Health Check Procedure using Elmo as my subject
It is important to handle your bunny every day, especially if you intend to show it. Judges love to pick up a gentle placid bunny which they can handle without the bunny kicking and struggling to escape from them. By daily handling and carrying out a health check at least twice a week on your bunny will not only ensure that your bunny remains gentle and placid it will serve to let you know immediately if there is some change in him or her. Now to carry out a health check on your bunny/s.
Firstly, give your bunny a cuddle to make sure that he or she is happy and relaxed. Make sure that you are in good lighting (natural daylight is best) so that you can examine him/her fully. You start with the head of your bunny and gradually work your way down its body starting with the ears.
The first step is to place your fingers gently between your bunny's ears and your other hand under its rump as shown in the picture above.
The second step is to tilt the bunny over tummy side up in a horizontal position as shown in the above picture
And the final step is to lay your bunny between your arm and body where it can be held immobile by applying gentle pressure.
Now you are ready to proceed with the health check or administer any medicines and/or orally feed your bunny who is not eating or drinking. See pic below
Ears - examine inside the ears for wax build-up or signs of ear mites, nicks, tears, or missing pieces and gently clean them with a cotton bud dipped in olive oil to remove any dirt if any is present.
Eyes - look for bold, bright eyes. Wipe away any build up in the corner of the eye. Check for weepy eye, filming or milky appearance over the cornea, and specks or spots on the eye, making sure that your show bunny has the right coloured eyes.
Nose - examine the nostrils to see that they are clear from any snot and the inside of the front legs and paws for roughened fur which is a sure sign that your bunny has been wiping a snotty nose.
Teeth - check for a normal bite with the upper incisors overlapping the bottom incisors. If they are crooked and don't meet properly then your bunny has what is termed 'malocclusion'. This is hereditary in some bunnies and when you find it in your bunny please do not breed with him as this will only produce more bunnies with the same problem. Malocclusion can also be caused by your bunny biting and pulling on the wire of his cage.
Toenails - clip the toenails checking for white, mismatched or missing toenails. Make sure that you don't clip below the quick as not only will it hurt your bunny but your bunny's toenail will bleed profusely.
Footpads - check to see that they are all healthy with no signs of sore hocks. Sore hocks are bare patches on the footpads, caused by pressure sores due to several things such as not giving your bunny enough exercise, cramped living quarters, unclipped nails, and not cleaning the cage regularly making your bunny sleep in a dirty smelly bed.
Fur - well conditioned, quality fur should have a good roll back. Roll back is a gradual return of the coat to a normal position when it is stroked from the hindquarters to the shoulders. Remove any excess fur by brushing. If your rabbit is in a moult, dampen your hands with water and rub the fur in the opposite direction or use disposable rubber gloves which do the same job. This will pull a great deal of the loose fur out. Then brush it back into place. Look for signs of mange, fleas, mites any type of scale, dandruff or fungus and treat if found. Examine the entire body for foreign coloured spots in the fur
Genitals - examine the genitals for any signs of infection or soreness and make sure that the bucks have their full 'equipment'. Remove any excess faeces which may be stuck to the fur by gently bathing it's bottom until the faeces loosens up and can be gently combed out of the fur. Make sure that you rinse the bottom off when you have removed the dirt and towel dry.
General Condition/Body Structure - go over the body with your hands checking for healthy, firm flesh condition. Feel for any signs of abscesses, tumours and palpate to check for a furball. (See full facts on furball page) Run your hands along the rabbits belly feeling for ruptures or hernias.
Treatment for worms/parasites - I used to use Sulphur Quin® at 3mls per 600ml bottle of water every three months, then use other products on a rotating system so that the worms/parasites don't build up immunity to the treatment. eg. cat worming paste. Weigh your bunny first and dose them according to the dosage for kittens.
Most rabbits enjoy all the attention, especially the breeding stock that doesn't get as much attention as their show siblings. Your younger bunnies can sometimes get a bit jumpy if you haven't handled them a lot, but a firm, gentle hand will usually teach them who the boss is and they will calm down when you give them a cuddle and talk softly to them. It's very important to pay close attention to the health of ALL your rabbits, not just the show rabbits. After you get them all groomed, it's a good opportunity to take pictures like I do. Enjoy.