Rabbits are very nice animals, however, they have many and great needs.

From the natural needs of rabbits, we know that they need the following:

  • A separate place to do their needs
  • A place to hide and rest
  • Several hours a day of exercise outside the hutch 
  • Contact with conspecifics

Rabbits are herbivores. They have a gastrointestinal tract in which the microflora is very important for proper digestion. Besides the fact that a rabbit should always have hay and water available, they love herbs. So how fun is it to plant a herb garden for your rabbits!

Rabbits seem very cuddly, but they are not made for this. From nature, they are prey animals so lifting and cuddling can be threatening to them. However, rabbits are smart and eager to learn! High Five with your rabbit, it is possible, as is learning various commands. In nature, rabbits live together with at least one conspecific. Preventing frequent reproduction by spaying/neutering is important then. There are also certain diseases that rabbits can contract, fortunately it is now possible to vaccinate rabbits against these.

For more detailed information on housing, rabbit teeth, feeding, vaccination, spaying/neutering, please click on the relevant link below or contact us by phone.

For questions on rabbit behaviour and care, you may : konijnendeskundige@gmail.com

  • E. Cuniculi
  • Dental
  • Behaviour
  • Housing
  • Myiasis
  • Spaying/neutering
  • Vaccination
  • Nutrition

E. Cuniculi

Infection with E. cuniculi

Encephalitozoon cuniculi (E. cuniculi) is a protozoan disease. A protozoan is a very small organism slightly larger than a bacterium and smaller than a multicellular organism. To reproduce, it needs a host (the rabbit).

Life cycle of E. cuniculi

After infection, E. cuniculi parasites are absorbed into the body and go into regression. They enter the latent phase (resting phase) and live in synergy with the rabbit: no signs of disease are present. When there is a stress moment in the life of an infected rabbit, the parasites can come out of the latent phase and move to the acute infection stage. Here, the parasites start to multiply strongly and the body's inflammatory response to this occurs. If the inflammation has been present for a long time and we see a reaction of the body to it in the form of proliferating inflammatory foci, we call it a chronic infection stage.

E. cuniculi symptoms

Listed below are the main symptoms of E. cuniculi. However, mixed forms may also occur:

  • Brain problems: nystagmus (eye tremor), crooked head or spinning around the longitudinal axis
  • Bladder or kidney problems: leaking urine and/or drinking and urinating a lot
  • Eye problems: lens discoloration, cataracts (cataracts) or uveitis (inflammation of the iris), thickening in the eye
  • Slimming without apparent cause
  • Hindhand problems: limp or paralyzed hind legs

Why does E. cuniculi cause neurological symptoms?

E. cuniculi spores (reproductive cells) spread through the body and favour nerve tissue. It nests in the brain, balance organ and/or spinal cord. In this way, it can give abnormalities of the head and hind legs. It also affects the kidneys and nerve cells in the bladder. Due to the kidney infection, the rabbit drinks and urinates a lot. Due to the impairment of the bladder nerves, the rabbit can no longer urinate actively and leaks urine, which can cause a skin infection.

Infection with E. cuniculi

There are three phases of the parasite.

1st phase: the parasite enters the host via the mouth, the infection phase. The parasite penetrates host cell and injects its contents (spores) into it.

2nd phase: proliferation phase = propagation phase in host cell.

3rd stage: sporogeny (form of asexual reproduction in which multiple division occurs). So many spores grow that the host cell bursts open. The spores spread through the body and come out through the urine.

Infection can occur from one rabbit to another via urine or through the womb from mother to child. Infections can remain latent without clinical signs until a time when resistance is lower and signs do appear.

E. cuniculi does not have to cause permanent symptoms. In the past, your rabbit may have occasionally pulled a paw or had urine leakage. This may then have lasted for a few days before returning after a few weeks/months.

At what age does it occur?

We see older rabbits with this disease more often than very young rabbits. Often, just before the problem manifested itself, stress moments can be pinpointed.

How do you demonstrate the disease?

E. cuniculi is difficult to diagnose. The presence of antibodies in the blood is a clue that it may be E. cuniculi, however, it is not proof. Many rabbits infected with E. cuniculi show no symptoms. Therefore, blood tests are not useful.

Should you find any other disease, this is proof that it is not E. cuniculi. If a rabbit is suspected of being infected with E. cuniculi, we will assume infection with this disease until proven otherwise.

How do we treat the disease E. cuniculi?

The longer we wait to treat, the worse the prognosis becomes. Therefore, we start medication immediately as soon as we have a suspicion that your rabbit has E. cuniculi.

We treat the rabbits with several medications, the most important being Fenbendazole. We dose a dose of 20 mg/kg LG 2x daily for 2 weeks, then 10 mg/kg LG 2x daily for 2 - 3 months.

Fenbendazole does not kill the parasites but helps the body to inhibit the inflammatory symptoms caused by the parasite. The body's response to the parasite is slowed down so that the E. cuniculi becomes symptomless. In other words, the parasite is still present, but the rabbit is no longer sick with it. It has moved from the acute phase back into the latent phase.

This means that the disease symptoms may reappear during periods of stress, illness or other causes of reduced resistance. If there is a relapse, we advise treating the rabbit again. In very severe cases, we have the rabbit treated four times a year as a preventive measure and once more during periods of stress (now always a 2-week treatment).

Treat the hutch mates as well

Because E. cuniculi is contagious, we also recommend treating rabbits in the same loft with 10 mg/kg LG twice daily for 2 weeks. This is because you cannot be sure if the infected rabbit is actively excreting parasites at that time.

Prevention of problems

The E. cuniculi infection is difficult to prevent, also because the rabbit may have been infected for a long time without being affected. However, hygiene measures can be taken. Clean the entire hutch every week and the pee and poo areas daily.

The spores can survive for 2 weeks at room temperature and even weeks to months in a humid and warm environment.

(Should your rabbit die unexpectedly, clean and disinfect the hutch thoroughly. To protect infection to other rabbits, you can clean the hutch with 0.1% bleach or with 70% Ethanol to kill the spores).

Considerations: how long do you continue treating?

In the most ideal situation, your rabbit will be completely cured after a few days. However, this is certainly not always the case. During treatment, we do want to see improvement. If this does not happen then an important consideration is whether you may/should continue treatment. The rabbit should have a rabbit-worthy existence: if the animal is suffering and the situation is hopeless or hopeless, it may be better to choose to put the rabbit to sleep.



Rabbits have teeth that continue to grow throughout life. The front teeth are quite long and should fit together. If this is not the case, they can grow through and protrude into the mucosa or out of the mouth. Usually, the problem can be controlled by grinding the teeth once every few months. When this is not enough, it may be necessary to have the front teeth removed. Your rabbit will need to be anaesthetised for this.

Often, rabbits whose front teeth have an abnormal wear will also have problems with the molars. Even without an abnormal position of the front teeth, molar problems can occur. If the molars do not wear down properly, hooks can develop that grow either towards the tongue or the cheek. This can be accompanied by a lot of pain. Some stop eating even if they have a small hook, so it is very important to pay close attention to this. With reduced appetite, you will often also see abnormal droppings (many small droppings, sometimes with pointed protrusions) or fewer droppings.

An incorrect diet can also cause dental problems. An example is eating too little hay or grinding too little, this can cause hooks on the molars. You can read more about nutrition under the heading 'nutrition'.

It is wise to contact us if your animal stops eating.



Rabbits are still very close to nature in terms of behaviour. When a rabbit exhibits unwanted behaviour, the first question is always whether this is natural behaviour. Common undesirable behaviour is gnawing on things, urinating in certain places and escaping, but this is natural behaviour for the rabbit.

We also know that rabbits in nature always live together with one or more conspecifics. However, the partner we have chosen does not necessarily turn out to be the (immediately) suitable one.

In all these areas, a rabbit expert, which is someone who has studied and graduated in care, nutrition and behaviour of rabbits, can help you.



From the natural needs of rabbits, we know that they need the following:

  • A separate place to do their needs
  • A place to shelter and rest
  • Several hours a day of exercise outside the hutch
  • Contact with conspecifics

What does a rabbit need in its home:

  • A hutch: inside, outside or both
  • Run
  • Shelter
  • Ground cover
  • Feeder
  • Water bowl/water bottle
  • Hay rack/hayball
  • Toilet
  • Toy

Most pens available for rabbits are too small to meet the needs of rabbits. Therefore, it is important that a rabbit can run free in a run or fenced-off area for several hours a day, with some kibble scattered around the area and some toys if necessary. Rabbits like to be able to shelter, and a cardboard box is perfect for this. When choosing a rabbit hutch, keep in mind the ease of cleaning it, as wood is difficult to clean properly while a plastic box gets clean easily. You can clean the cage just fine with household vinegar, which is eco-friendly, cheap and non-toxic to a rabbit. It also fights fungi and bacteria.

A rabbit is naturally housebroken. It can therefore be taught to defecate on a toilet in its cage. As a bedding, we recommend using one of the following products: cotton, hemp fiber, ground corn kernels or straw. Straw is often used as the top layer of bedding, straw is often not used for the toilet.

Note: Many rabbits and rodents are kept on sawdust because it is cheap, absorbent and smells good. Research shows that sawdust from coniferous trees can contain harmful substances. These include abietic acid and phenols. These increase the risk of liver function disorders, liver diseases, respiratory complaints (pneumonia) and cancer in these animals.

A rabbit also needs a food bowl. Make sure it is sturdy so the rabbit cannot play with it and hurt itself. However, you do not always need to use the feeder, in the wild rabbit’s search for their food so feel free to put some loose kibble in the hutch or run. Make sure your rabbit always has fresh water available. Also remember to regularly clean the water bowl or water bottle thoroughly with boiled water

A continuously filled hay ball or hay rack is very important. Indeed, hay should be available unlimitedly for a rabbit. You can read more about this under the heading 'feeding'.

Rabbits are real activity animals. A rabbit needs a lot of exercise and attention, you can compare them to dogs in that respect. Make sure you provide toys such as: tree trunks, cardboard boxes to hide food in and a toy ball. Contrary to popular belief, rabbits do not like to be picked up and held. This makes them less suitable for small children.

Also, rabbits are group animals, so it is best for the rabbit to have a mate. The best combination is a neutered rammer and a spayed feeder. When buying a rabbit, pay attention to behaviour, breed, age, sex, health and size. A rabbit shelter or a good pet shop will know what rabbits they have sitting around, so feel free to ask for more information about the rabbit that catches your eye!

If you have decided to get a second rabbit, the goal is to find the right companion. If you already have a young and anxious rabbit, it is best to look for a more open age-mate. For this too, it is best to go to a rabbit shelter or a good pet shop, they will be able to tell you if they might have a suitable candidate. When 'pairing' the two rabbits, ask for guidance from someone at the rabbit shelter, pet shop, behaviourist or veterinary clinic. 'Pairing' should be done carefully and needs plenty of rest and time.



Myiasis is a condition caused by larvae of varied species of flies. It is also known as skin maggot disease. The myiasis flies are attracted to a coat soiled with urine or faeces and to wounds. The fly eggs are laid in the soiled coat or wound. Subsequently, the hatched larvae burrow through the skin and end up in the subcutaneous tissue of the animal. Myiasis usually has far-reaching consequences for an animal's health and in many cases is even life-threatening. Comprehensive and intensive treatment is therefore of great importance.

In many cases, an underlying cause of myiasis exists. The causes can usually be traced back to situations in which rabbits, for example due to excess weight, back problems and incorrect feeding, cannot get the area around the anus clean properly, causing faeces and/or urine to stick to the fur. It is important to carefully examine an animal that has (had) myiasis to determine any causes.

Treatment of myiasis often starts with shaving the fur to get a good view of the affected area. In addition, the animal is washed with a special shampoo to remove all maggots.

At home, treatment continues including pain medication, force-feeding and further wound treatment. The rabbit can also be sprayed to prevent and control maggot infections, this is especially recommended during the hot and humid seasons with a peak in the summer months.

If you suspect your rabbit of myiasis or have a dirty hindquarter, please contact us for further advice and treatment.



Sterilisation in females

There are a number of reasons to spay female rabbits:

  1. Preventing unwanted pregnancy
  2. Prevention of uterine cancer or uteritis
  3. To counteract aggressiveness or dominance of rabbits

1) Rabbits are fertile from 3-5 months of age. Then they can get pregnant right away. Should you want a litter, it is not preferable to have it happen so young. The rabbit needs to be grown first. At what age varies per breed. Should you want a litter later, it is wise to keep the male separated from the female. Regular contact (e.g. under supervision or separated by mesh) is recommended. Should you not want a litter, spaying is a good option.

2) Female rabbits have a high risk of developing uterine cancer later in life if they are not spayed. The risk starts from the 2nd year of life and then increases. Rabbits aged 4 years or older from some breeds (including the Havana and Hollander) are known to get 50-80% uterine cancer! In other breeds, exact data are not known, but even here the percentage is high.

The cancer develops slowly, usually spreading by 1-2 years. Rabbits show reduced fertility and smaller litters. Owners sometimes first see blood in the urine or a slimy discharge near the vulva. At a later stage, rabbits become quieter, lose their appetite and become short of breath due to metastases to the lungs. As rabbits are true "indoor eaters", however, it is hard to see that they are suffering. In some cases, your rabbit may have died suddenly without you noticing anything. To avoid this, we recommend having your rabbit spayed.

3) In females that live in groups, there is a good chance that this will continue to go well. However, it can suddenly turn around where they show aggressive and territorial behaviour. This usually starts around 5 months, when they enter puberty. If you see this behaviour, it is important to separate the rabbits as soon as possible. If you wait too long, serious injuries can occur, plus the rabbits may not get along later. Spaying removes the hormones, making the aggressive and dominance behaviour go away.

Rabbits can be spayed from 5-6 months of age. Given the risk of uterine cancer, we prefer to do this before the age of 2.

Before the operation, your rabbit can still eat, so your rabbit should not be sober! This is because, firstly, rabbits cannot vomit and, secondly, their intestines should always be filled with food due to their high metabolism.

After the operation, it is important that your rabbit starts eating again as soon as possible. Within 12 hours after surgery, your rabbit should eat on its own again. A rabbit's metabolism is very high and its intestines need to be continuously filled with food. If your rabbit refuses to eat, you will have to force-feed your animal. Water and food can be introduced with a syringe. Offer things that are familiar to your rabbit; you could also offer herbs such as parsley or basil. They often eat this kind of food faster than dry food.

Especially during colder/humid weather, it is better to offer your rabbit extra warmth in the form of blankets and put the outside hutch in the shed for extra shelter, this way your rabbit will not get too cold easily. Keep an extra close eye on the animal.

In any case, always contact us if your rabbit does not recover well.

Neutering in males

Rabbits are sexually mature from 3.5 months and from 5-8 months they enter puberty. Your rabbit's urine often starts to smell stronger now. The hormones (testosterone) can cause undesirable behaviour, such as spraying to mark territory, urinating on your property, riding you or displaying aggressive behaviour to defend its territory. For example, when you have fed the rabbit and you want to pet it afterwards, it will growl and/or bite. All this may be due to hormones. Neutering can help reduce territorial behaviour and stop spraying.

If you have several rabbits, castration is necessary. Females can become pregnant, males will fight with each other (including brothers). From 3 months, males can already show territorial behaviour and dominance. We prefer not to castrate rabbits until they are 4-5 months old, so they are more grown up. Should this be difficult because of the behaviour, you can temporarily keep the rabbits separated (by means of wire netting or 2 pens close together). After neutering, the rabbits can be kept together again after an acclimatisation period.

In theory, rabbits can still be fertile up to 6 weeks after castration. It is therefore important to keep the male separated from the female for a while!

Before the operation, your rabbit can still eat, so your rabbit should not be sober! This is because, firstly, rabbits cannot vomit and, secondly, their intestines should always be filled with food because of their high metabolism.

After the operation, it is important that your rabbit starts eating again as soon as possible. Within 12 hours after surgery, your rabbit should eat on its own again. A rabbit's metabolism is very high and its intestines need to be continuously filled with food. If your rabbit refuses to eat, you will have to force-feed your animal. Water and food can be introduced with a syringe. Offer things that are familiar to your rabbit, you could also offer herbs such as parsley and basil. They often eat this kind of food faster than dry food.

Especially during colder/moist weather, it is better to offer your rabbit extra warmth in the form of blankets and put the outside hutch in the shed for extra shelter, this way your rabbit will not get too cold easily. Keep an extra close eye on the animal.

In any case, always contact us if your rabbit does not recover well.



Myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic syndrome (VHS for short) are two serious (but preventable) infectious diseases in rabbits.

Myxomatosis is caused by a virus. When an animal is infected, we see it first by thick, moist swellings on the head and snout. Other classic symptoms are 'sleepy eyes', swollen lips, small swellings on the inside of the ear and thick swellings around the anus and genitals. Within a few days, these swellings can become so severe that they can cause blindness. Eating and drinking become increasingly difficult which will eventually lead to death.

With myxomatosis, it takes 5 to 14 days before symptoms of the disease become apparent. A severe myxomatosis infection of a vulnerable rabbit leads to death within 12 days, mostly due to a secondary lung infection. Not all infected rabbits die, although in the wild less than 10% survive. By initiating treatment with painkillers, anti-inflammatory, eye ointment and antibiotics. In addition, the main importance is that your rabbit gets enough nutrients, so in some cases it will be necessary to force-feed the rabbit. It may take 4-6 weeks for your rabbit to recover, it will be an intensive period for you and your rabbit. However, this intensive care will increase the survival rate.

VHS is also caused by a virus, although it is a different virus from the myxomatosis virus. The course of the disease is also very different. Most rabbits infected with VHS die very quickly, with no visible signs of illness apart from a period of a few hours during which they are lethargic and listless. In rabbits that live longer, symptoms can vary greatly. Symptoms include fever and convulsions, after which the rabbit enters a fatal coma and dies within 12 to 36 hours. In some cases, bloody discharge from the nose is observed just before death.

The incubation period of VHS is very short, usually between 1 and 3 days. The VHS virus is excreted in the urine, faeces and secretions from the respiratory tracts of infected rabbits and quickly spreads to other animals, either by direct contact or as a result of the spread of the virus - which is so strong that it can survive in the environment for many months - through contaminated clothing, pens, water, straw, hay, feeders and other objects.

Another characteristic of VHS is that the course of the disease is very acute and many animals show no obvious symptoms prior to death. Due to the short incubation period and little to no visible symptoms, treatment is often already no longer possible.

All rabbits can be infected with myxomatosis and VHS, both indoor and outdoor rabbits. Prevention of myxomatosis and VHS is better than cure! Prevention is a combination of two ways: repelling insects and vaccinating.

Insects can be kept out by using mosquito nets or fine mesh. If your dog/cat suffers from fleas, also treat your rabbit(s) preventively. The vaccination against these diseases should be given annually. Vaccination is possible from 5 weeks of age and offers protection 3 weeks after the vaccine is given. You can make an appointment for this during the rabbit consultation, which takes place in spring. The advantage of the rabbit consultation is that your rabbit will not have any extra stress from other pets such as cats and/or dogs. If you are unable to attend the rabbit consultation, you can make an appointment on a more convenient date.

Besides this, good hygiene is also important, make sure that not only the hutch, but also the feeding bowls and drinking bottles are cleaned properly on a regular basis. (If your rabbit has been vaccinated with us, you will receive a call afterwards if your rabbit needs to be vaccinated again).

If you suspect a rabbit of myxomatosis, separate all rabbits immediately and contact your vet.



Rabbits are herbivores. They have a gastrointestinal tract in which the microflora is very important for proper digestion. In rabbits, it is important that they eat properly. If a rabbit does not eat properly, the gastrointestinal tract can shut down which can cause a life-threatening situation.

Rabbits have two types of faeces; a dry, hard, dark dropping and a softer orange/brown dropping, usually produced in the morning. The rabbit normally eats this latter dropping, absorbing many important substances. You should therefore not find this faeces in the hutch. If you do find it, your rabbit may be fed too much concentrate.

There are many different feeds on the market, some of which are not suitable either. The best is to give pellets. Pellets are a type of kibble. The mixes with coloured pellets and differences in structure are not recommended because they often only pick out the tasty things and leave the pellets they should actually eat. Adult rabbits can eat 20 grams per kg body weight per day of pellets. Besides the pellet diet, it is very important to offer fresh hay every day. Timothy hay is best given. Preferably not hay with alfalfa or clover, as these contain too much calcium and are high in calories.

You may give your rabbit an extra every day such as fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs and woody crops. Herbs you can give are: basil, dill, mint, parsley, rosemary and thyme. Vegetables quickly have a negative effect on the gastrointestinal tract (e.g. developing diarrhoea), so give these in moderation. You can choose from pumpkin, carrot leaves, chicory, radish leaves and endive. Fruits suitable for a rabbit are banana, apple (without seeds), mango and pear. Give fruit in moderation as it contains a lot of sugars. You can also spoil a rabbit by giving it something to gnaw on, such as willow, birch or alder branches.

Take care! Above all, do not let a rabbit eat the following products: daffodils, umbellifer, agave, arum, holly, ivy, palms, chrysanthemum, daisy, garden marigold, begonia, berberis, cactus, carnation, honeysuckle, bindweed, succulents, rhododendron, lupins, boxwood, wisteria, geranium, hydrangea, iris, walnut, hyacinth, tulip, pine, rhubarb, tomato, pepper and potato. In fact, these are a range of toxic crops for the rabbit.

The supermarket and pet shop offer many products that look nice but are not good for the rabbit. Licking stones are strongly discouraged. It is also better not to give the gnawing sticks because of high calories and many sugars. In fact, it is best to make a selection from the above food and not deviate from it.

If your rabbit stops eating, it is important to contact your vet as soon as possible.

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