Tag Archives: rabbits

Springtime is all about new beginnings, and for many families this is the perfect time to add a new, furry member. For those who aren’t ready or able to care for a dog or a cat, “pocket pets” are a frequent starting point.  Although they are adorable and offer lots of love, these smaller pets are not always the easiest to care for! Here at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital in Frederick, MD the two pocket pets we see the most are rabbits and guinea pigs.

Rabbits

KAH’s Dr Lynch cuddles bunny patient Snickers.

While some rabbits do fine outdoors, it is best for rabbits to live inside. For optimal room to move about, 12 square feet (3’ x 4’) are needed for every 5lbs of rabbit—and in order to keep their feet healthy, they need a solid-bottomed cage (not the wire cages so often seen in the pet stores).  Bunnies can be litterbox trained, which frees them up to roam around a room or a floor of the house under supervision. This exercise is important for maintaining a healthy GI tract.

Speaking of GI tracts, rabbits need to eat constantly. While those pelleted diets are tasty, they aren’t all created equal. Look for a high-quality timothy-based diet—we love Oxbow Bunny Basics. While these pellets provide lots of nutrients, the most important thing a rabbit can eat is hay! Every bunny should have access to

KAH assistant Kayla poses with adorable Nittany while she was here for her annual exam.

an unlimited supply of clean, fresh timothy hay. Fresh greens are an important part of each rabbit’s diet, too, but take care to avoid anything high in calcium (such as spinach and kale) to prevent urinary problems. Sugary foods like sweet potatoes, apples and carrots can cause GI stasis, a painful and life-threatening condition where the intestinal tract basically shuts down.

Another consideration for prospective bunny owners is altering. Intact rabbits are prone to behavioral problems and cancer—80% of intact female rabbits will develop mammary cancer, which spreads rapidly and is usually fatal. If trying to house a pair of male rabbits together, neutering both is vital to prevent fighting.

Guinea Pigs

KAH assistants Emily (left) and Caitlynn (right) pause for a photo with a guinea pig patient Chandler.

Guinea pigs (or “cavies”) are similar, but not identical, to rabbits. They also require a solid-bottomed cage, but for these critters, substrate is extremely important.  Guinea pigs cannot have any wood shavings that contain aromatic oils, such as cedar or pine; the oils produce a toxic gas when they mix with guinea pigs’ urine. Cavies are very susceptible to upper respiratory issues and need a clean, dust-free environment—for this reason, recycled paper (e.g. Carefresh) is the best substrate choice.

As far as food, guinea pigs require a nonstop supply of fresh timothy hay just like their bunny cousins. However, guinea pigs cannot produce their own Vitamin C (just like people!) so it is very important that they eat a guinea pig-specific pelleted food, which needs to be stored in the dark to protect the Vitamin C. Fresh fruits and veggies such as oranges and romaine lettuce are great additions to a cavy’s diet and can help boost Vitamin C intake—optimally, guineas should

Joey the guinea pig came to visit KAH with his brother Chandler. We interrupted his hay-munching to snap a photo!

receive the Oxbow Natural Science Vitamin C supplement daily to ensure they’re getting enough of this critical nutrient. Also, like rabbits, high levels of calcium and sugar in a guinea pig’s diet are very dangerous, so it’s best to avoid foods or treats rich in these.

Here at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital, we love fur-babies of all sizes! Our veterinarians and staff are available and happy to assist with any questions a new bunny or cavy owner might have!

Fluffy Bunnies & Fuzzy Chicks: Kingsbrook Animal Hospital’s Advice on Easter Pets

It’s easy to tell that Easter is approaching by the amount of advertisements containing cute bunny rabbits and fuzzy little chicks!  Often, parents looking for a first pet are inspired by these ideas, and will surprise children with a baby chick or a bunny in an Easter basket. While both species can be very rewarding pets, there is a lot more to them than meets the eye!

Rabbits can make wonderful pets, but they require more work than a dog or a cat!

Below, Kingsbrook Animal Hospital reveals some facts about rabbit and chicken care.

  1. Rabbits need to be spayed and neutered, just like dogs and cats. Intact male rabbits often

    This bunny is a lop! Lops have very long ears.

    become aggressive, and over 80% of intact female rabbits will develop invasive and fatal reproductive cancers before 5 years of age. Healthy, well-cared-for rabbits will live for 10-12 years!

  2. Bunnies require very specific housing conditions. They need solid-floor housing–wire-bottom cages and shelves can cause a condition known as “bumblefoot,” which is a painful infection and swelling of the feet. Rabbits cannot have wood shavings of any kind, and cages should be in a well-ventilated area to minimize the risk of

    Rabbits, just like cats and dogs, need to be seen by a veterinarian at least once a year.

    respiratory problems.

  3. There are “good” and “bad” veggies when it comes to rabbits.  It is important not to feed sweet or starchy fruits and veggies such as apples, sweet potatoes, or carrots, because they can actually slow down a bunny’s digestive tract and cause life-threatening GI stasis.

    Baby chicks require lots of specialized care until they are old enough to live outdoors.

    Rabbits like romaine, Swiss chard, endive, and red- or green-leaf lettuce. Even more important is a constant supply of fresh timothy hay.

  4. Baby chicks need to be kept inside until they are fully feathered–this can take around 5 months for some breeds. Chicks need a very temperature-controlled environment

    Chickens are birds, which means they will make noise and can be fairly messy!

    (~95 degrees is ideal) which means a heat lamp is a requirement. Also, chicken feces contain salmonella bacteria, so baby chicks need lots of clean-up to keep the bacterial populations to a minimum.

  5. Chickens are birds, which means they can fly (to an extent)! This sounds obvious, but it means that either the chickens will need a very tall fence, at least 7 feet, to prevent escape– or they will

    If a chicken is going to be a good pet, it needs to be handled from a young age.

    require regular wing trims to prevent flight. Keep in mind that if a chicken can’t fly, it can’t escape from a fox or raccoon!

  6. Many city ordnances and homeowners’ associations (HOAs) prevent owning chickens or any “farm” animals.  Be sure to research all laws and by-laws thoroughly!

KAH Invites All To Stay and Be Tutored on Spays and Neuters!

One of the most common procedures done in veterinary clinics around the country (and here at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital!) is altering a pet—“spaying” for females, and “neutering” for males. What exactly is involved in these surgeries, and what benefits are there for pets who are surgically altered?

Neutering

  • “Neutering” is the surgical removal of the testicles. In dogs, this is done through a small

    KAH technician Julie poses for a brief selfie with Rusty before getting started with surgery!

    incision in the abdomen, while for cats and for rabbits the veterinarian can perform the surgery by making a tiny incision in the scrotum.

  • Almost 100% of intact male cats AND rabbits will spray urine in the house. They may become aggressive or destructive, and most will escape outdoors to find a female and defend their “territory.” Unless he is being used for breeding purposes, there is very little benefit to leaving a male cat or rabbit intact. Cats and rabbits are usually neutered no later than 6 months old.
  • Dogs, however, are a different story. Large-breed male dogs (those over 50lbs as adults) especially seem to benefit a lot from remaining intact until they are finished growing. For these boys, owners can wait until 1 year of age to neuter.
  • Smaller dogs (or larger boys who start to show signs of marking or aggression) can be neutered as early as 6 months of age.

    Dr. Lynch completes a pre-anesthetic exam and enters her notes. Every surgical patient at KAH is given special care!

 

Spaying

  • A “spay” is when the veterinarian removes a female’s uterus and ovaries. This prevents pregnancy and pyometra, a life-threatening infection of the uterus.
  • Cats and rabbits are spayed before 6 months of age to prevent them from going through a heat cycle. For both species, once a heat cycle starts it won’t end until the pet has mated.
  • Spaying before the first heat cycle prevents mammary cancer. Most intact female cats and rabbits will develop mammary

    KAH technician Sam cuddles her recovering patient after a spay surgery.

    tumors, which are invasive, fast-growing, and almost always fatal. There is no benefit to leaving a female cat or rabbit intact unless she is going to be used for breeding.

  • Larger-breed female dogs may benefit from waiting until 1 year of age to spay. However, most girls go through their first heat cycle between 6-8 months old. Our veterinarians at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital consider each dog on a case-by-case basis and make recommendations accordingly.