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Rabbit breed and health guide

Your rabbit is unique, but are you aware of the common rabbit health problems each breed shares? From Lionhead Rabbits to the Mini Lop, read on to discover the most common health problems that can affect your floppy-eared friend.

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.

Whether you want an adorable Mini Lop, an even smaller Dwarf rabbit, or a fuzzy Lionhead rabbit – they’re a great first pet. However, as precious as they are, different breeds can come with different health issues you need to be aware of. 

Discover the ins and outs of different rabbit breeds. Keep your furry friend fluffy and fit with our handy rabbit health checklist and learn more about rabbit pet insurance with Sainsbury’s Bank.

Pet Insurance provided by Pinnacle Insurance plc.

So first things first – how much do rabbits cost?

Unlike some costly cats and designer dogs, a pet rabbit certainly won’t break the bank.

Bunnies can range in price, depending on where you’re buying your soon-to-be family furball from. Some examples include:

  • Adoption Centres - £25-60, on average, for most common breeds.
  • Pet shops & breeders - £15-55, on average, for a common breed like a Mini Lop or Dwarf rabbit.
  • Speciality breeders - £50-100, if you’re buying a desired purebred. In some cases, this could cost even more.
  • Rehoming from friends - This could be free, and even come with the bits and bobs you need.

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 £30-£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?

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 estimates that’ll set you back around £70 a month for a pair of rabbits.

The UK's leading animal welfare charity, RSPCA, calculated the average costs of owning a rabbit over 10 years. Depending on the circumstances, here’s a breakdown of what you can expect to spend:

  • One outdoor rabbit. £11,080 in lifetime costs. (£1,047 per year, over 10 years, including £610 in set up costs).
  • A pair of outdoor rabbits. £16,302 in lifetime costs. (£1,550 per year, over 10 years, including £802 set up costs).
  • One house rabbit. £10,980 in lifetime costs. (£1,047, per year, over 10 years, including £510 in set up costs).
  • A pair of house rabbits. £16,202 in lifetime costs. (£1,550 per year, over 10 years, including £702 in set up costs).

Most rabbit breeds live for a similar amount of time, but they can vary by a few years. Here are some common examples:

  • Lionhead rabbits. Seven-to-nine years.
  • Netherland Dwarf rabbits. 10-to-12 years.
  • Mini Lop rabbits. Eight-to-10 years.
  • New Zealand rabbits. Five-to-eight years, on average.

Rabbit breeds

Just like dogs and cats, there are numerous rabbit breeds. With floppy ears, tiny tails, and a whole palette of fur patterns, all in different shapes and sizes, it’s hard to know where to start. From the Lionhead rabbit to Mini Lop, the Netherland Dwarf rabbit to the New Zealand rabbit, here are some of the most common rabbit breeds:

Lionhead rabbit

The Lionhead rabbit gets their name from their fluffy, lion’s mane-like coat. These are a common, domesticated, soft and super fluffy small rabbit breed.

Netherland Dwarf rabbit

Netherland dwarf rabbits are one of the smallest breeds on the planet, weighing roughly two to two-and-a-half pounds. That’s lighter than most other dwarf breeds! 

Dutch rabbit

The Dutch rabbit is the quintessential, classic rabbit. Think short fur, tall and upright ears, with an unmistakable white and black or brown fur pattern. While they’re small, they’re not quite as tiny as a dwarf rabbit.

New Zealand rabbit

Contrary to what you might think, the New Zealand rabbit originates in America. These rabbits often weigh around nine-to-12 pounds and make for gentle pets.

Angora rabbit

The Angora rabbit is known for two things: being exceptionally large at five-and-a-half-to-12 pounds, and possessing a wonderfully woolly coat you can lose yourself in. It’s one of the oldest domesticated rabbit breeds.

Sussex rabbit

Sussex rabbits are cream, golden, brown-coloured teddy bear-like breeds often compared to the rabbit version of a Labrador. They’re an outgoing, friendly, medium-sized breed.

Rex rabbit

The velvety-furred Rex rabbit is a medium-sized hopper, in that classic, round, rabbit shape. Grooming a Rex is easy, thanks to their unique and short coat. There are many types of Rex rabbit.

Lop rabbit

Lop (as in lop-eared) rabbits refer to any floppy-eared fluff friend, as opposed to the upright ears you’d expect. That means the terms cover several different breeds, including:

  • Mini Lop. The Mini Lop is a micro rabbit with ears that flop. They’re a little ball of fluff.
  • Holland Lop. Holland lops are on the smaller side of the droop-eared lops. They’re muscular, despite their tiny frame.
  • English Lop. The English lop is an early, domestic breed with the droopiest ears of all.
  • American Lop. The American lop, also known as the American Fuzzy Lop, is a woolly, long-eared rabbit, like a Holland lop but much fluffier.
  • Velveteen Lop. These lop bunnies are short-haired, long-eared, and incredibly sleek. They’re a cross between the English lop and the Rex rabbit.

How do I choose the right rabbit breed?

Only you can choose the perfect bunny breed to bring home. With so many beautiful breeds, it’s no wonder you can feel a bit tangled. Don’t worry, we’ve got a list of things to consider so you can leap to the perfect decision.

  • Maintenance. All rabbits need maintenance, but some require more grooming than others. Always look at what you need to keep your rabbit happy.
  • Personality/temperament. There may be bunnies better suited to your household. For example, if you have other pets or small children you may want a calmer breed.
  • Health. Rabbits come with a predisposition to different genetic health problems. This can be a consideration both due to the risk – but also the effect it may have on insurance.
  • Lifespan. Some rabbits can live longer than others. While you can’t guarantee their lifespan, some people may prefer knowing their breed may be around a bit longer.
  • Aesthetics. Having a bunny that fills your heart with joy is perfect. So, choosing a breed that you love to look at is more than reasonable. From Mini Lops to Lionhead rabbits, the choice is yours.
  • Cost. Different breeds can come at different prices, so you may want to consider a more common breed if price is an issue.

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).

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.

Stasis or ileus

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.

Lop-eared rabbit health problems

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.

Rabbits with erect ears

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.

Do you need pet insurance for a rabbit?

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.

How much is rabbit insurance per month?

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.

Is rabbit insurance worth it?

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.

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

Head (rabbit mental health)

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

Nose and eyes

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

Fur, coat and skin

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

Rear end

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

Any questions?

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.

Frequently asked questions

What is the most friendly rabbit breed?

One of the most easy-going rabbit breeds is often thought to be the Lionhead rabbit. They’re common, laidback, affectionate, and open to being petted. You could also consider the Rex rabbit or Mini Lop.

What are red-eyed rabbits?

Red-eyed rabbits are quite rare – especially in the wild. They are often specially bred. Some red-eyed rabbit breeds include the Florida White, the Himalayan, and the Californian. However, some sub-breeds can also exhibit albino traits, like the New Zealand White. 

How do I tell what breed my rabbit is?

Consider the key differences in rabbits and then do your research. For example, a Mini Lop rabbit will have floppy ears and be very small, but not as long-eared or short-furred as an English Lop. Here are some traits that vary between breeds:

  • Ear position.
  • Fur-type.
  • Coat colour or pattern.
  • Eye colour.
  • Size and structure.