European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
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 children’s pets during the Victorian era.
Family: Leporidae – hares, rabbits
Genus: Oryctolagus – European rabbits
There are at least 42 pet rabbit breeds. Popular breeds include the Dutch, Netherland dwarf (adults weigh 1 kg or less), and Rex rabbit.
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
Rabbits are crepuscular, but they can adjust their schedule somewhat to that of their human family’s schedule. Rabbits are also very social and territorial animals.
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
|Temperature||101.3-103 F||38.0-39.6 C|
|Mean life span||6-7 years|
|Sexual maturity||4-6 months||smaller breeds 4-4.5 months|
|larger breeds 4.5-5 months|
|Birth weight||40-50 g|
|Litter size||1-6 (average 2)|
|Weaning age||6-8 weeks|
|Target environmental temperature:||60-70 F||15.6-21.0 C|
|Daily water intake||120 ml/kg/day|
Anatomy / physiology
- The large ears of the rabbit are highly vascular, fragile and sensitive.
- Rabbits possess a well-developed nictitans or third eyelid.
- The eyes are positioned laterally and rabbits possess a wide field of vision and a central blind spot.
- Rabbits compensate for the central blind spot and poor near vision, by relying on sensitive whiskers and lips to find forage.
- The rabbit is an obligate nasal breather.
- Dental formula: Incisors 2/1 Canines 0/0 Premolars 3/2 Molars 3/3
- The peg teeth are the second pair of maxillary incisors positioned behind the first larger, chisel-like incisors.
- All teeth are open rooted, erupting continuously through life.
- The diastema is a large gap that functionally separates the incisors and cheek teeth.
- Rabbits possess a long, narrow oral cavity.
- Rabbits have delicate skin and fine hair.
- The dewlap is a fold of skin at the throat of many, large female rabbits and some males.
- Rabbits do not have footpads. Instead coarse fur covers the toes and hocks.
- The rabbit is a true herbivore with a simple stomach.
- Indigestible fiber (cellulose, lignin) drives gastrointestinal motility.
- Bacterial fermentation occurs in the large cecum.
- Rabbits produce cecotropes (“night feces”), which are regularly ingested. Cecotrophy provides vitamins B and K, amino acids, and fiber.
- Calcium metabolism is unique in rabbits. All ingested calcium is excreted by the kidneys. Therefore urine varies with diet, and may appear thick and creamy white in rabbits on a high-calcium diet.
- Female rabbits are induced ovulators. The uterus consists of two uterine horns with no uterine body that communicates with two cervices. The oviducts are very long and coiled.
- Does nurse their young once or twice daily for 3-5 minutes at a time (the milk is extremely rich).
- The rabbit skeleton is relatively thin and lightweight, making up 6-8% of body weight.
- Rabbit neutrophils are called heterophils.
- The thymus lies ventral to the heart, and extends up into the thoracic inlet. The large thymus persists, even into adulthood.
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.
Collect larger volumes of blood from the jugular vein or lateral saphenous vein.
Smaller samples may be taken from the cephalic vein.
Important medical conditions
Lumbosacral fracture, luxation
Antibiotics to Avoid
Avoid antimicrobials that attack only gram-positive bacteria such as beta-lactams.
- Lincosamide, lincomycin
- Amoxicillin, ampicillin
- Cephalosporins, clindamycin
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