Rabbits aren’t the “cheap and cheerful” pet some expect – and the bills can really mount up! However, our vet blogger Laura has uncovered some tips and tricks to help keep the costs down, while still giving your rabbit the care and quality of life that they deserve.
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While this may initially seem counter-intuitive, spending money on preventative health care can help avoid expensive vet bills. Your rabbit should have a 6 monthly check up consultation with the vet so that any medical conditions can be picked up before they become a serious health concern. As an example having their teeth checked during a regular health exam, will reduce the risk of your bunny developing overgrown teeth requiring dental work.
Pet Health Clubs
Many veterinary practices have a money-saving pet health care club or monthly plan. They can vary between practices, but often include their annual vaccinations (for myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease), health checks and parasite treatment. Ask your local practice what they have on offer. This can help to spread the cost of their routine healthcare, and often works out cheaper over the year. Some offer additional perks like discounts on food, accessories, toys and medications.
An inappropriate diet can lead to a number of health issues in rabbits, so feeding a correct diet – and in the correct proportions – will reduce the risk of your bunny getting ill, and requiring costly veterinary attention. Feeding the incorrect diet can lead to:
- overgrown teeth and dental disease
- sore eyes and conjunctivitis
- gut stasis
- fly strike
The best diet for rabbits…
Is always one that mimics as closely as possible what wild rabbits eat. They need a high fibre diet, so the bulk of your rabbit’s diet should be grass and hay. Ensure that the hay is a good quality meadow or timothy hay, it should be sweet smelling and not dusty. It should be stored carefully so it doesn’t become damp or mouldy. Hay racks are available for rabbits to prevent the hay from being contaminated by droppings. Allow your rabbit direct access to grass to allow it to graze.
Eat your greens
It is important to provide your rabbit with fresh vegetables and greens (dark green and leafy are best) on a daily basis – such as carrot tops, cabbage, parsley, celery leaves, basil, broccoli, kale etc. An excellent money saving tip is to grow your own vegetables for your bunnies if you have enough garden space. Alternatively, ask your local greengrocer for any vegetable scraps as they will otherwise be thrown away. Vegetables should be washed before feeding. Carrots, apples and other fruit are high in sugar so should only be given occasionally; they are ideal for treats or training.
If you want to feed a commercial mix as well, feed in moderation! Lots of rabbits will only eat certain components of mixed muesli mixes (they pick out the tasty bits and leave the rest) which risks causing an unbalanced diet and nutrient deficiencies – leading to the health problems mentioned above. A high-quality nugget mix, such as Burgess Excel is a far better choice as all the nutrients are present in each nugget.
Care should be taken not to overfeed commercial food as this will lead to obesity and other health problems. As a rough guide, a small rabbit should have approximately 1 teaspoon per day, and medium-large rabbits 1 tablespoon. If they fill up on pellets then they are less likely to eat their hay/grass and caecotrophs. You may find it’s cheaper to buy in bulk and shop around to find the best price.
Rabbits need lots of stimulation, and they love to hide, chew and play. Buying expensive toys from the pet shop can soon add up, especially if they are quick to demolish them. Making your own is a great way to save money. Cardboard rolls filled with hay are great, and can be hung up around their run. Cardboard treat parcels with a few holes cut into them can keep them entertained for a couple of hours while they throw it around to figure out how to get the treats out. Take a look on Pinterest for ideas. Cardboard boxes are also great for your rabbits to hide and snuggle in.
It’s a really good idea to get your rabbit insured. As rabbits are a prey species they try to hide any signs of being unwell, so often when we realise that they are poorly, they are usually quite seriously unwell. They may require diagnostic tests or lengthy treatment courses and stays in hospital. This can add up quickly, so pet insurance can save you money and give you peace of mind.
Unfortunately, there are lots of rabbits at rescue shelters that are in need of a new home. Adopting a rabbit is almost always cheaper than buying a new rabbit. Some rescue centres may charge a small fee to cover the adoption process. Most of the time rabbits that are up for adoption, have often already been neutered, which saves you the cost of the operation.
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