urolithiasis
Lumbosacral fracture, luxation
|Antibiotics to Avoid||Avoid antimicrobials that attack only gram-positive bacteria such as beta-lactams.
|References and further reading||
Banks RE, Sharp JM, Doss SD, Vanderford DA. Exotic Small Mammal Care and Husbandry. Durham, NC: Wiley-Blackwell; 2010.
Bays TB, Lightfoot TL, Mayer J. Exotic Pet Behavior: Birds, Reptiles, and Small Mammals. WB Saunders, St. Louis, 2006.
Dyer SM, Cervasio EL. An overview of restraint and blood collection techniques in exotic pet practice. Vet Clin Exot Anim 11:423-443, 2008.
Harriman M. House Rabbit Handbook: How to Live with an Urban Rabbit, 4th ed. Alameda: Drollery Press; 2005.
House Rabbit Society. House Rabbit Society website. Available at rabbit.org.
Mayer J. Natural history of the rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Exotic Mammal Medicine and Surgery. p.6
Mitchell MA, Tully TN. Manual of Exotic Pet Practice. St. Louis, MO: Saunders Elsevier; 2009.
Quesenberry KE, Carpenter JW (eds). Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery, 2nd ed. Philadelphia, WB Saunders, 2004.
O’Malley B (ed). Clinical Anatomy and Physiology of Exotic Species. Saunders Elsevier. 2005. Pp. 173-195.
Author: Christal Pollock, DVM, Dipl. ABVP-Avian; Lafeber Company veterinary consultant
Date: March 31, 2010