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Rabbit Husbandry and Management

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Presentation on theme: "Rabbit Husbandry and Management"— Presentation transcript:

1 Rabbit Husbandry and Management

2 Identification All adult rabbits should be identified individually.
The most common identification method is an ear tattoo. A permanent number is tattooed on the central groove inside the pinna, where the number is easy to see

3 Ear clip Another acceptable method of identification is an ear clip that contains a unique identification number. A disadvantage of ear tags is that they may cause a local infection that will not heal until the tag is removed

4 CAGING Cage interior Adult rabbits are housed individually, preferably in cages made of stainless steel. The sides are perforated or made of fine wire mesh to provide circulation, and the front door should allow visualization of the animal.

5 Cage A mature animal weighing kg requires 4 sq feet, and an animal heavier than 5.4 kg requires 5 sq ft. The USDA, which enforces the Animal Welfare Act regulations, may require more spacious cages than stated in the Guide, and it is important for all facilities subject to USDA inspection to comply with their standards.

6 Racks of cages Rabbit cages can be tiered to utilize vertical space within the room. The room, however, should not contain any other animal species. In addition, it is wise to house rabbits where they cannot hear noisy species, such as dogs and nonhuman primates, as they are disturbed by intermittent loud noises

7 Housing Good ventilation in the room is important as it supplies oxygen; ventilation dilutes accumulations of ammonia caused by evaporating urine; removes heat generated by the animal's respiration, lights, and equipment; and carries away airborne hair

8 Temperature / Humidity
Rabbits can tolerate a reasonably wide fluctuation in room temperature; but because of their very dense hair coats, they are susceptible to overheating. Their most comfortable environment is a temperature between 60.8° and 69.8°F with a humidity level of %.

9 Light A cycle of 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness is satisfactory for routine housing of rabbits, but increasing the light period to 16 hours, with 8 hours of darkness, facilitates breeding activity

10 Nutrition Herbivores Daily food intake: 5gm/100gm BW/day
Daily water intake: mls/100gm BW/day Daily urine output: mls/day

11 Nutrition (cont) Cecotropes:
Special feces eaten directly from anus, then digested Not waste materials – rich in organisms from cecum Contains nutrients: Amino acids Fatty acids Vitamin Should not see these droppings on bottom of cage Appearance: elongated, green, coated with mucous, strong odor

12 Pellet diet Under natural conditions, rabbits normally live on green herbage nutrients and other plant material. However, in a laboratory setting they are normally fed a pelleted diet that contains % crude protein, not less than 1.5% fat, and % crude fiber

13 Nutrition (cont) Commercially prepared pelleted diet
Ad lib or restricted Grass Hay – very important Rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins Types available: Timothy grass Meadow grass Oat grass Rye grass Barley grass Bermuda grass

14 Nutrition (cont) Fat rabbits do not breed
Rabbits that do not breed become fat Excessive Vit A and/or D can lead to toxicity Reluctant to move and anorexic

15 Acid treatment An acid solution should be used on all surfaces, as necessary, to dissolve solidified particulate matter that results from rabbit urine. This is followed by thorough rinsing.

16 Restraint

17 Pick Up Grasp by scruff with one hand
Support Hind quarters with other hand NEVER Pick up by ears Let rear legs dangle

18 Removing the rabbit from its cage
With your dominant hand, firmly grasp the rabbit by the scruff of fur behind its neck Have the rabbit face the back of the cage Lift gently by the scruff Scoop under the hindquarters with your other hand and remove the rabbit from its cage

19 Replacing the rabbit into its cage
Using the restraint described before, gently place the rabbit into its cage, facing toward the back Place the hind feet down first If the rabbit takes off, it will run toward the back of its cage

20 General transport techniques
Scruff the rabbit by its neck Place the rabbit's head under your arm (armpit) Allow the rabbit's body to lie on your lower arm and spread your fingers on either side of the tail, supporting the hindquarters Place the hand of your upper arm on the dorsal surface of the rabbit to maintain control

21 Flying bunny" transport
This method is used for aggressive and hard-to-handle rabbits Scruff the rabbit's neck with one hand and grab the skin over the hindquarters with your other hand While lifting, rotate your fists inward, gently arching the rabbit's back Hold firmly-  the rabbit may struggle and you don't want to drop it or allow it to hurt itself

22 Wiggly Rabbits Bunny burrito Rabbit restraint devices Cat bag

23 Hypnotism Method- Firmly scruff the rabbit's neck with your dominant hand Cross your nondominant hand underneath to scruff the rump Invert the rabbit onto its back- Roll the rabbit onto its rump Quickly lie it on its back Transfer your hand from the rump to the abdomen Keep the rabbit's spine and head straight Gently stroke the rabbit's abdomen  (the nictitating membrane- 3rd eyelid- should move over the pupil when the rabbit is hypnotized Check the pedal reflex by pinching the toes-  a properly hypnotized rabbit won't move To end the hypnotism, slowly and gently sit the rabbit on its rump and then onto its feet

24 Towel wrap (bunny burrito)
Place the rabbit on an opened towel Snuggly wrap the towel around the rabbit's body Gently pull out the part you need to work on IMPORTANT:  ensure that the rabbit has proper ventilation when using this restraint.  Rabbits overheat readily, so constant monitoring is essential!!

25 Cat bag- A nylon bag made for restraining cats may be useful for rabbits.  Unzipping the appropriate zipper makes the needed body parts readily accessible

26 Restraint boxes Several different types of restraint boxes specifically made to hold rabbits are commercially available.  It is imperative that the box properly fit the size of the rabbit that you are working with in order to avoid injury to the rabbit.

27 Venipuncture 20 to 25 g needle of suitable length with syringe. (A short bevel needle not more than 1 inch long and a syringe of 5 ml capacity or less is recommended.) Butterfly infusion sets also work well

28 Venipuncture Venipuncture of rabbit lateral saphenous vein Rabbit jugular stick You can use the lateral saphenous vein or jugular vein to obtain blood from a rabbit.

29 The marginal ear vein is NOT recommended;  if a thrombus forms in this vein, it can lead to sloughing of the ear pinna. Use the central artery

30 IM- Lumbar muscles Intramuscular injections may be given into the lumbar muscles on either side of the backbone, or into the large muscle groups in the back leg, either anterior or posterior to the femur


32 Grooming Nail Trimming:
The nails of rabbits can be trimmed, just like the nails of dogs and cats.  It is very useful to trim the sharp tips of the nails of rabbits that struggle or are aggressive. The screws of a guillotine-type nail trimmer should face the rabbit, and your fingers should move the hinged part of the handle;  the stationary side of the handle should be placed against your thumb.

33 It is easy to see the blood vessels (called the "quick") that are located in the nail.  It is important not to cut the quick, because bleeding and pain will occur.  Use the trimmers to cut the sharp tip that extends beyond the quick.   If bleeding does occur, apply a silver nitrate stick to the quick until bleeding ceases  (this is painful, because nerves have been exposed, so be as gentle as possible.

34 Physical Examination:
Research animals must be maintained in a health condition for experimental results to be valid. Look at the rabbit in its cage BEFORE you open the door of the cage. Initial examination- The initial exam should be performed before the rabbit has been handled extensively (i.e. before it's excited).

35 Observe the general appearance of the rabbit and how it has been cared for.  Does it look well-cared for, unthrifty (with poor hair coat and sunken eyes) or over- or underweight? Describe the rabbit's attitude:  is it BAR (bright, alert and responsive), QAR  (quiet, alert and responsive), depressed, lethargic, excited or aggressive?

36 Weight Changes in an animal's weight are an easy way to monitor its overall health. Gently place the rabbit on the scale and weigh it Record the weight to kilograms

37 Vital signs Along with body weight, the vital signs--temperature, pulse rate and respiratory rate-- are important parameters used to monitor the health of an animal.  These values should be obtained early in an exam, before the animal becomes excited. Temperature.– 101.3º-104º Heart rate beats per minute Respiratory rate breaths per minute

38 Pulse - Respiratory rate
Place your index finger on the medial (inside) thigh over the femoral artery.  Palpate (feel for) a slight groove and apply gentle pressure until you feel the pulse. Watch the sides of the rabbit or listen with a stethoscope to the animal's breath. 

39 Systems Examination: When performing a physical examination, it is essential that the entire animal be evaluated in a systematic manner.  You should examine the rabbit from its nose to its tail.  Develop a routine and follow the same pattern every time that you perform an exam, and you will be less likely to overlook a problem. 

40 Restraint for Physical Exam
One handed palpation-Hold with forearm and tuck into abdomen Two handed palpation- tuck hindquarter into abdomen and face nose away

41 Review


Short duration of action (25-45 minutes) Ketamine: mg/kg + Xylazine: 3-5 mg/kg IM Ketamine: 25 mg/kg + Medetomidine 0.5 mg/kg IM Page 212

For minor surgical procedures Dose Rabbtis: 7.5 mg/kg IM Can have prolonged recovery Used in combination with xylazine Decrease dose Better effect and faster recovery

45 INHALANT ANESTHESIA Use for any major surgical procedure
Induce with gas alone or with injectable anesthetics Isoflurane is the agent of choice


47 Maturation The sexual development of a rabbit is strongly dependent on breed, sex, nutrition, and season of birth. In the small and medium breeds of rabbits, females are sexually mature and ready for breeding at 4-1/2 to 5 months. The larger breeds are not ready until 8 or 9 months of age, with the bucks maturing approximately one month later than the does.

48 Reproduction (cont) Copulation: Kindling = parturition
Take doe to buck’s cage Very fast Buck screams and falls over backward when done Kindling = parturition Split parturition can occur – up to 3 days Babies – “bunnies” or “kits” No postpartum breeding

49 Reproductive behaviors
In breeding colonies, one buck is maintained for does. The doe is usually taken to the buck's cage and left for minutes. Mating normally occurs rapidly; however the buck may display a form of courtship behavior that includes rapid circling around the female, elevating his hind quarters, walking stiff-legged, and laying his tail flat down against his back or flagging it

50 Reproduction (cont) Do not touch bunnies for 3 days after birth
Cannibalism does occur Young does Excitement, thirst, malnutrition Pseudopregnancy common Sterile matings Excitement by nearby buck Mounting by other does Signs: nest building, mammary enlargement

51 Pregnancy If the doe is receptive and the buck is experienced, copulation occurs rapidly, and she will normally ovulate hours after mating. Eighty percent of matings will result in pregnancy, which can be confirmed by marble-sized uterine swellings that can be palpated through the abdominal wall by the th day of gestation.

52 Nest box A nest box should be provided for the pregnant doe as a secluded place for kindling, or giving birth. Nest boxes vary in size, but in general measure " long, " wide, 12" high at the back and 9" high at the front. Hay, straw, or some other form of nesting material should be provided. Several days prior to parturition, the doe will carry the nesting material into the nest box and mix it with fur plucked from her body to form a nest. The nesting box can be removed when the young are 3 weeks of age.

53 Newborn After a day gestation period, the doe will normally give birth to a litter of 7 or 8 young, weighing grams each. They are hairless for 4 days, have closed eyelids for 7 days, and are poikilothermic; i.e., unable to control their body temperature, for 7 days or more. The doe will normally nurse them for approximately ten minutes in the early morning, and then leave the nest alone

54 Reproduction (cont) Kits – Eyes open 7-10 days
Begin solid food at 3 weeks Wean at 4-6 weeks Lactation – milk very rich Nurse 2-3 times daily as pets Wild - nurse only once a day

55 Juveniles In most commercial production systems, the young are separated from the doe at about 4-1/2 weeks. Does are usually rebred weeks after kindling, when the young are weaned, but they can be mated 15 days after parturition

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