Understanding and managing behavior problems in rabbits (Proceedings)

Aug 01, 2010

• Understand normal behavior
• Know subtle behavior changes that indicate problems
• Educate clients early to monitor for these behavioral changes

Healthy Rabbits – Understanding Normal Behavior is Imperative
• Inquisitive
• Alert and curious
• Bright eyes
• Will often eat if offered favored treats
• Timid in strange surroundings but eyes are bright and postures normal
• Will "shake off", groom, investigate and eat as becomes more calmMay lay out with rear legs stretched

Unhealthy Rabbits
• lifeless, glazed and unfocused eyes
• immobile, stop grooming
• lack curiosity about their surroundings
• isolation from bonded mates

Sensory Behaviors
• Vision - laterally placed eyes
     o Scanning
• Tactile: Lips and vibrissae
     o Startle if hand placed beneath their noses
• Hearing
     o Sensitive to loud noises
     o Thermoregulation
• Olfactory
     o Scent glands
     o Fecal pellets/anal gland secretions
     o Latrine sites
     o Scent of kits

Reproductive Behaviors
• Sexual maturity is function of size not age
     o Small breeds – 4-5 months of age
     o Medium breeds – 4-6 months of age
     o Large breeds – 5-8 months of age
• Male Rabbits
     o Courtship - chinning, enurination, muzzle, groom, tail flagging
     o Mating – bites the female at nape of neck, ejaculation soon after intromission, male then falls on his back or his side and lets out a sharp cry
• Female Rabbits
     o Induced ovulators
     o Receptive females exhibit restlessness, lordosis, chinning, congested vulva
     o Non-receptive females will run away, bite, vocalize
     o Stress d/t crowding, disease and predators may cause resorption of embryos at midterm
     o Nesting is evident and occurs 1-2 days prepartum
           Neutering decreases urine and fecal marking
           Spaying decreases reproductive neoplasia and hormonal behaviors
           False pregnancy common
           Keep separated for at least 30 days after altering