Rabbits can be hard animals to assess. (Sometimes it is difficult to tell the sex until they are 8 weeks old.) You really want to start with a very healthy rabbit.
Things to look for
- Bright clear shiny eyes. Avoid rabbits with discharge from their eyes of puffiness around the eyes.
- Dry clean skin under the jaw. Rabbits with dental disease will have very wet mouths often causing infections of the skin.
- Smooth feeling jaw and face. Rabbits who have not worn their teeth down well with a majority grass diet will develop long molar teeth. This causes bumpiness and swelling along the jaw. Overly long teeth lead to all manner of problems that are difficult to manage.
- Clean bottom. Unhealthy rabbits will have a dirty bottom. This is often due to diarrhoea from poor diet or from being over weight. A dirty bottom can lead to skin infections or even worse – Fly Strike.
- Produce normal hard poos. Rabbits eat their poo in the middle of the night. These special poos are called cecotropes and are only partially digested faecal matter which needs to go though the digestive tract again. If you are seeing soft poo the rabbit may be unwell and not eating it’s cecotropes or it may have diarrhoea.
- Have relaxed breathing. Rabbits will hyperventilate when stressed or with respiratory disease.
- Have unmatted fur. Rabbits have very fine fur which often matts into large clumps causing discomfort and skin disease. Their soft skin is extremely hard to clip. This makes matted rabbits a particularly challenging problem.
- The skin on their hocks or ankles should be well furred and not inflamed. Rabbits on wire bottom cages or in cages that are dirty all the time will get matted sore back feet. Their feet need to have a healthy, dry bottom fur covering to avoid dangerous skin infections.