Rabbits have an average life expectancy of 10 to 12 years, but with excellent care, they can live up to 15 years.
Most rabbits that cross the age of four years are considered to be aging.
Rabbits that live outdoors and those that are used for breeding die younger. As they age, rabbits start developing certain medical conditions that cause their health to deteriorate.
What Medical Conditions Do Rabbits Suffer From as They Age?
As they age, rabbits can develop many health conditions. Some of these can be quite painful for rabbits and should be caught early and managed.
If left untreated, it can decrease your rabbit’s life expectancy, and you would get fewer years with your rabbit.
Since rabbits are unable to care for themselves, it is important that you watch out for any unusual signs.
If you notice some behavioral changes in your rabbit, speak to the vet.
In case of any medical condition, early treatment is the most effective.
Arthritis is a painful and degenerative condition of the joints present between bones.
There is a piece of cartilage lining each joint to provide a cushioning effect. Cartilage prevents the joints from rubbing against each other and causing friction which can be damaging for the joints.
Rabbits suffering from arthritis have damaged or a lack of cartilage in between their joints. This causes the joints to swell up and become inflamed.
This is a very painful condition of the joints and can cause severe stiffness and difficulty in moving around and bending the affected hand or foot.
As rabbits age, they tend to develop kidney and urinary tract problems. These include bladder infections, bladder stones, urinary incontinence, and kidney failure.
Bladder stones are excruciatingly painful for rabbits and can make them extremely uncomfortable. They may lose their appetite and become inactive.
Observing your rabbit can help you diagnose kidney problems in your rabbit. They may present with:
- Straining while using the litter box
- Very little pee
- Peeing frequently
- Foul-smelling urine
- Blood in the urine
- Weakness and lethargy
- Pain and discomfort
- Weight loss
All these conditions can be very painful for your pet rabbit and may cause your rabbit to become severely ill.
If not treated quickly, kidney disease can progress and may result in your rabbit’s death.
Dental problems are very common in rabbits and may start very early on in a rabbit’s life.
Rabbits may start experiencing dental problems as early as 4 years of age.
Signs and Symptoms of Dental Disease in Rabbits:
- Lack of appetite or selective appetite
- Hyper salivating
- Bad breath
- Grinding their teeth together
- Discharge from nose and eyes
If you notice any of these symptoms in your rabbit, you must take them to the vet for a proper dental examination.
What Are the Signs of Ageing in Rabbits?
As your rabbit begins to age, it will start displaying the following signs and symptoms:
You may notice signs of graying on your rabbit’s coat. White hair is most noticeable first behind its ears.
The hair on its coat will start becoming coarse and won’t be as silky and shiny as before.
It may start to thin out and shed in places as well.
The rabbit will become much less active. It won’t be interested in playing the same games as before or jumping and hopping around as much as it would before.
The rabbit will prefer to sleep for longer hours and take more frequent naps. This is because it will tire easily and will want to rest.
Often rabbits suffering from arthritis have very painful joints, and due to that, they prefer to rest and not be as mobile as before due to the pain and discomfort.
An aging rabbit’s appetite may increase or decrease suddenly. Most commonly, rabbits tend to lose their appetite as they age, and they also lose muscle mass.
In this case, it is important to visit the vet and ask them what dietary changes should be made to help your aging rabbit.
It is best to incorporate foods rich in fiber content to maintain a healthy gut in the rabbit. Green leafy vegetables are a great source of nutrients for rabbits.
Remember that any time you make a change in the rabbit’s diet, its stool will also be affected accordingly. Make sure to note anything that is out of the ordinary.
If the appetite increases, they might start gaining a lot of weight. While fat rabbits look cuddly and cute, it is not exactly a healthy state for the rabbit to be in.
Also read: Is My Rabbit Blind? How to Know!
How to Care For Older Rabbits?
Here are some ways that you can care for your older rabbit to make sure that it lives a long and healthy life.
Regular Visits to the Vet
It is essential to take your pet rabbit to the vet regularly. This should be done at least once or twice a year as your rabbit begins to show signs of aging.
The vet will do a thorough clinical examination of your rabbit and run tests for any underlying medical conditions.
Any other health conditions will also be monitored to make sure that your rabbit lives a long and healthy life.
Keep a Check on Their Diet
Whatever your rabbit eats directly affects its gut, its teeth, and its fecal matter.
The vet will examine your rabbit’s teeth, and assess its weight along with its general health. Then, they will recommend any changes that may be required in its diet.
If your rabbit is underweight or overweight, the vet will recommend how to change its diet.
Keep a Check on Nails
As your bunny ages, its nails tend to become thicker and curl outwards. This can be very painful for your rabbit, and so it is important to keep your rabbit’s nails neat and trimmed regularly.
Sometimes, calluses develop on the rabbit’s nail beds as they age
Rabbits may get sores or cuts on the bottom of their paws, which can become infected with dirt and require cleaning and dressing.
A vet can clean the cuts and wounds and dress them with a bandage so that the rabbit is able to walk around with ease.
Keep a Check on Your Bunny’s Eyes, Ears, and Nose
As your bunny ages, many age-related changes occur in its body. This includes its eyes, ears, and nose as well. With age, a bunny’s eyes can develop cataracts.
These are small imperfections on the surface of the lenses which can cause disruptions in the rabbit’s vision.
There may also be watery discharge from their eye, or you may notice streaks on the corner of their eyes.
The rabbit may have trouble opening or closing its eyes. Younger rabbits have bright and clear eyes with no discharge.
If you notice a yellow or green discharge coming out of your rabbit’s nose, then you may want to take it to the vet for a checkup.
If your rabbit is sneezing, it may have caught a cold and would need to be treated accordingly. A healthy rabbit should have clean and fresh nostrils free from any discharge.
As your bunny ages, it will start to lose its sense of hearing just as humans do as they age. In a bunny with strained hearing abilities, it is important not to approach them from behind or startle them.
Check its Heart and Lungs
A stethoscope can be used to check the bunny’s lungs for signs of normal and clear breathing sounds.
Heart sound should be checked, and heart rate should be measured. This will help you make sure that your bunny’s heart and lung health are in good condition.
Ensure a Healthy Diet for Your Rabbit
Rabbits have primarily herbivorous and live on a plant-based diet. Rabbits need to graze constantly.
If rabbits are made to starve and aren’t fed for more than 12 hours, they undergo a dangerous medical condition called GI Stasis.
This causes the slowing down or absolute halt of food along the intestinal tract. This results in a build-up of bacteria in the intestinal tract and an accumulation of gases inside the rabbit’s gut.
There is a further decrease in the rabbit’s appetite and causes the rabbit to hunch and suffer from abdominal pain and vomiting. If left untreated, this condition can be fatal.
Make sure to keep changing your rabbit’s water dish and filling it with clean and fresh water. Encourage your rabbit to drink enough water to prevent dehydration.
Tender Love And Care
Most importantly, all rabbits need your love, care, and affection. The healthiest rabbits might fall ill if they were scolded or mistreated by their owners.
Rabbits are very sensitive creatures. They become familiar and fond of their owners over time.
As rabbits age, they may become slower and less active and may suffer from health conditions that may result in them peeing and pooping in inappropriate places accidentally.
Try not to lose your patience or be harsh with your rabbit. Rather be understanding and patient and treat your senior rabbit with love and care.
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