Rabbit Physical

by Audrey Patriarche

We all enjoy getting out our rabbits to look them over, cuddle, pose and evaluate them. I go over my rabbits frequently to groom them and keep their toenails clipped. A couple of times a year I like to go over each rabbit in a more complete way by giving them what I call a rabbit physical. I find it very relaxing and enjoyable. I usually try to choose a nice sunny, cool, dry day. If it's too humid or hot it is not only uncomfortable for you but also for the rabbits. There is a wooden bench outside my barn door that I enjoy sitting on to do part of the physical. I also move my grooming table outside next to the bench as some of the procedures and observations are more easily done on a table. The lighting in my barn is not as bright as it should be and a nice bright natural light is best.

To get started, set out the following items: toenail clippers, a brush, a small pair of scissors, a spray bottle of water, cotton swabs, mineral oil, a 1 cc syringe, Ivermectin, and wet wipes. Start at the end of a row taking out one rabbit at a time. Work your way along the row in order so you know which rabbits have been done. To perform a rabbit physical check the following:

Teeth - check to make sure that no teeth are missing or broken and for a normal bite with the upper incisors overlapping the bottom incisors.

Ears - examine inside the ears for wax buildup or signs of ear mites. Lop-eared breeds tend to accumulate ear wax more so than breeds with upright ears. To remove wax use a small amount of mineral oil on a cotton swab. Do not stick the cotton swab down into the ear canal. If there is a large amount of wax, place a tiny drop of mineral oil directly in the ear and gently massage the base of the ear. Usually this will loosen up the wax and you can massage it up out of the ear. Examine the ear itself for any nicks, tears, or missing pieces.

Eyes - look for bold, bright eyes. Wipe away any build up in the corner of the eye. Check for weepy eye, filming or milky appearance over the cornea, and specks or spots on the eye. Eye spots can be overlooked if you have poor lighting in your rabbitry.

Nose - examine the nostrils to see that they are clear from any discharge and the inside of the forelegs for roughened fur - sometimes a sign that there has been discharge.

Toenails - clip the toenails checking for white, mismatched or missing toenails.

Foot Pads – check to see that they are all healthy with no signs of sore hocks. This is not a common problem in Hollands but watch your bigger brood does.

Fur - well conditioned, quality fur should have a good roll back. Roll back is a gradual return of the coat to a normal position when it is stroked from the hindquarters to the shoulders. Remove any excess fur by brushing. If your rabbit is in a molt, dampen your hands with water and rub the fur in the opposite direction. This will pull a great deal of the loose fur out. Then brush it back into place. Look for signs of mange, fleas, mites any type of scale, dandruff or fungus. Examine the entire body for foreign colored spots in the fur.

Genitals - examine the genitals for any signs of infection or soreness. On male rabbits check to see that both testicles have dropped. Remove any excess feces which may be stuck to the fur.

Tail - the tail is to be considered an on-line extension of the spine. Check to see that it is not bent, twisted or carried permanently off to one side.

General Condition/Body Structure - go over the body with your hands checking for healthy, firm flesh condition. Feel for any signs of abscesses, tumors and palpate to check for a hairball. Run your hands along the rabbits belly feeling for ruptures or hernias.

Treatment for worms/parasites - I usually use this time to treat my rabbits orally with Ivermectin. I have had very good luck using Ivermectin, but it is not currently approved as being safe for rabbits. The dosage I give is .10 cc per four pound rabbit.

Most rabbits enjoy all the attention. Young rabbits can sometimes get a bit jumpy but a firm, gentle hand will usually teach them who the boss is and they will calm down. It's very important to pay close attention to the health of ALL your rabbits, not just the show rabbits. After you get them all groomed, it's a good opportunity to take pictures. Enjoy!


HLRSC Official Guidebook - 5th Edition 2002