December 12, 2009
Veterinary Assistant AM
Dwarf Rabbit Research Paper
The ideal home for two dwarf rabbits is 120 cm x 60 cm. Of course the bunny won't hate you for getting a larger cage for just himself. A cage should have horizontal bars for the rabbit to stretch and support itself. There should be about 20 cm between the nest box and the roof of the cage. Plastic covered bars aren't recommended because it doesn't let in enough fresh air. Multileveled condos are great for enrichment and exercise. The cage should be placed in a quiet, airy, and well-lighted area. Rabbits are also very sensitive to heat and should be kept in an area about 64 degrees F but room temperature at 72 degrees F should also be fine. Their large ears make them very sensitive to loud noises so making sure a room is quiet is a large part of where to put him. A bedroom may not be the best place to put a bunny because they are nocturnal meaning they are most active from dusk to dawn through the middle of the night.
Ceramic food bowls for both dry pellets and fresh food will keep the food from being easily tipped over. A hay rack should also be available as their main daily food supply. A water bottle should always be available with fresh water. A house or nesting box is a safe haven for them and should be made of wood and not plastic to avoid them chewing on it. A flat top is beneficial for them to sit on top of and use their jumping thrill for exercise. About 5 cm of wood shaving should be put on the bottom of the cage for bedding. Do not use cat litter! If the bunny ingests it death could be the result of digestion complications. For good enrichment and exercise it is a good idea to have a play pen for your rabbit with little obstacles and paths. Hiding treats like carrots around this course will keep the bunny interested. Outdoor enclosures are also beneficial with the fresh air and natural sunlight replicating as much of their natural habitat as possible.
Another way to give your rabbit the most natural environment is to provide a natural diet. In the wild rabbits eat grasses, herbs, leaves, some fruits, and enjoy chewing on sticks or twigs. Hay is the main digestion key and also wears down the natural growth of the teeth so it should always be available. Pellets are the factory compressed hay that is sold and should be served in limited amounts to avoid obesity. Carrots, Celery, and turnips are highly nutritious foods that are recommended along with dark leafy lettuce and broccoli. Some wild and garden plants that are suitable for rabbits include strawberry leaves, dandelions, daisies, basil, dill, and house grass. Apples, strawberries and pears are good examples of fruit viable to serve. No more than 2 tablespoons per 5 lbs of rabbit should be fed to limit their intake and prevent digestion problems.
Eggplant, avocado, radish, onions, and spinach are never to be fed to any rabbit as well as raw potatoes, raw beans, green tomatoes or tomato leaves. There should also be a chew stick available to wear down the teeth and give the rabbit something to do. Being creative with how you present the food to the rabbit may also bring some interest to their life such as stringing to food up to they have to reach up like they would in the wild to reach and eat their food. A proper diet is what is needed to maintain a normal weight, good health, and positive behavior.
Reproduction is short and simple for rabbits. The boy or buck will circle around the female or doe and if she is ready to mate she will lift her behind and the buck will jump to her back and latch on and after ejaculation will fall off and go about his business. This should always take place with the female in the male's cage. The surrounding temperature and food supply determine when a doe is in heat. An indoor rabbit with a good supply of food as well as a constant cool temperature will be in heat almost year round. A male can mate at any time in his life where as a female should mate as soon as possible after reaching reproductive maturity at 5 months. Once she has given birth once her cervix will have permanently opened and she will be able to mate at anytime but if she is not mated soon enough after maturity her cervix will close and she will no longer be able to conceive.
A mother will carry her young from 28-33 days. Once the mother is impregnated it is normal for her to become snippier when being handled and more territorial. Being quiet is the key to keeping her calm. Towards the estimate kindling date or birth date there needs to be a kindling box where the mother will collect straw and excess belly fur she has and place it in the box for her to have the babies who are born blind, deaf, and naked. By the fifth day of their lives they have fur and day 9-11 they begin to open their eyes and are able to hear. At two weeks they have full function and at six weeks are able to digest solid foods even if they are still nursing from their mother. At 7 weeks they will be able to go up for adoption. Usually in dwarf mating there are about 3 babies and almost always the runt or peanut dies. Handling the babies at a young age is critical to their hand training and beginning to being used to being handled. Of course there also needs to be a watch for sickness among all the rabbits.
Dwarfs are naturally clean rabbits. They clean themselves several times a day by licking their fur and using their paws. A good way to help them stay healthy is to check their ears at least twice a week and just take a clean tissue around your finger and wipe off any excess dirt you see. After this check that the teeth are not chipped or are growing too long. Then to also check the genitals and anus for any discharge or redness and sometimes help them clean up with a cotton swab soaked in oil. After that, check the nails to see if they need to be trimmed. If so, have a veterinarian show you how to properly clip them the first time then you can do it yourself on a regular basis if you are comfortable.
The eyes should never be cloudy, discolored, or have a lot of discharge. The nose should be a little moist and have clear respiration. There also is not supposed to be any swelling or growths along the body so doing an all over body check once a week or so is not a bad idea. Some other signs of illness are if the feces are not solid, if there is a notable amount of weight loss, the rabbit starts to loose his appetite, or is there is a substantial amount of lethargic behavior. A lot of times these illnesses are caused by an improper diet, lack of exercise, and lack of activities. However if you feel there could be more to your rabbits health issues than there common causes, it is wise to take him to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Catching a disease early can save a rabbit's life.
Dwarf rabbits are smart and are usually well tempered and great pets if exposed young to the life style. They are very trainable; through hand feeding you can train them to come when you call. These rabbits are also very capable of being litter trained. This is done by looking where the rabbit seems to be defecating the most and putting a litter box there. If you see the rabbit about to go pee elsewhere then pick her up right away and say, "No!" firmly to scare her out of peeing out of her litter box. It may also be a good idea to put some hay there to encourage that being a good area to relax in. If there are pellets elsewhere in the cage then it is important to clean it up right away so the rabbit begins to like a clean area to be in. That goes for area he has peed in as well. Never use ammonia to clean their pee because is has similar content to the pee so the rabbit will try to mark its territory again if ammonia is used. These are very smart and loving creature and if properly cares for are a great pet for any age.
House Rabbit Society. (2009, December 12). Rabbit care. Retrieved from http://www.rabbit.org
ASPCA. (2009). General Rabbit Care. Retrieved from http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/small-pet-care/general-rabbit-care.html
Wegler, M. (2007). My Dwarf Rabbit. New York, New York
Wegler, M. (2001), My Dwarf Rabbit and Me