Educational Rabbit Videos


Terms Used by Breeders and at Shows

Buck - A male rabbit
Doe - A female rabbit
Junior - A rabbit under 6 months of age
Senior - A rabbit over 6 months of age
Intermediate or 6/8 - A rabbit between 6-8 months of age. Most common in larger breeds

Variety - Color of a rabbit
Class - Age group of the rabbit. Either Junior, Intermediate or Senior
Broken - A color in conjunction with white. With either a blanket or spotted pattern of the color on the body.

Solid - A color of a rabbit that is covering the entire body
Agouti - A type of color that has bands and ticking. Most common colors are Chestnut and Chinchilla

Shaded - Refers to colors like Sable Point. These colors have darker colors on the nose, ears, and other parts of the body. While the whole of the body is one solid lighter color.

Molt - A coat that is shedding and out of condition.
Finish - A coat of a rabbit that either lacks finish (poor condition, molting, etc) or has a good finish (well groomed, not molting) could mean the difference between winning and losing.

Pedigree - A piece of paper charting 3 generations of the rabbit with ancestral history.

Registration - A piece of paper also charting 3 generations of the rabbit with ancestral history. This paper however states (for the rabbit it is issued to) that it has free of disqualifications and has been deemed an acceptable representation of said breed. The rabbit also receives a registration number unique to that rabbit.

Ear Number / Tattoo - A series of numbers and/or letters tattooed into the rabbits left ear. Usually no more then 5 are in the ear. A circled R may be tattooed in the left ear if the rabbit has been registered.

BOB - Best of Breed
BOS - Best Opposite Sex of Breed (ie. If the BOB rabbit is a buck, BOS winner must be a doe. Which is why it's called Opposite Sex

BOV - Best of Variety
BOSV - Best Opposite Sex of Variety (IE. If the BOV rabbit is a buck, BOSV winner must be a doe. Which is why it's called Opposite Sex

BOV and BOSV winners go on to compete for BOB and BOS
BIS - Best in Show (this is big. To win it, your rabbit must get BOB. At the end of the show, all of the breeds who had a BOB winner compete to see who is the best of the best.)

1st Runner Up / Reserve to BIS - This is the 2nd place rabbit to who won BIS
2nd Runner Up - This is the 3rd place rabbit to who won BIS
DQ - Disqualification. A rabbit can be disqualified for many reasons. Most common is over the weight limit, bad teeth, or illness present.

Flesh condition - Just like it sounds. If a rabbit is "rough" in flesh it means the skin over the backbone is very loose and thin. Bones are easily felt. Most common in rabbits suffering from some illness, not being fed enough, or does coming off weaning litters.

Open - Usually refers to an all "adult show." Which means anyone of any age is allowed to enter, but it is usually adults competing with other adults. They will usually add the letters: A, B and C to the end of "Open Show" if they are having multiple shows.

Youth - An all youth only show. Only those 18 and under are allowed to enter these shows. Youth breeders must put their own rabbits on the judging table.

Cull - A breeder goes through a litter selecting ones he/she wishes to keep. The rest are sold (or eaten, if they're a meat breed.)

Kindling - Term used to mean giving bird to baby rabbits.
Kits - Term describing baby rabbits.
Cavy - These are not rabbits. They are shown sometimes at rabbit shows and they are Guinea Pigs .



  • Agouti - a fur color pattern generally involving rings of color on the hair shafts.  Chinchilla is an example of an agouti color.

  • ARBA - American Rabbit Breeders' Association - umbrella national rabbit club.  All rabbit breeders in the US and Japan should be members of ARBA.

  • BEW - Blue-eyed white - white bunny with blue eyes resulting from two Vienna genes.

  • BIS - Best In Show - the rabbit of any breed judged to be the best at a show

  • BOB - Best of Breed - judged to be the best Holland at that show.

  • BOS - Best Opposite Sex - judged to be the best Holland of the opposite sex of the BOB.  If a buck is BOB, then a doe is chosen BOS and vice-versa.

  • BOSV - Best Opposite Sex of Variety - judged to be the best broken (or solid) of the opposite sex of the BOV.  Competes for the BOS but not BOB award.

  • BOV - Best of Variety - judged to be either the best broken or best solid at that show.  Competes for the BOB and BOS awards.

  • BRIS - Best Reserve in Show - the rabbit of any breed judged to be second best at a show.  This BRIS does not have to be the opposite sex of the BIS.

  • Broken - a white rabbit with patches of color.  A broken black has black patches, a broken tort has tort patches, etc.

  • Buck - male rabbit

  • Dam - female rabbit that produced an offspring.  A rabbit's dam is its mother.

  • Class - a group of Hollands that fall into the same gender, pattern and age group.  Solid Senior Bucks and Broken Junior Does are two classes.  There are eight classes of Holland Lops.

  • Convention - the national rabbit show held by ARBA and sponsored by a local club for all breeds.  Held in the fall.  Many states hold conventions as well.

  • Crown - the part of a rabbits head between the ears and behind the brow

  • Charlie - a bunny with two broken-pattern genes which result in a minimally patterned rabbit.  Hollands must have 10% pattern to be show able. 

  • Doe - female rabbit

  • DQ - disqualification from showing.  DQ's may be either permanent (such as a missing toe, malocclusion, or non-show able color) or temporary (illness).

  • Enteritis - an often fatal illness of the digestive system characterized by diarrhea and brought on by stress, excessive carbohydrate consumption and/or weaning.

  • Entry - entries are rabbits that will participate in a particular show.

  • Gestation - the period of time between breeding and birthing or kindling.

  • Grand Champion - a rabbit that has earned three or more legs, at least one of them being a senior leg, under at least two different judges.  To obtain a grand champion number and certificate, the legs must be submitted with a fee to ARBA.

  • Herdsman Points - One herdsman point is awarded to each HLRSC member for each different rabbit that wins a Best of Breed or Best Opposite Sex in sanctioned shows.  Herdsman points are indicators of the depth of the quality of a particular herd.

  • HLRSC - Holland Lop Rabbit Specialty Club - national specialty club for Holland Lops.  All Holland Lop breeders should belong to HLRSC.

  • Junior - in Hollands, rabbits under 6 months old and over 2 lbs.

  • Kindling - giving birth to young.

  • Kindling Box - a box provided to does so that she can make a nest and have babies in it.  Also called a nest box.

  • Kit - baby rabbit

  • Leg - a leg is earned by winning in an ARBA-sanctioned show as long as there are three exhibitors and five rabbits competing for the win.  For example, first place in a class of five or more bunnies showed by three or more different exhibitors would earn a leg.  For classes without enough exhibitors and/or bunnies, it may be possible to earn a leg by winning BOSV (if there are sufficient numbers of the related sex in the variety), BOV (if there are sufficient numbers in the entire variety), BOS (if there are sufficient number in the related sex of the breed) or BOB (if there are sufficient numbers in the entire breed).  A rabbit may only earn one leg per judging.

  • Malocclusion - The misalignment of teeth.

  • Nationals - a national specialty show held by a national specialty club (such as the Holland Lop Rabbit Specialty Club) and sponsored by a local club.  The HLRSC show is in the spring.

  • Nest Box - a box provided to does so that she can make a nest and have babies in it.  Also called a kindling box.

  • Open - shows that are open to exhibitors of all ages.

  • Open Coat - fur that is beginning to lose its texture and luster and is almost ready to molt.

  • Palpation - feeling a does abdomen to determine the presence or absence of embryos.

  • Peanut - a bunny with two dwarf genes, which is a fatal combination.

  • Pre-Junior - an unofficial term for rabbits that are old enough to be weaned but not mature enough to show as a junior.

  • Quality Points - HLRSC members earn two quality points for each Best of Breed and Best In Show and one quality point for each Best Opposite Sex and Best Reserve (also Best 4 Class, when available) won in sanctioned shows.

  • Registrar - a person who, after taking a test and meeting other eligibility requirements, is certified by ARBA to evaluate rabbits and register them if they meet standards.  ARBA sanctioned shows are required to have a registrar available.

  • Registration - registration is a process of bringing a rabbit before a registrar to verify that it meets standards for the breed, supplying pedigree information and paying a registration fee in order to obtain a registration number, tattoo and certificate.

  • REW - Ruby-eyed white - white bunny with ruby eyes resulting from two REW (cc) genes.

  • Sanctioned - shows that abide by ARBA and HLRSC (and perhaps local association) show rules and pay sanction fees are said to be ARBA sanctioned and/or HLRSC sanctioned (and perhaps sanctioned by other clubs as well).  Sweepstakes points are accumulated only from sanctioned shows.  Only legs earned at ARBA sanctioned shows can be used to earn a Grand Champion certification.

  • Self - a fur color pattern where the hair colors are the same on each hair shaft all over the bunny.  The pattern that may be modified by the c-series gene (such as in sable point).  Black is an example of a self color.

  • Sire - male rabbit that produced an offspring.  A rabbit's sire is its father.

  • Sweepstakes - sweepstakes contests are conducted by national rabbit clubs such as the HLRSC and some local clubs as well.  For the HLRSC, sweepstakes points are earned as follows:  6 points per rabbit shown for first place, 4 points per rabbit for second place, 3 points per rabbit for third place, 2 points per rabbit for fourth place, and 1 point for rabbit for fifth place.  Best of Breed earns two points per rabbit shown in the breed.  Best Opposite Sex earns one point per rabbit shown in the breed.  For Nationals and Convention, first place through tenth place earn the following points, respectively, 12, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2 per rabbit shown.

  • Tort - Short for tortoiseshell, the most prevalent Holland Lop fur color; when used alone refers to black tortoiseshell rather than blue, chocolate or lilac tortoiseshell.

  • Trio - two does and a buck, often matched for breeding to begin or expand a rabbitry

  • Variety - in Hollands, the color and the pattern of the fur.  For example, solid tort or broken sable point.  If no pattern is mentioned, then solid is assumed.

  • Youth - exhibitors under age 19.



There are 10 color gene groups (or loci) in rabbits. They are A, B, C, D, E, En, Du, Si, V, and W. Each locus has dominant and recessive genes. In addition to the loci there are also modifiers, which modify a certain gene. These include the rufus modifiers, colour intensifiers, and plus/minus (blanket/spot) modifiers. A rabbit's coat only has two pigments, pheomelanin (yellow) and eumelanin (dark brown). There can also be no pigment, causing an albino or white rabbit.

Color Genes

Within each group, the genes are listed in order of dominance, with the most dominant gene first. In parenthesis after the description is at least one example of a color that displays this gene.

Note: lower case are recessive and capital letters are dominant
  • "A" represents the agouti locus (multiple bands of color on the hair shaft). The genes are:
    • A= agouti ("wild color" or chestnut agouti, opal, chinchilla, etc.)
    • at= tan pattern (otter, tan, silver marten)
    • a= self or non-agouti (black, chocolate)
  • "B" represents the brown locus. The genes are:
    • B= black (chestnut agouti, black otter, black)
    • b= brown (chocolate agouti, chocolate otter, chocolate)
  • "C" represents the color locus. The genes are:
    • C= full color (black)
    • cchd= dark chinchilla, removes yellow pigmentation (chinchilla, silver marten)
    • cchl= light chinchilla (sable, sable point, smoke pearl, seal)
    • ch= Himalayan, body white with extremities ("points") colored in black, blue, chocolate or lilac, pink eyes
    • c= albino (ruby-eyed white or REW)
  • "D" represents the dilution locus. This gene dilutes black to blue and chocolate to lilac.
    • D= dense color (chestnut agouti, black, chocolate)
    • d= diluted color (opal, blue or lilac)
  • "E" represents the extension locus. It works with the 'A' and 'C' loci, and rufus modifiers. When it is recessive, it removes most black pigment. The genes are:
    • Es= steel (black removed from tips of fur, which then appear golden or silver)
    • E= normal
    • ej= Japanese brindling (harlequin), black and yellow pigment broken into patches over the body. In a broken color pattern this results in Tricolor.
    • e= most black pigment removed (agouti becomes red or orange, self becomes tortoise)
  • "En" represents the plus/minus (blanket/spot) color locus. It is incompletely dominant and results in three possible color patterns:
    • EnEn= "Charlie" or a lightly marked broken with color on ears, on nose and sparsely on body
    • Enen= Broken rabbit with roughly even distribution of color and white
    • enen= Solid color with no white areas
  • "Du" represents the Dutch color pattern, (the front of the face, front part of the body, and rear paws are white, the rest of the rabbit has colored fur). The genes are:
    • Du= absence of Dutch pattern
    • du= Dutch pattern
  • "V" represents the Vienna white locus. The genes are:
    • V= normal color
    • Vv= Vienna carrier, carries blue-eyed white gene. May appear as a solid color, with snips of white on nose and/or front paws, or Dutch marked.
    • v= Vienna white (blue-eyed white or BEW)
  • "Si" represents the silver locus. The genes are:
    • Si= normal color
    • si= silver color (silver, silver fox)
  • "W" represents the middle yellow-white band locus and works with the agouti gene. The genes are:
    • W= normal width of yellow band
    • w= doubles yellow band width (Otter becomes Tan, intensified red factors in Thrianta and Belgian Hare)

The Basics of Inheritance

The value of studying genetics is in understanding how we can predict the likelihood of inheriting particular traits and help us to produce rabbits with desirable qualities.

Genes are inherited equally in pairs - one from each parent for each trait.

Breeding systems:
Inbreeding - A system of breeding using very closely related rabbits such as dam to offspring.
Line Breeding - A less intensive form of inbreeding using rabbits that are distantly related to each other.
Outcrossing -  Mating unrelated stock of the same breed.
Cross Breeding - Mating rabbits of different breeds. (Sometimes referred to as “hybrids”).

Benefits of inbreeding: Producing rabbits with consistent, desirable traits.
Choosing rabbits with desired characteristics increases the chances of producing offspring with those same desired traits.  The diverse breeds we have today were created by selecting individuals with unique traits and using them in a breeding program.

Drawbacks of inbreeding: Inbreeding Depression (lowered vitality, less resistance to disease, smaller litter size, more chance of inheriting congenital disorders).

Simple mode of inheritance - Dominant & Recessive Genes
Dominant: Masks the effects of recessive genes.
Recessive: Gene masked by the effect of a dominant gene.  Must be inherited by both parents in order for it to be expressed.
Dominant genes are written in capital letters “B“; recessive in lower case “b“.

Genotype: The inherited genes of a rabbit.

Phenotype: The physical appearance of a rabbit.

Homozygous: inheriting the same gene for a trait from each parent

Heterozygous: inheriting a different gene for the same trait from each parent.

An example of Dominant inheritance  - English Spotting  Gene “En”  
The broken gene only needs to be inherited from one parent for the gene to express itself.  Two self rabbits bred together can never produce a broken. (But do remember that a ruby eyed white may be hiding the broken gene!)

Broken x Self = 50% broken; 50% self
Broken x Broken = 50% broken, 25% self; 25% charlie
Broken x Charlie = 50% broken, 50% Charlie
Charlie x Self = 100% broken

An example of Dominant inheritance - Dwarfing Gene DW - The gene need only be inherited from one parent for the offspring to show the trait.  When 2 dwarfs are bred together, 25% of the litter will inherit the dwarfing gene from each parent.  This homozygous form of dwarfism is fatal (Dwarfing gene inherited from both parents).

Dwarf Buck: DW dw  bred to   Dwarf Doe: DW dw   
25% normal size (BUD or BUB)  dw dw  - 50% desired dwarf size DW dw  -
25% lethal homozygous dwarf (peanuts)  DW DW

An example of Recessive Inheritance (Albinism cc) - The gene must be inherited from both parents to show the trait:
If 2 black rabbits "C" are bred together which each carry the albino "c" gene, 25% of the litter will be black, 50% will be blacks that carry the recessive albino gene and 25% of the litter will be albino.
             Cc    x    Cc =    CC      Cc        Cc         cc

How genes determine the sex of a rabbit: 
Male XY  Female XX
Offspring will be 50% male & 50% female: XX XX XY XY

Genes can also be inherited in other complex modes that may combine effects or effect how other genes are expressed.  Some genes may also be expressed or controlled depending on the sex of the rabbit.

F1 (filial) generation - The first generation resulting from the cross of two unrelated lines or breeds.  Subsequent inbreeding produces each new generation subsequently numbered: F2, F3, F4, etc.  Rabbits are generally considered to be “purebred” by the 3rd filial generation when an entire 3 generation pedigree can be filled out.  This term is frequently used by LionHead breeders.

Tips for success!
Set goals for herd improvement.
Avoid “barn blindness” by having a friend help to evaluate your herd.
Breeding only the healthiest rabbits can help to produce a strain resistant to many diseases and parasites!
Using a top quality buck will have the fastest impact on your herd.
Good sanitation, excellent ventilation, fresh feed and water will enhance the quality of your herd.

Health Problems

Fly strike

Fly strike (a relatively rare condition in the United States) mostly affects rabbits kept in unsanitary conditions and is more likely to occur during summer months. Fly strike happens when flies (particularly the Bot fly) lay their eggs in the damp or soiled fur of a rabbit. Within 12 hours, the eggs hatch into the larvae stage of the fly, known as maggots. It is often a secondary condition to an open wound, extreme feces accumulation on the fur of rabbits due to unsanitary living conditions, prolonged contact with water or other environmental favorable to fly larvae. The maggots, initially small and almost invisible to the naked eye, can burrow into the skin of the rabbit and feed on the animals tissue. Within 3–4 days, the larvae can be large as 15 mm long. In rare cases, if not treated, the rabbit can pass into shock and die. Rabbits most susceptible are rabbits living in unsanitary housing, older rabbits who do not move much, and those who are unable to clean their bottom areas carefully. Rabbits raised on solid floors are more susceptible than rabbits raised on wire floors. Rabbits exhibiting one or more episodes of diarrhea are often inspected, especially during the summer months. In 2002, the medicine Rearguard was approved in the United Kingdom for a 10-week per-application prevention of Fly strike. Fly strike deaths are quick and extremely painful to the rabbit, as hundreds of larvae literally eat it alive.

Myxomatosis and West Nile Virus

Myxomatosis is a threat to the health of pet rabbits. Rabbits caged outdoors in Australia are vulnerable in areas with high numbers of mosquitoes. In Europe, fleas are the carriers of myxomatosis. In some countries, annual vaccinations against myxomatosis are available.

West Nile Virus is another threat to rabbits. There are no vaccinations against this virus and it is fatal. Recourse against the disease includes limiting the number of mosquitoes that are around pet rabbits.

Sore hocks

The formation of open sores on the rabbit's hocks, commonly called "sore hocks," is a problem that commonly afflicts mostly heavy-weight rabbits kept in cages with wire flooring or soiled solid flooring. The problem is most prevalent in rex-furred rabbits and heavy-weight rabbits (9+ pounds in weight). The condition results when, over the course of time, the protective bristle-like fur on the rabbit's hocks thins down. Standing urine or other unsanitary cage conditions can exacerbate the problem by irritating the sensitive skin. The exposed skin can result in tender areas or, in severe cases, open sores. The sores can become infected and abscessed if not properly cared for. The problem has a genetic component and animals exhibiting thin foot bristles should not be saved for breeding. Most rabbits can live safely on wire floors with the provision of a resting board or mat. Ultra heavy-weight breeds such as Flemish Giants or Checkered Giants are best raised on solid or partially solid flooring.

The House Rabbit Society recommends that rabbit cages with wire flooring be provided with a resting board in order to prevent this from occurring Alternatively, regular inspection can help head off the development of sore hocks.

Respiratory infections

An over-diagnosed ailment amongst rabbits is respiratory infection. Pasteurella bacteria, known colloquially as "snuffles," is usually misdiagnosed and has been known to be a factor in the overuse of antibiotics among rabbits.

A runny nose, for instance, can have several causes, among those being high temperature or humidity, extreme stress, environmental pollution (like perfume or incense), or a sinus infection. Options for treating this is removing the pollutant, lowering or raising the temperature accordingly, and medical treatment for sinus infections.

"Runny eyes" can be caused by dental disease or a blockage of the tear duct. Environmental pollution, corneal disease, entropion, distichiasis, or inflammation of the eyes are also causes. This is easy to diagnose as well as treat.

Sneezing can be a sign of environmental pollution (such as too much dust) or food allergy.

While Pasteurella is a bacterium that lives in a rabbit's respiratory tract, it can flourish out of control in some cases. In the rare event that happens, antibiotic treatment is necessary.

Head tilt/wry neck/Encephalitozoon cuniculi (E. cuniculi)

Inner ear infections, certain protozoans, strokes, or other diseases or injuries affecting the brain or inner ear can lead to a condition known as wry neck or "head tilt." Although a heavy infestation of ear mites, an ear infection or injury can result in these symptoms, the most common cause of these symptoms is the protozoan parasite E. cuniculi. This condition can be fatal, due to a disorientation that causes the animal to stop eating and drinking. The drugs of choice for treatment and prevention of E. cuniculi infections are the benzimidazole anthelmintics, particularly fenbendazole. In the UK, Panacur Rabbit (containing fenbendazole) is marketed and recommended as a nine day course to help contain this condition and is a simple oral paste to medicate at home. It is sold over the counter. Users in the US or other countries will need to consult with their veterinarians about use and dosage of fenbendazole.

Teeth problems

Dental disease has several causes, namely genetics, inappropriate diet, injury to the jaw, infection, or cancer.

  • Malocclusion: Rabbit teeth are open-rooted and continue to grow throughout their lives. In some rabbits, the teeth are not properly aligned, a condition called malocclusion. Because of the misaligned nature of the rabbit's teeth, there is no normal wear to control the length to which the teeth grow. There are three main causes of malocclusion, most commonly genetic predisposition, injury, or bacterial infection. In the case of congenital malocclusion, treatment usually involves veterinary visits in which the teeth are treated with a dental burr (a procedure called crown reduction or, more commonly, teeth clipping) or, in some cases, permanently removed.
  • Molar spurs: These are spurs that can dig into the rabbit's tongue and/or cheek causing pain. These can be filed down by an experienced veterinarian with a dental burr.

Signs of dental difficulty include difficulty eating, weight loss and small stools, anorexia, and visibly overgrown teeth. However, there are many other causes of ptyalism, including pain due to other causes.    A visit to an experienced rabbit veterinarian is strongly recommended in the case of a wet chin, or excessive grooming of the mouth area.

Gastrointestinal stasis

Gastrointestinal stasis is a serious and potentially fatal condition that occurs in some rabbits in which gut motility is severely reduced and possibly completely stopped. When untreated or improperly treated, GI stasis can be fatal in as little as 24 hours.

GI stasis is the condition of food not moving through the gut as quickly as normal. The gut contents may dehydrate and compact into a hard, immobile mass (impacted gut), blocking the digestive tract of the rabbit. Food in an immobile gut may also ferment, causing significant gas buildup and resultant gas pain for the rabbit.

The first noticeable symptom of GI stasis may be that the rabbit suddenly stops eating. Treatment frequently includes subcutaneous fluid therapy (rehydration through injection of saline solution under the skin), drugs for treatment of the buildup of gas in the digestive tract, massage to promote gas expulsion and comfort, possible drugs to promote gut motility, and careful monitoring of all inputs and outputs. The rabbit's diet may also be changed as part of treatment.

Some rabbits are more prone to GI stasis than others. The causes of GI stasis are not completely understood, but common contributing factors are thought to include:

  • a lack of fiber in the diet. Many pet rabbits do not get sufficient fresh grass hay, but are instead mistakenly fed only commercial alfalfa pellets originally developed for rapidly increasing mass in rabbits bred for meat.
  • insufficient moisture in the diet. Fresh, leafy greens are a critical part of a rabbit's diet in part because of their moisture content, which helps prevent the gut contents from becoming impacted.
  • lack of exercise. Rabbits confined to a cage frequently do not get the opportunity (or motivation) to run, jump, and play, which is critical in maintaining gut motility.

In addition, GI stasis can be caused by the rabbit not eating for other reasons, such as stress, dental problems, or other unrelated health problems.

GI stasis is sometimes misdiagnosed as cat-like "hair balls" by veterinarians not familiar with rabbit physiology. However, unlike cats, rabbits do not have the ability to vomit.

Veterinary Care

Rabbits visit the vet for routine check ups, vaccination and when ill or injured. Some veterinary surgeons have a special interest in rabbits and some have extra qualifications. In the UK the following post graduate qualifications demonstrate specialist training in rabbits: Certificate in Zoological Medicine, Diploma in Zoological Medicine and Recognised specialist in Rabbit Medicine and Surgery .

Routine checkups

Routine check ups usually involve assessment of weight, skin, health and teeth by the owner or a veterinarian. This is essential because a rabbit's health and welfare can be compromised by being overweight or underweight or by having dental problems. Checking the teeth is particularly important part of the examination as back teeth can only be seen with a otoscope. Veterinarians can also give personalised advice on diet and exercise.


Rabbits should be vaccinated against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease in the UK.  These vaccinations are usually given annually, two weeks apart. If there is an outbreak of Myxomatosis locally this vaccine can be administered every six months for extra protection .


Some vets now recommend worming all rabbits against the parasite Encephalitozoon Cuniculi. Some studies have indicated that in the UK over 50% of rabbits may be infected with this parasite. Fenbendazole is used as a de-worming agent in other species of animal and has shown to be effective in treating rabbits. In the UK it is now sold in paste form as a treatment for rabbits under the brand name Panacur. It is particularly recommended for rabbits kept in colonies and before mixing new rabbits with each other.

Ill or Injured

Rabbits should be taken to the vets if ill or injured beyond the ability of the owner to treat. It is important to seek urgent veterinary attention if a rabbit has any of the following symptoms: dramatic or sudden loss of appetite, severe depression, breathing problems, sudden onset of head tilt, signs of maggot infestation , not passing stools. Rabbits also need urgent veterinary attention if they are exposed to poisons, involved in an accidents, fall from a height or are exposed to smoke. Rabbits that are drooling, have unexplained weight loss, diarrhoea or fur loss should also be taken to the vets but it may be safe to wait until office hours. There are many other symptoms for which a rabbit requires veterinary attention.

The Eyes

The Eyes


     There are many different things that can effect the eyes. Please read each of these symptoms to find out what is wrong with your rabbit.


Weepy Eye/Pink Eye

     When the eye is watery and appears that the rabbit is crying. Fur is matted below the eyelid and down the cheek.   The best thing to do is to keep the eye clean and apply Terramycin eye ointment 2-3 times a day for a week. Neomycin Polymyxin, or Neobacimyx also works well with this, and can be used on young kits who have "Nest Box Eyes, or Sore eyes." This medicine is almost always used with eye diseases. 


Wall Eye/Moon Eye

     Glazed or cloudiness to the eyes around the pupil or cornea. Slow to respond to light. This is a genetic defect, and the rabbit should be culled if it is a breeder/showing rabbit. There is no cure for it, it is genetic.

Eye Injuries

     When you have any eye injury you need to take the rabbit to the vet to have it checked out. Any injury could result in blindness and the rabbit could be in extreme pain. Time and the right medicine may or may not correct this, but it will heal.

The Nose

The Nose


The nose is important when it comes to Snuffles and other Respiratory Diseases.



     Snuffles is like a cold for rabbits. The symptoms are, running nose and sneezing. This shouldn't be confused with the rabbit getting dust or water in its nose, they sneeze like us sometimes. Check the insides of its fronts paws. If the fur is matted together and wet, then it probably has snuffles. They use their paws to wipe their nose. Any rabbit breeder who has snuffles shouldn't try to cure it, because it can get very expensive and snuffles is a disease that spreads quickly and could wipe out a whole barn. If you do decide to treat snuffles, like if this is a pet. Try VetRx. It seems to work the best. But any rabbit who has snuffles if a threat to the whole herd. These rabbits should be culled, and their cage burned to clear away the disease. Water and food supplies should be cleaned or thrown out. If you manage to treat snuffles, there is a high chance of it returning. Snuffles could have life long effects on a rabbit, and most breeders who care for their animals agree, it would be best to put them out of their misery, than to have a life long "cold" that could damage them mentally or even kill them in the long run.



      This is when snuffles goes untreated or treatment isn't successful. Rabbits usually die at this stage. Pneumonia is an inflammation of lung tissue, resulting in reduced oxygen uptake by the blood. It also leads to poor weight gain, and rough coats. Rabbits that have their heads tipped back or show open-mouthed breathing often have it. Living in Florida, where it gets over 100 degrees in the summer, my rabbits often do that, tipping their heads back and breathing heavy, so this shouldn't be confused with pneumonia either. If you make a mistake and give a rabbit medicine, for which he does not need it, they will die.
Prevention agaisnt this and snuffles is cleaning the cages as often as they need it, and not allowing bacteria to form. Clean your cages! And don't allow the rabbit to become wet, or cold. Keep out drafts and try to keep the hutch calm. Stress often leads to many diseases and death.


Scabby Nose

     Scabs around the nose and mouth. May or may not have a discharge.  This is usually from a severe case of Vent Disease or Hutch burn and is contracted to the nose from the eating of night feces (which is normal) or cleaning. The use of antibiotic cream on the nose and area of hutch burn works the best. Vent disease is to be discussed on another page. This is all caused from poor sanitation.

The Mouth

The Mouth


Here I will cover the teeth and skin around the mouth, and tongue.



     Rabbits are often born with this. It is in their genetics. When the bottom set of teeth come up over the top, and split and eventually break off, this is a malocclusion. Breeders cull these rabbits since it is passed on to the next litter. This doesn't become life threatening unless the teeth make it where the rabbit can't eat. Some rabbits even have mild malocclusions where the teeth don't even grow long or split. Teeth should be clipped with nail clippers, or if you're a pet owner, take it to a professional. The teeth clip rather easier then you would think, but it is often hard to get the rabbit to sit still while you chop off it's teeth. There are rumors that this comes from inbreeding, but since I have bred mother to son, etc, I haven't seen it alot in my herd. I have never bred blood brother to blood sister before. Perhaps this is where it comes from, somewhere in the line?



Broken Teeth

      This is often from an injury from fighting, or from chewing on the cage or something else. This could sometimes lead to a Malocclusion. Teeth will probably need to be clipped, and the rabbit should be taken to a vet to be checked out.




      This is where the rabbit seems to be drooling and fur is matted and wet around the mouth and neck. This is often from an abcessed tooth. If the dewlap is what is wet, then this is probably Dermatitis. This is often with an older doe with a large dewlap (skin below the mouth on the neck) and it drags on the cage floor and gets into the water dish. The best thing to do, would be give her a water bottle instead. If you don't do this, she could end up getting infested with maggots and end up dying. The best thing is prevention. If however it is Slobbers, you must see a vet to get the tooth either clipped or surgically removed.



      This is from very poor sanitation. They are often found around the mouth and neck. It happens when the rabbit gets a cut or a score, bacteria invade the body and this sets in. These rabbits will die without treatment, but it is best to cull the animal and clean all your equiptment.


The Tongue

      The tongue rarely has anything to do with disease, other than mouth cancer, perhaps. When the tongue is blue, it is a sign of pneumonia. When doing an autopsy, soon after death, if the tongue is allready blue, then it was probably snuffles or pneumonia that killed the rabbit.

The Ears

The Ears


Summer Ears 

     Often babies in the summer who have to deal with heat, end up having longer ears. So most breeders try not to breed during the summer, unless they have them indoors or in a cooler spot.


Wry Neck

     This is where the head seems to be tilted to either side of the body and doesn't move, only turn more twisted. It is an infection of the middle ear and is kinda the same feeling to a human when you get water in your ear. There is no treatment for this, sometimes it can be straightened out with time. This is not a genetic disease and nothing would be wrong with the rabbit for pet or meat. Breeders cull these rabbits because they would not be good for breeding since when they walk, they often fall on their side from being so "twisted."


Ear Mites/Canker

     This is common, but I haven't had it yet. It is detected by a brownish color in the ear. Rabbits often scratch their head and shake their head violently. Mineral Oil can be used to kill the mites, or other medicines. Ear mites spread pretty fast and easily, so it is best to keep a rabbit confined from the rest of the herd if you decide to treat it.

Massive Bleeding and Cuts

Massive Bleeding and Cuts

      If a rabbit is bleeding BAD, try to stop the bleeding and take them to a vet. This could lead to death very quickly.

      Small cuts can be bandaged, and bleeding can be stopped by using corn starch, or various other blood stopping powders on the market. If you clip the quick (vein) while cutting the toenails or fingernails, get a paper towel and wrap it around and apply pressure to stop the bleeding.

Red Urine?

Red Urine?

      Many people have probably seen red urine in the bottom of the cage, and thought that the rabbit was bleeding or had some kind of internal injury. Well red urine is perfectly normal. Some rabbits get it often, and some never have it. Red urine is basically when the urine contains large amounts of calcium oxalate, and forms on the cage floor. Certain types of feed often cause this, such as alfalfa and Leucaena. So if you're worried about this, stop worrying. The rabbit is just getting rid of all that excess calcium from. It is often seen in the cooler months of the year. One thing to worry about, is if the rabbit is constantly showing red urine, he may have a kidney stone, or a tumor in the bladder. There is no treatment for this and it could be very painful. Take them to a vet if the red urine persists over a long period of time, just to be safe.

Skin and Fur

Skin and Fur



      Checking through the fur, you will be able to spot little black fleas running for cover. Also you maybe able to find a bunch of the small black pebbles bunched together. This is the eggs. Remove the eggs by cutting them out. You can use kitten or cat flea powder to get rid of the fleas. You can also completly shave the rabbit, but that would probably make it cold and lead to snuffles.




      This is probably Papillomatosis if they are around the mouth. It is a virus, and there is no cure. The rabbit should be culled and bedding burned, to keep it from having an outbreak. If the warts are not around the mouth, then it is probably nothing but a wart.




      This is more common in babies who are about a week to 2 weeks old who have been nesting in their own feces and urine. The best thing to do is to keep the nestbox clean and make sure the mother isn't soiling it. I get this alot with my Fuzzy Lops, I try to keep the boxes clean. Dirty nest boxes often lead to "Nest box eye" when the babies get to the age when their eyes open, their eyes are sealed shut and are filled with pus. Their eyes should be opened carefully and cleaned with warm water, and the nest box should be cleaned out and the hay gone. Babies should be out of the nest box, no later then 2 weeks of age.



Hutch Burn

     This isn't a disease, just a condition seen in older rabbits. It's sometimes confused with rabbit syphilis, and is hard to differentiate without a microscope. The fur around the bottom falls off to the skin. Urine stains are usually on the rabbit, and the strong smell of it everywhere. If the fur is still on the rabbit, it will usually be wet. This often comes from the use of urine guards. They may sound good, but often times the urine bounces back up to the cage, onto the rabbit, causing this. Other times it is a very messy rabbit who goes on himself. Very dirty cages can also cause this when they have wet floors. Antibiotic ointments seem to work well on this but the condition will keep returning if the cages aren't cleaned. If it is from the urine guards, remove them or get a new cage without them.  If left untreated, it could very well lead to disease and mass infection and maggots everywhere. (ew.)



Fur Loss

     This could be from the rabbit pulling their own fur out, for different reasons. It could be because they are hot, or in does, a false pregnancy, where they think they are pregnant and attempt to make a nest with the fur from their chest and belly.  If there are alot of rabbits in one cage they usually pull the fur off of eachother. Often times if they aren't getting enough fiber they eat their own fur and others fur to get it. It could also be a sign of Hutch burn if the remaining fur is urine soaked. Increase the fiber, keep rabbits seperated, and always keep the cages clean.

All other Digestive Diseases

All other Digestive Diseases



      This is a parasite that attacks the digestive tract. There are 2 forms. The first is the Intestinal Form. The signs are Diarrhea, poor weight gain, poor flesh and fur condition, and is pot bellied. The second form is the Hepatic Form. The signs are Diarrhea, poor flesh and fur condition and large white spots on the liver. The treatment for both forms is the use of coccidicide on a regular basis. To prevent this, you must use excellent sanitation.




There are 4 forms:

1. Mucoid: The signs are pot bellied, diarrhea and death. They often sit with their feet in the water dish. This form is more common in meat rabbits. They won't eat and often grind their teeth.

2. Intestinal coccidia: this is Coccidiosis.

3. Tyzzer's Disease: Diarrhea, rapid loss in flesh condition, and death within 1-3 days. This is more common in 3-8 week old kits. I had a 5 year old doe die from this before. She was my first rabbit. It taught me to keep my cages clean.

4. Enterotoxemia: Acute diarrhea and death in 24 hours.

     The treatment for all kinds of Enteritis is keeping the cages well kept and clean, reducing stress in the hutch and using a diet with more fiber.



     Pin worms, Tapeworms, Whipworms, these all rarely show signs. If there are signs, it's poor flesh condition and growth rate. In whipworms, the feces have blood on them. Diarrhea is also a sign. The use of a wormer and strict sanitation is the only way to prevent, cure this. Also keep other animals out of the hutch.

My Rabbit isn't eating!

My rabbit isn't eating!


Wool Block

     This is mainly seen in Fuzzy rabbits. It is a collection of fur in their stomach. Since rabbits can't vomit, they get hairballs sometimes. The best way to prevent this is to keep them well groomed, and increase fiber intake. When I get wool block I use a small dose of mineral oil to "grease things up" inside and allow them to defecate it out. I use a syringe to get them to swallow it.


Bad Feed

     It could be bad feed. Check the pellets and make sure they smell fresh and have the greenish color to them. Are the other rabbits eating them? Diarrhea is another sign of the feed being bad. I had this happen to me once as well. I used the same method as above with the mineral oil, to wash out their system and I threw out the feed. Always check the pellets. For the best feed check out the help page I have on Feeding to get the right amount of nutrition for your rabbit.  If your rabbit isn't eating, and it's not wool block, it could be a sign of serious illness.


     This could be a huge problem and be a sign of many illnesses. So it is best to make sure the rabbit doesn't have any other signs before you judge what is has. First of all, diarrhea is often caused from bad feed. I have found mineral oil in small doses, wipes the diarrhea out really fast. I also feed rabbits hay and oatmeal when they have it, to try and give them more fiber because often they won't want to eat pellets.
Make sure the rabbit has plenty of water so they don't dehydrate.
Diarreha is very hard to clear up and if none of this works, go to a vet or ask for professional help, because if this stuff doesn't work, it is probably a much worse disease. Such as Enterotoxemia.



      has the following signs: profuse diarrhea, dehydration, reduced feed intake, and a rough coat. The rabbits die very quickly usually within 12-24 hours. The problem is usually an enlarged small intestine and the wall of the cecum is hemorrhaged. Bacteria is one of the causes of this disease, and it comes from poor sanitation. Also diets that are low in fiber and high in energy have this problem more. It is said that Enterotoxemia strikes a rabbity, disapears and strikes at a later date when you think it is gone. The most successful treatment is to change feeds, and keep the cages clean, but often it is too late.



All of these can be prevented from proper sanitation.


     Pin worms, Tapeworms, Whipworms, these all rarely show signs. If there are signs, it's poor flesh condition and growth rate. In whipworms, the feces have blood on them. Pin worms will show by having little flecks of white specs in the feces. I use Wazine/Piperazine as a preventative measure against Pin Worms. Diarrhea is also a sign. The use of a wormer and strict sanitation is the only way to prevent, cure this. Also keep other animals out of the hutch.


Fly Strike

     The flies lay their eggs on anything that's decaying or a cut on a rabbit. The eggs turn to maggots and only in hours begin to feed on the animal and kill it. Cleaning the rabbit pens will prevent fly problems. Also dead babies in nest boxes also attract flies, so check your boxes.   The flies are attracted to any damp area, so try to keep things dry and clean, and the area should be free of weeds. If there's a compost pile, move it far away from the hutch or cover it up with a tarp. Once a rabbit has fly strike, the wounds need to be cleaned and disinfected. Apply antibiotic ointment and keep the rabbit inside. Clean the area he/she was in and check anyone else for fly strike.


External Parasites


There are 5 external parasites:

1. "Warbles" have these signs: swelling or an isolated "lump" around the neck and/or shoulders. This shouldn't be confused with an abcess. This is from a Botfly. I would advise to take a rabbit with this to a vet so the parasite can be removed. Keep flies out of the hutch.

2. Loss of hair in a circular pattern is a sign of Ring Worm. It is more common on the feet and legs on young rabbits, and for adults it can be anywhere. It is a fungus that IS contagious to humans. I suggest to cull these animals, but if you want to save it, isolate him from the herd and treat him with iodine on the infected area(s).
3. Fur loss around the face, neck and back are a sign of fur mites. Cat flea powder can be used to kill them.

4. Mange Mite Infestation causes the rabbit to scratch itself constantly, and it often leads to head trama from shaking its head. Loss of hair on the chin, head, neck and base of the ears are also present. You're supposed to treat it with 7.5% Chloroform & 0.12% Rotenone or 0.5% Malathion containing dust. I would seek out a vet first.

5. Ear Mites (Ear canker) is infecting the rabbit if its shaking its head, and scratching its ears and has a scabby formation inside the ears. Use oil in the ear for 3 days to kill them. Treat both ears, even if only one is infected.



      This is a parasite that attacks the digestive tract. There are 2 forms. The first is the Intestinal Form. The signs are Diarrhea, poor weight gain, poor flesh and fur condition, and is pot bellied. The second form is the Hepatic Form. The signs are Diarrhea, poor flesh and fur condition and large white spots on the liver. The treatment for both forms is the use of coccidicide on a regular basis. To prevent this, you must use excellent sanitation.


Abnormal Parasite

     This is a migration of parasite larva in the central nervous system. There are no signs until the rabbit is paralyzed. There is no treatment, and it's best to but the rabbit down, rather to have it live in a vegetable state. The prevention is controlling urine contamination in the rabbitry.

Skeletal Problems

Skeletal Problems


Broken Bones

     A broken fingernail or a toe should heal on its own. (Unless it's a compound fracture where bone is sticking out of the skin.) A broken arm or leg needs medical attention. These rabbits should be rushed to the vet so they can properly set the bone to heal. If it is left go, it's possible for the rabbit to go into shock and die.


Broken Back

     This is spotted when a rabbit is dragging its hind feet. The rabbit may or may not have feeling in his feet or legs, and can't control them. I've had this more in kits from the mothers stepping on the young. They still make excellent pets if you're able to care for them. Sometimes if it's bad enough, they loose control of their bowels and bladder. Most of the time they don't seem to be in pain. In older rabbits or even young juniors, this can happen with rough handling or stress. If there is a loud noise, they can jump and end up breaking their back. The best way to prevent this in older rabbits is to keep stress out of the hutch and learn to handle them better. In babies, it's often hard to keep the mother from stepping on them. I usually separate babies and moms and only let her feed them once a day till they are old enough to be weaned. I haven't had one broken back since I started doing this.


Splay Legs

     This is a genetic disease and these rabbits should be culled. The hind legs of the rabbit stick out to the side. The rabbit isn't paralyzed, it just can't use its legs to sit on. It gets around by using its front paws and belly to wiggle around. In worse cases, the front and back legs are affected and the rabbit usually can't move at all. Splay legs are also a result in a broken leg from in the nest box, when it occurs here, it is not genetic.


"Wire Tail"

     This is rare but it is a genetic disease, like splay legs. The tail of the rabbit doesn't stick erect and agaisnt the rump. Instead it twists to the side, often with the tip pointing down. Injuries may also cause this. If the tail is broken, the rabbits back may also be broken since the tail and backbone are connected.

Heat Stroke Help

Heat Stroke Help


Heat Stroke

     A rabbit who has heat stroke will die if they are not cooled down quickly. But if you cool them down too quickly they could go into shock.

      In the early stages of heat stroke, the rabbit will lay in its cage, stretched out, breathing heavy. They will often tilt their up upward and breath heavy. I have also noticed that rabbits in heavy heat will sweat from around the nose, and it almost looks like snuffles, but it's not.
As heat stroke gets worse, they will become lazy and unresponsive. Sometimes they will turn blue around the nose. When this happens, they are very close to death.


Treatment of Heat Stroke
     Take the rabbit inside, or somewhere cool immediatly. Give him water with ice in it. Crush the ice if you can and try to put some of the ice water up to his mouth and bathe his ears and face in it. Don't get it up his nose though or he may become sick later on.


     If this still doesn't work, fill up the sink and place him in room temperature water for a couple of seconds. Take him out and dry him off as best as you can. Try to keep the ears cool. The ears to a rabbit is like our foreheads when we have a temperature. If they are really hot, the rabbit is probably hot.

     If this still doesn't work, your rabbit maybe dehydrated and will need to see a vet. If you waste time trying to use some of these steps when they are clearly not working, the rabbits life will slip away. For pet owners who are not experienced with animals, I would say to wet a towel, wrap the rabbit in it, bring it ice and water to drink on the way, and rush as soon as possible to the vet.

Basic ways to Prevent Disease

Basic ways to Prevent Disease

These are things that I do (as well as many other good breeders) to prevent disease and other health problems in the rabbitry. It would be good to read through them and practice them yourself.


General Preventative Health Care
1. Worm your rabbits. I use Piperazine/Wazine frequently to prevent little white worms that look like flecks of white in perfectly formed feces. Once you start using this, your rabbit gains excellent flesh condition and the white flecks go away. It makes a huge difference, as the worms rob the rabbit of much needed nutrition.

2. Keep things clean! This is just common sense. You don't need to scrub and disinfect everything weekly (although if you feel you must; it doesn't hurt anything to!) Basically the cleaner you can keep your rabbitry and cages the better!

3. Use the correct medications before small things turn into a problem. Use neosporin or an injection of penicillin to ward off disease from gashes, to vent disease, etc. I've seen extreme cases of vent disease clear up overnight from one injection of penicillin! The stuff is a invaluable to keep in your barn! (Or refrigerator of course.)

4. To keep babies alive, before coccidises infects them, use a water treatment like terramycin powder. This will keep them from getting the disease and will save your litters. Do it BEFORE signs show, as usually when the signs show up, it is too late.

5. If your barn has lots of flies, use some sort of fly killer spray that is safe for the rabbits. I purchased on from KW Cages that releases every hour a mist that takes care of my 12x12 barn. The sprayer cost me about $35 and refills are under $10 and last for the entire month. It works very well. Cutting down flies means less maggots, less bad smells, and far less chance of fly strike.



Saving those babies in the winter

      If you live in a place that goes under 20 degrees I would recommend bringing the nest boxes in with young babies (especially in those cases where you have only 2-3 babies in a litter.) Smaller litters generate less heat then that of a litter of 6-8 babies, so they are more prone to freeze. To be on the safe side, bring them inside overnight (away from any cats or dogs.) When you feed in the morning, put the nest box back in the cage. Usually the does will jump in immediately to check on the babies and feed them. If it's warmer now (above 30 degrees) you should be safe leaving them in the barn until the evening. This has saved me countless litters.


Keeping cool in the summer

      I've probably already mentioned this, but it is recommended that you use frozen water bottles in the summer. One per each rabbit when about 90 degrees. The rabbits can lay against them to cool off and drink the cool water that forms on the outside of the bottle. If you have fans running it helps a lot as well.
Keep the barn clean with as much manure removed as possible. Manure generates more heat!

      I've never used one but a lot of places sell setups to "mist" your rabbits in the heat. This sounds good, but a cheaper way to do it is to get a spray bottle and spray their ears and head with some water. This will help them cool down a lot and they do learn to appreciate it!