Taking care of your rabbit
With their fluffy tails, long ears and cute-as-a-button noses, there’s no getting away from it – rabbits are some of the cutest pets on the planet.
And while bunnies can sometimes be cheap to buy, raising a healthy, happy rabbit can add up in the long run. This handy guide looks at the ins and outs of pet rabbit insurance and explores some of the most common rabbit health problems. We’ve also included a rabbit health checklist to make sure you’ve got a happy bunny at home. Let’s hop right to it.
So first things first – how much do rabbits cost?
You can pick up a bunny from a pet shop or adoption centre for between £25-£60. Rabbits can be social creatures, so if you’re keen to get a furry friend to keep your bunny company, you’re most likely talking £50-£120.
Of course, that’s just the beginning. Once you’ve got your paws on your bunny, you’ll need to dip back into your wallet to get your home rabbit-ready. So how much do rabbits cost to keep then?
According to UK veterinary charity, PDSA, it’ll cost you just under £600 to get started. This price includes all the essential equipment you’ll need, plus the rabbit neutering cost and initial vaccinations.
Once you’re up and running, you’ll have ongoing monthly costs to consider, like rabbit health checks, pet insurance, food and toys. PDSA says this’ll set you back around £70 a month for a pair of rabbits.
The UK's leading animal welfare charity, RSPCA, says a rabbit will cost you around £11,000 over the course of their life . Rabbits tend to live for between eight and 12 years on average.
Common rabbit health problems
One of the reasons rabbits end up being so costly is because they can be partial to the odd health problem, or two. And common health concerns can often lead to expensive visits to the vet.
Before you hop into a long-term commitment, here’s just some of the common pet rabbit health problems and illnesses you should be aware of.
This is a common parasite that can secretly infect rabbits. One study found over 50% of healthy rabbits were found to have antibodies for this condition. Thankfully, most rabbits won’t show any signs or suffer from any symptoms at all. But if it does rear its ugly head inside your rabbit, it can be dangerous – and potentially fatal.
This life-threatening disease happens when flies lay their eggs on rabbits and those eggs hatch into maggots – which then eat into a rabbit’s flesh.
Flystrike is a really nasty condition. If you’re insured with us, we’ll cover the cost of treatment the first time it happens to your rabbit – but we can’t cover any subsequent treatments.
This deadly viral disease is spread between rabbits by fleas, ticks, mites and mosquitoes – and it’s usually fatal.
One way to protect your rabbit against myxomatosis is by getting them vaccinated. In the UK, you can get a combined vaccine for myxomatosis and RHD-1 (a strain of rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease).
Here’s another deadly viral disease to keep your eye out for. This one attacks rabbits’ internal organs and causes internal bleeding – and is normally fatal.
Thankfully, you can get a vaccine for one strain (RHD-1). But as of yet, there’s no vaccine for the newer strain of the disease (also known as RHD-2).
If your rabbit’s sneezing, breathing fast or has a runny nose or eyes, they could be suffering from ‘pasteurella multocida’ (widely known as snuffles).
This can be an extremely serious condition for rabbits. So if you notice any signs of breathing difficulties, you should contact your vet right away.
Gastrointestinal stasis, also known as ileus, GI or gut stasis, is one of the most common health problems with rabbits.
It affects your rabbit’s digestive system and stops them from processing food, which can lead to stomach pain, gas and muscle spasms.
Thankfully, stasis is possible for vets to treat – but it can be deadly if it isn’t caught early enough.
Health problems by rabbit breed
All breeds of bunnies are at risk of developing the pet rabbit health problems listed above. But certain breeds are more likely to suffer than others.
This floppy-eared favourite is one of the most popular breeds of pet rabbit. But cuteness comes with a heavy price. Lop-eared rabbits are more likely to suffer from health problems than those with ‘erect’ ears.
A 2019 study by the Royal Veterinary College confirmed they’re more prone to rabbit ear health problems like ear pain and excess wax. And dental problems are a cause for concern too – with misaligned and overgrown teeth a common problem.
When it comes to rabbit breeds with ‘erect’ ears, like English Spots and Flemish Giants, there’s no specific health concerns to be worried about.
But like any pet purchase, it’s worth doing some research to see if there are any personality traits you need to be aware of. For example, smaller rabbits like the Netherland Dwarf and Lionhead can be quite timid and easily frightened. And Albino rabbits can suffer from light sensitivity – so you’ll have to give them shelter with plenty of shade.
Pet insurance for rabbits
With so many common health problems with rabbits, it’s easy to see how medical costs and vet fees could soon add up. One way that you may be able to keep your costs down is by looking into rabbit insurance.
There’s no legal requirement to have insurance for pet rabbits (or cats or dogs for that matter).
But most pet owners do get insurance to help cover the cost of expensive vet fees – and some extra reassurance and peace of mind.
It’s difficult to say as many factors go into deciding the price of insurance. The best thing to do is get a quote to see how much it might cost.
But remember that cost isn’t the only important thing to consider when it comes to pet insurance. Make sure you look closely at your level of cover and double check exactly what’s included before you buy.
Still asking yourself ‘Should I get pet insurance for my rabbit?’. Well, only you can decide for sure if it’s the right option for you and your rabbit.
If you don’t want traditional pet insurance, or feel that it’s too expensive, you may want to consider self-insuring instead.
This is where you put money away to build up a savings pot to pay for potential vet bills. But you’ll need to be serious about your savings – and think about how much you can afford to put away.
You can find out more about pet insurance vs self-insuring in our ‘Do you need pet insurance?’ guide.
Other medical costs for rabbits
Most pet insurance policies will cover vet fees, plus emergency boarding fees and the cost of advertising and rewards if your rabbit goes missing.
But there are some preventative and necessary medical issues that are unlikely to be covered. Here’s a few that you might need to consider over the course of your rabbit’s life.
Neutering can prevent rabbits from reproducing, reduce the risk of womb cancer in female rabbits and improve the temperament of male rabbits.
It’s money well spent – but how much does it cost to neuter a rabbit? The RSPCA advises rabbit neutering costs around £80 for one rabbit – and £160 for a pair.
Our rabbit insurance doesn’t cover neutering. But if you’re on benefits, animal charities like Blue Cross offer discounted neutering that may help keep your costs down.
All rabbits should be regularly vaccinated against life-threatening diseases like myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease. But how much do rabbit vaccinations cost?
According to the RSPCA, a rabbit’s first vaccinations can cost around £50. After that, you’ll be looking at around £30 each year for annual vaccinations.
No one wants to think about their pet rabbit becoming ill. But if the time comes when they’re sick and not responding to treatment, putting them to sleep may be the best option.
If that day ever comes, how much does it cost to put a bunny down? Like all vet treatments, prices will vary depending on your vet and where you are in the country.
If you’re insured with us, we’ll cover the cost of having your rabbit put to sleep if it’s recommended by or agreed with your vet.
Rabbit health checklist
You’re now clued up on some of the most common rabbit health problems. And you’re up to date on the ins and outs of pet insurance.
Now it’s time to look after your rabbit and make sure you’ve got a happy bunny at home. To help you get started, we’ve created this handy rabbit health check sheet.
Our rabbit health plan tells you how to spot signs of good health in rabbits – and telltale signs of pet rabbit health problems.
Unsurprisingly, rabbit ear health is particularly important for long-lugged bunnies. So make sure you check your rabbit’s ears on a weekly basis to confirm there’s no:
- Build up of wax or dirt
- Discharge or crusting
- Wounds, lumps or scabs
Like humans, it isn’t just physical problems you have to look out for. Rabbits are sensitive animals that can suffer from loneliness and stress – so make sure they have:
- Plenty of time and space to exercise and play
- Other rabbits to play with (remember rabbits prefer to live in pairs)
- Access to safe places so they can hide if they’re scared
Each day, you should check your rabbit’s nose and eyes to make sure they’re:
- Clear, bright, clean and dry
- Free from any discharge
- Not runny
Double check your rabbit’s teeth at least once a week and make sure:
- The upper and lower front teeth meet properly in the middle
- The top and bottom two are the same length
- They’re not overgrown, chipped or broken
You should regularly check your rabbit’s feet and make sure they’re clean and dry with no:
- Sores on the heels
- Cuts or swellings
- Lumps, abscesses, scabs or dirt between the toes
While most rabbits do a good job of grooming themselves, you should check your rabbit’s coat regularly to feel for any lumps and bumps.
Check their coat once a day (twice a day in warm weather) and look out for:
- Dirt and dandruff
- Bald patches or loss of fur
- Things moving in the coat (like fleas or fur mites)
- Skin irritations or inflamed skin
- Lumps, bumps, scabs or swellings
You should check the fur and skin around the rear end of your rabbit at least once a week. But in warm weather, when the risk of flystrike is high, it’s best to check down there twice a day.
Make sure your rabbit’s bottom and tail area is clean and dry with no:
- Dirt on the fur
- Droppings stuck to your rabbit's hair
We hope you found our guide to keeping rabbits useful. If you still need more info about pet insurance or rabbit healthcare issues, check out our FAQs and see if we’ve got the answer.
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