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Rabbits are the third most common household pet after cats and dogs in the UK, and continue to be increasingly popular. It’s very important to be aware of all aspects of your rabbit’s care. A good diet is particularly important – one thing you may have noticed is that your rabbit is always looking for something to munch on – if it were a person, you might joke they have worms! Could this in fact be true for rabbits?
What do rabbits normally eat?
The main component of a rabbit’s diet (approximately 85%) should be good quality hay, and they should have access to plenty of it at all times. Not only does hay contain important nutrients, it is also vital for helping to keep rabbits’ teeth in check. Rabbits have continuously growing teeth, and consistently eating fibre-dense hay will wear them down to a suitable level. Without this, their teeth can grow too long and sharp, causing painful mouth sores.
The rest of a rabbit’s diet should be made up of around 10% of leafy greens and vegetables, with the last 5% being saved for good quality rabbit pellets. Fruit should be given as a special treat. Also provide them with plenty of fresh water.
Rabbits are natural grazers, and it is very normal to see them eating at all times throughout the day.
Can rabbits be affected by worms?
Worms affect rabbits much less frequently than cats and dogs, but it is still useful to know what to look out for if your rabbit catches them.
The most commonly found worm is Passalurus ambiguous, also known as a Pinworm. It is caught when faeces containing infective worm eggs are eaten. It measures approximately 5-10mm and is found in the caecum and large intestine. In very rare cases, rabbits can also be affected by tapeworm, which can be caught from grazing in areas contaminated with faeces from dogs, cats and foxes.
Many rabbits can be heavily infested and not show any clinical signs, however some may present with irritation around the back end, presence of worms around the anus/in the faeces, and in more severe cases, weight loss and poor coat condition.
Worms are treated by giving anti-parasitic drugs, which kill both the live worms and their eggs.
Prevention is key
As with all disease, prevention is much better than treatment. This is mostly combatted by keeping your rabbit’s environment clean:
- Clean out your rabbit’s hutch regularly
- Keep dogs and cats away from your rabbit’s grazing area, and make sure they’re on worming treatment
- Rotate your rabbit’s grazing area
- Reduce your population density
Because worms are so uncommon in rabbits, we don’t routinely worm them. If you’re concerned your rabbit has worms, speak to your vet, and they can be treated as seen fit. It’s also important to note that it is very unlikely to catch worms from your rabbit.
What should I do if my rabbit stops eating?
If you notice your rabbit has a change in appetite, or has stopped eating entirely, it is very important to get them seen by a vet as soon as possible.
And if they never stop eating?
While rabbits can in rare cases get worms, it is unlikely that a worm infestation would be causing your rabbit to be eating all the time. In fact, it is very normal for your rabbit to be constantly snacking! Remember to provide your rabbit with plenty of hay. If you seek more information about your rabbit’s diet, check out the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund’s website, or have a chat with your vet.