One of the biggest mistakes novice rabbit owners make happens at pickup. Rabbits, like any animal, must be checked for disease or health problems regularly, but most importantly at sale time. However, from as an experienced breeder I have noticed that most buyers never check their rabbit. Unfortunately, while most are, not all rabbit breeders or pet owners are honest or informed about proper rabbit care and health. As a buyer, it is your responsibility to inspect the rabbit before sale and be informed about potential rabbit diseases. This article will discuss the steps of examining a rabbit before sale.
**One last note, never feel pressured to buy a sick rabbit! It will only be a financial drain and will probably cause emotional pain. Be smart and be patient when looking for the perfect rabbit and take the time to find a responsible breeder.
What to Look For:
When buying a bunny, there are six important areas to examine before bringing a new bunny home. To inspect a new rabbit, pick it up and begin the following step-by-step examination.
- The Fur: The fur and skin should always be checked. First, ask yourself whether the fur looks full and glossy, if you are buying rabbit in molt, be aware that the fur may not be at its prettiest. Then, run your hands through the fur and over the majority of the body taking special care to examine the triangle at the base of the ears. Look for scabs, dandruff, abscesses, or other abnormalities which are indicators of fleas, ticks, mites, syphilis, or other such diseases.
- The Ears: Next, look inside the ears for scabs, this is an indicator of ear mites. Although not necessarily a deal breaker, it is important to be aware of so that if you decide to buy the rabbit anyway you are able to begin treatment immediately. (For information on how to treat ear mites, read our article on Treating Ear Mites)
- The Eyes: Check the eyes, they should be bright and clear without drainage or fur loss. If the pupil appears to be whitish the rabbit may be developing cataracts. (This is especially important to check for in older rabbits.)
- The Nose: The nose should be dry without white or yellow snot. If the nose seems slightly wet, check the inside fur on the front legs. If there is stained or matted fur on the front legs, it could be an indicator of a respiratory disease. If the rabbit is breathing heavily or there is snot in the nostril in addition to the prior signs, do not buy the rabbit.
- The Tail, Belly, and Genitals: To check the underside of the rabbit, flip the rabbit over or ask the owner to do it while you inspect. Check for urine or diarrhea stains and matted fur; the bunny’s backside should be clear. If the fur is matted, this could be an indicator of other health problems such as diarrhea. However, keep in mind that some rabbits, light-coated bucks in particular, like to spray and are hard to keep clean, even in the care of professional breeders. Lastly, check the genitals, they should be light pink, without swelling, signs of irritation, or scabbing. If you see anything that concerns you, ask the breeder.
- The Feet and Nails: Lastly, check the feet. They should be well furred and fairly clean without scabbing, which is an indicator of sore hocks. Although sore hocks are not a deal breaker, you should ask the breeder about how they are caring for the bunny’s feet and if the rabbit has a resting board. After checking the fur, check the nails. They should be straight, fairly short, and recently cut.