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  • Writer's pictureGray Bunny Grower

Why Rabbits Don't Have Guarantees

If you've ever purchased a dog or cat from a breeder, there are some things you should be able to count on:

  • Health checked by a Licensed Vet

  • Health clearances of parents as appropriate by breed/species

  • First vaccinations given

With rabbits, that's simply not the case. Rabbits are livestock so the laws are a bit different than for companion animals. There are no requirements for health checks, there are no vaccinations to be given (with the exception of RHDV/RHDV2 in some states though this is not common), there are no clearance tests to certify parents as clear for anything.

Baby bunny
3 Week Old Flemish Giant / Giant Chinchilla Doe

There is a distinct lack of rabbit savvy Veterinarians in the U.S. (and other countries as well) which further complicates the issue as it's quite common for a non-rabbit savvy Vet to recommend treatment that is dangerous to rabbits. (This is in NO way a bashing of Veterinarians, they have extremely difficult jobs, are severely overworked, and are trying to help in every case, but no one knows everything and lagomorphs can be complicated).

Rabbits can be fragile creatures and there are too many things that can happen, and happen quickly, that are 100% outside of the breeders control once they leave our hands such as:

INJURIES - Rabbits are a prey animal with long backs and powerful legs. This enables them to power themselves forward (or out of your arms) at significant velocity and with no warning when frightened or startled. If in a cage (even being transported home) this can result in broken bones, back injury or break, and/or other injuries.

ILLNESS - There are many things that fall under the title of "illness" such as:

  • GI Stasis

  • Pasteurella

  • Bordetella

  • Coccidiosis

  • E. Cuniculi

  • Myxomatosis

  • RHDV

  • RHDV2

  • Ear mites

  • Fur mites

  • Accidental Poisoning

The above is not an exhaustive list, but gives you an idea of things that can happen. Some of these can kill a rabbit within hours of exposure and there is no way to accurately predict exposure. I often see new owners bashing a breeder on social media for a rabbit they had for a week who died of suspected RHDV and while I understand the trauma of losing the new bunny so quickly - there's simply no way the breeder can be responsible for the loss.

A child being 'helpful' fills new bunny's enclosure with mounds and mounds of weeds/lettuce/etc. and bunny develops diarrhea, lethargy, etc. There is nothing the breeder can do except try to help you get bunny through it and hope they make it. As stated previously, rabbits have sensitive GI tracts and copious amounts of a new food (or even a familiar one depending on the food) can rapidly result in the death of your new bunny.

You've had bunny for 2 days - it's the 4th of July and your neighbor decides to have a fireworks show. Your newly acquired bunny panics and dies suddenly. This is most likely to be a heart attack. Rabbits are prey animals and things like being chased by a dog or cat, fireworks, severe storms, etc. can cause them to have heart attacks. It is NOT common, but it does happen. Our rabbits are used to loud noises from tractors and machinery, dogs barking, and even fireworks (my neighbor does them multiple times per year) and I have never lost a rabbit to a heart attack, but it doesn't mean it can't happen. And if it does, there would have been no way to predict or prevent it.

You've had bunny for a week and suddenly she has thick white snot coming from her nose. The suspected illness is Pasteurella, but it could be Bordetella or several others. Your instinct is to blame the breeder, and even other breeders will sometimes blame the breeder. The unfortunate thing is that there's simply no way to know. If it is Pasteurella (also called Snuffles) it can show symptoms within hours of bunny's exposure to it. Could it have been present beforehand? Yes. It is estimated that over 60% of all domestic rabbits carry Pasteurella with no outward signs of infection. Some will never show any symptoms of disease until sufficiently stressed. Even swab tests to check your rabbits can yield false negatives as well as false positives and most Vets do not recommend doing swabs on rabbits with no symptoms for exactly this reason. So if the breeder never had a problem (and white snot is kind of hard to miss), it is unreasonable to blame the breeder. (Note* if your pet bunny ever does develop this very common illness, it is quite treatable by a Vet, particularly if seen as soon as symptoms present. It is usually only fatal if left too long without treatment or untreated entirely. If you are a breeder this rabbit should be removed from the rabbitry immediately as it would now be a known carrier.)

Most breeders very much want you to be happy with your new family member. Not only because word of mouth and social media posts can be detrimental, but because we genuinely want you to be happy and we want the rabbit to have a happy new life, but we simply can't be liable for a rabbit becoming ill or even dying after leaving our hands. There is just too much that can happen and we aren't psychic. When bunny appeared 100% healthy when it left with you - there's just nothing we could have done.

I get tons of updates from many families who have added our rabbits (often more than one) to their family or breeding program and they are the highlight of my day! There is nothing I love more than adorable pictures of rabbits and I always feel privileged to watch them grow up in their new homes. To date - we have never had one of our rabbits fall ill after leaving our hands. All rabbits have made it to their new homes and adjusted well. We pride ourselves on raising healthy, extra large, friendly rabbits that make an excellent addition to your life. But they are animals and animals do get sick, no matter how hard we try to prevent it.

There are unscrupulous breeders in the world though, so it's important to be an informer buyer. Please read the post "Is This Rabbit Healthy" to learn more.


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