Winter care essentials for Essex rabbits young and old
November 23, 2022
As the weather in Essex starts to change, our pets’ needs also change with the season. Depending on the type of small furry pet you have, their needs will often be different. For some it may mean preparing them for hibernation, changing their food intake, giving them different types of bedding, or even adapting lighting or heating systems for winter.
Rabbits are no different and will require different levels of adaptation to ensure they are kept safe and healthy during the winter months; side note, rabbits DO NOT hibernate.
So, before the weather outside gets frightening… read Edgewood Vets’ advice on how to prepare your pets for a cold winter in Essex.
If you have any concerns about your rabbits’ health right now,
Preparation suggestions for winter
Vet Jürgen Theinert lists some top tips below for protecting your rabbits this winter. Use Jürgen’s tips as a checklist to ensure you have everything covered:
- Consider bringing your rabbits’ enclosure indoors for a period of time – they may be covered in fur but will still feel the harsh cold temperatures.
- Ensure their accommodation is suitably insulated – you could wrap the sides in a blanket or duvet when it gets too cold.
- Bedding types may need to be changed to suit the colder weather, and you should add extra bedding for your rabbits to burrow into.
- Insulate water feeders to protect them from freezing. Check them regularly to ensure your rabbits always have access to water. If they are freezing up indoors, it’s too cold in your house.
- Weight-check your rabbits to ensure they do not gain too much weight over winter as this can be detrimental to their health and affect their ability to groom/clean themselves.
- If you notice your rabbits’ weight increasing, review the amounts and types of food you are giving them to reflect the extra calories.
- Ensure any outside run is safe and usable during winter months or create an indoor run to ensure they still have exercise space.
- Get your rabbits’ health checked with one of our Purleigh vets to ensure your pets are fit and healthy going into winter.
By regularly checking over your rabbit at home too, especially before we go into the coldest period, you can monitor them for changes. This will help to ensure they remain healthy and comfortable, especially as winter can be very unpredictable. Jürgen has another checklist for you below, for you to do at home.
Winter care for seniors, babies, and unwell rabbits
If you have senior or geriatric rabbits, it will be more important than ever to move them indoors and keep them warm this winter to avoid them becoming uncomfortable and unwell. Most older rabbits suffer with pain and stiffness, usually some level of arthritis, and the cold can really exacerbate their symptoms. If you notice your rabbits are struggling to get around like they used to, are less keen to jump about, or are struggling to groom themselves, call us on 01621 828381 for advice as soon as possible.
The same goes for very young or unwell pets – these can struggle in cold temperatures and be susceptible to illnesses. If your rabbits are shivering, or sleeping more, chances are they are too cold.
8-point rabbit checklist
According to Jürgen, this is what good health in a rabbit looks (and smells) like:
- Nose: clean, clear, and subtly moist.
- Eyes: bright and clear; no discharge or redness around the eyes.
- Mouth: healthy looking teeth with no breakages or sharp points.
- Ears: clean and clear with no discharge, swelling, nasty smells, or constantly scratching.
- Coat/skin: shiny healthy coat with no dandruff, parasites, bald patches, lumps, or bumps. Well-groomed with no faeces stuck to their coat or urine patches.
- Weight: healthy lean weight.
- Faeces: soft caecotrophs that will be eaten off the bottom or the hutch floor, and harder, second-pass poo pellets. A reduction or change to either is cause for concern.
- Appetite: grazing most of the day; going more than 7 hours without food could make them very ill, very quickly.
If you spot any changes in your rabbit that you are concerned about, it is best to get them checked by Jürgen, or any of the vets at our Chelmsford Road surgery, to be on the safe side.