Caring for senior rabbits

Is my rabbit senior?

Rabbits typically live for around eight-12 years, though some may live for even longer. Life expectancy can be linked to size, with smaller rabbits tending to live for longer than larger ones. However, all rabbits age at different rates. Therefore, small/medium rabbits are considered senior between 6-8 years old and large/giant rabbits at 4 years old. Carefully keeping an eye on your senior rabbit helps you notice the little signs that they’re getting older and might need more help to ensure they still enjoy life to the full. Regular health checks for your senior rabbit are really important for ageing animals, so that health problems can be detected as early as possible. This can help prevent and manage disease, can be less costly and will help give your pets a better quality of life.

What signs do I need to look out for?

Rabbits age differently. There may be some changes that suggest your rabbit has moved into their senior years but are not poorly.

–           Losing weight, muscle atrophy

–           Sleeping more

–           Less active

–           Thinning or greying fur

Questions to ask and actions to take when noticing/knowing your bunny is getting older

Can they reach the things they need? Is everything they need  within easy reach, such as water, food, toys, hiding places and bedding material. There is nothing stopping you having a few of each throughout their home so it means they won’t have to go too far.

 Can they poo without struggling? For rabbits that are litter trained, make sure they can still easily enter and exit their tray. They may struggle with high-sided trays, and plastic dog beds can be a good alternative to traditional trays as they already have a low entry point.

 Can they move without struggling? Make sure they can grip the floor: older indoor rabbits can find smooth, slippery floors difficult to walk on, so try putting a rug or carpet down to give them something to grip and help them move around more easily. Also make sure everything is ground level.

Are they comfortable? Is it warm enough? Do they have enough bedding material to stay warm. Should they be indoors?

Health conditions and quality of life in older rabbits

 Sadly, like everyone reaching old age it also comes with a higher chance of health issues. All you can do as a carer is to monitor closely. The first thing to mention is involve EVERYONE that is involved with your rabbit even if it is just by seeing them regularly. Explain what is going on and start a see and report system. Give them the link to this article. Start a WhatsApp group called Rabbit watch and exchange observations on there.When you have guests who see your rabbit infrequently ask them for their opinion about your rabbit’s behaviour or movements. Senior rabbits are more prone to the following conditions.

Arthritis

If your rabbit is starting to slow down as they get older, it’s often due to arthritis. Arthritis causes your rabbit’s joints to become stiff and inflamed due to wear and tear. It’s very painful and can prevent them from being able move around comfortably. While arthritis cannot be cured, your vet will be able to help manage your rabbit’s condition. Our hospice vet Merel has written a whole article about this condition please click here to know everything about arthritis in rabbits.

Sore feet (pododermatitis)

Sitting for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces, can cause pressure sores. This is known as pododermatitis. If left untreated, it can cause ulcers or infections on your rabbit’s feet. Providing soft flooring such as towels, mats or vet bed, or adding thick layers of straw, hay or sawdust can help to prevent the condition. 

Uterine (womb) cancer

Womb cancer is a common problem in older unneutered female rabbits. By the time they are six years old, 80 per cent of unspayed rabbits are likely to have developed a tumour in their uterus. You can prevent this risk by neutering your rabbit

Dental disease and nutrition

Many rabbits suffer with dental issues throughout their lives, but as your rabbit ages their teeth can become a more significant problem. A good diet for a rabbit is 80% grass or hay, 5% pelleted food and the rest vegetables and treats. There are senior foods with joint supplements but there is no research yet to prove it is helpful. If the effect is similar to what we see in other pets and you are considering making this purchase then it is important to start when symptoms are still mild so your rabbit has the long term benefit. Always bear in mind to introduce anything new gradually as to not create any digestive tract issues.

Overgrown nails

Rabbits that are less active and not wearing their nails down naturally are likely to develop overgrown nails. These can be very painful and uncomfortable, so it’s important to check your rabbi’s nails regularly.

 

Losing a senior rabbit

 Let’s not forget that company is an important part of your rabbits’ wellbeing. But as they get older, sadly, one rabbit will often outlive the other. If your rabbit loses their companion, allow them to spend some supervised time with the body of their friend to help them understand that they have gone. Losing a friend can be hard on your rabbit, but spending some extra time together following the loss can be reassuring for you both. Company is essential and many rabbits will benefit from finding a new friend after losing their companion.

What does Dignipets do and how can they help?

A home visit for your rabbit means no stress and a chance for the whole family to say goodbey

At Dignipets we provide online visits for a quality of life assessments of rabbits. This can be really helpful and create a feeling of having a plan and knowing what to look out for. One of our client care assistants also wrote about her own experience when caring for her senior rabbit please click here to read her article. We also provide home visits for a peaceful passing. Don’t go through it alone there is support out there.

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