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Learn how to better care for your pet rabbit

Learn how to better care for your pet rabbit

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While Midlands Humane Society adopts out mostly cats and dogs; we also care for a myriad of small animals such as rats, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits and try to find them home too.

As of Friday, we don’t currently have any available rabbits, but that can change in an instant — much like rain coming after you’ve just washed your car.

Rabbits can be a fun pet for your family. They are personable, so soft to the touch and don’t require tons of space.

Just like owning a cat or dog, it is important to learn ways to keep your small animals healthy. Best Friends Animal Society cares for such a large variety of animals and they are able to provide some great tips on things to watch for in regard to a rabbit’s health.

Rabbits are masters at hiding illness, so giving your rabbit a “tune-up” or wellness check every few months is good preventive medicine and will help you know what is normal for your rabbit and what might need medical attention.


Healthy rabbit eyes are clear and bright and if you pull up or down on the eyelid, the eye tissue should be pink, not red or very pale in appearance. Rabbits have a “third eyelid,” a thin white membrane that protects the eye. If this third eyelid is prominent, it could mean that the rabbit is stressed.


A small penlight can help you get a good look into your rabbit’s ears. Look for wax or dirt buildup, and if the ears need a general cleaning, use warm water or saline solution and a gauze or cotton pad to gently wipe out the ears.


A rabbit’s nose should be free from discharge. Rabbits wipe their noses on the inside of their front paws, so check the front paws for crustiness or wetness.


Rabbits have a scent gland under their chin, so if you see a waxy buildup under the chin that is matted with the rabbit’s hair, carefully trim it away or wipe it off with warm water.


Gently pull the upper and lower lips back. You should see the upper front teeth aligning with the lowers and a slight overbite. If the top teeth are very long and growing over the lower teeth, your rabbit’s teeth may need some medical intervention.


The most common problem with a rabbit’s feet is sore hocks or heels. Sores can easily develop when a rabbit sits on a wire or rough surface in her cage or enclosure (cages with wire bottoms are not recommended for bunnies.) These foot sores can be quite painful and can be a vehicle for infection. Take your rabbit to the veterinarian if you see foot sores, especially if you see open sores.


If your rabbit’s nails need trimmed, a penlight is helpful to locate the “quick,” the portion of the nail containing blood. Hold your thumb and index finger over the quick and then cut the nail above your fingers. That way, you know you’re not cutting into the vein. You might want to team up with another person when trimming nails. If you do nick the quick, use pressure and styptic powder to stop the bleeding.

Scent glands

Rabbits have scent glands on either side of their genitals that emit a musk-like scent. The glands can become impacted with a dark, wax-like substance. Gently wipe away the material with a gauze pad or Q-tip soaked in warm water. A buildup of this material is normal, but it can lead to infections, especially in older rabbits. If you can smell a musky odor, it is probably time to clean the glands. Have your veterinarian, a vet tech or a knowledgeable rabbit person show you how to find and clean the glands. While you are checking the scent glands, note any caked-on feces or urine burn on the rabbit’s bottom. This could be a symptom of illness.

Fur and skin

A soft, shiny coat is an indicator of good health. As part of the tune-up, run your hands through the rabbit’s fur. Check for any skin irritations, loss of fur, fleas or fur mites. Fur mites can be detected by white scabs or crusty skin. The only sure way to tell if your bunny has mites or dandruff is to have your vet look at a fur sample under the microscope. Be aware that many flea and tick prevention products used for cats and dogs are toxic to rabbits, so always consult your veterinarian before giving your rabbit any of these products. Rabbits shed about three times a year and some enjoy a gentle brushing. Long-haired rabbits need brushed frequently because their fur grows fast and quickly forms mats.

Bunnies have very sensitive skin, so use extreme caution when cutting out matted fur. Keep your fingers over the skin line and cut above your fingers with blunted-tip scissors. A rabbit should never be immersed in water for a bath because it can cause shock, but “spot cleaning” is ok for a soiled bottom. Rabbits are generally very clean animals and, unless they are physically unable, they do a good job of keeping themselves clean. If needed, partner with another person who is comfortable handling rabbits.

Always provide support to the rabbit’s back while doing the wellness check. If the rabbit seems stressed, try again another time, or do the tune-up in short sessions. Ask an animal professional to demonstrate any tune-up tasks you are unsure about, such as how to clean scent glands, clip nails and check teeth.

MHS Pets of the Week are brought to you by Silverstone/HUB:

Come check out Cherry Blossom, a 2-year-old female guinea pig.

Luna is a 1-year-old spayed female Husky, who is a very sweet girl who seems to get along with everyone she meets. We think she would fit in with almost any active home, including one with kids and other dogs.

Purdy is a 7-year-old spayed female domestic longhair wearing a black suit.

And, last but not least, we have over a dozen 2-month-old rats in need of homes. These guys and gals can be lots of fun.

We are open Monday – Friday noon to 6 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

No appointments are needed at this time, but please wear a facial covering while in the building.

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