July honors Adopt a Rescued Rabbit month. It might have something to do with the fact that after three months of owning that cute bunny rabbit that was an Easter gift has extended its stay. I will address the proper care of rabbits in this article. I will also write a little about zoonosis, which had an entire day dedicated to it on July 6.

Rabbits are cute, but they are a commitment just like a dog or cat. They can be fairly healthy if cared for in the right way. I can speak first-hand that I generally only need to see a rabbit if it is sick, which is not that often. Rabbits do not need shots on a regular basis like cats and dogs.

Rabbits should be confined, especially when humans are not able to spend time with them. Rabbits can chew cords and try to eat other items that they should not eat. Confinement should be in a cage that is either purchased or homemade.

Rabbits need exercise, so they should be allowed to be out of the cage with supervision. A harness and leash can even be placed on a rabbit.

Rabbits have a special system to digest food. It is very important to feed them the right way. The following information is a guide and if you own a rabbit, do not change the diet unless you have talked with your veterinarian. Rabbit pellets are good, but they need more than pellets in their diet. Feed a pellet that is more than 18 percent fiber and less than 16 percent protein. Rabbits can be fed one-fourth cup pellets per four pounds of body weight. They need to eat grass hay (timothy, meadow, orchard grass and oat) every day. They also need some (but not too much!) fresh leafy greens. Treats can include certain fruits and vegetables, but it is best to stick with one type. Rabbits that are raised as pets need a diet that is different than those raised as production animals, so, as always, talk with your veterinarian to make sure that the diet that you are feeding is good.

Rabbits do eat some of their own poop to stay healthy. They eat what are called cecotropes that are green and longer than normal stool. You should not see cecotropes, so if you see a lot of them, please talk with your veterinarian.

Rabbits can get fleas, mites, ticks and parasites in their gut (worms). Your veterinarian can help you with the correct treatment and prevention for these.

The following are reasons that you should contact your veterinarian:

• Hair loss

• Ears that are itchy, red or have debris

• Diarrhea

• Not eating

• Sneezing or discharge from nose

• Eye(s) that are red, draining or closed

Two facts about rabbits that can often confuse people:

• Rabbits cannot vomit

• Rabbit urine can be red in color.

It is best to always consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns or questions about a pet rabbit.

Rabbits can make wonderful pets, they can be raised in groups for certain purposes, and they make for wonderful 4-H projects. A pet rabbit is a commitment, and owning one should be well thought out just like any other pet.

Now, a little about zoonosis. According to Webster’s dictionary, zoonosis is “a disease which can be transmitted to humans from animals.” The pets that give us so much joy in life can also make us sick? All of us should know about proper hand washing, and it is one of our best tools to avoid disease from our pets. Always pick up your pet’s stool and take your pet to the veterinarian on a regular basis. Children, elderly and those with immune suppression should take extra steps to prevent disease. Your veterinary clinic can help you to know what you should watch for.

Thank you for reading! Happy summer!

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