Blog

July 15, 2022

How to Support Your Senior Rabbit

Written by Patricia Larson, LVT

With all the advances in nutrition and veterinary care, our rabbit friends are living longer than ever before. With this new longevity, it is imperative to know how to care for your rabbit as they grow older and their needs begin to change.  

Rabbits reach their senior years around age 5, but this may be earlier for giant breeds or later for your dwarf breeds. Your veterinarian is the best resource to help determine when your bunny is officially a senior. 

Common signs of advanced age in rabbits include:  

  • Less active and more prone to obesity 
  • Thinning fur or developing a salt & pepper coat 
  • Decreased muscle mass and resulting weight loss 
  • Cataracts 
  • Arthritis 
  • Sore hocks  

The Importance of Providing Age-Appropriate Nutrition 

Providing the best possible premium nutrition for your senior bunny is one of the most important steps you can take to support their aging bodies. Foods that target common aging issues help your rabbit live a long and healthy life, free of pain and discomfort.  

Like their youthful counterparts, seniors need higher amounts of protein and calcium to support aging muscles, bones, and teeth. Antioxidants help protect aging cells from free radicals in the body, lessening the damage they cause. As the old adage goes, “You are what you eat.”  

Oxbow Essentials Senior Rabbit Food Highlights: 

  • Made with Alfalfa 
  • Higher protein and amino acids to help prevent loss of muscle mass 
  • Extra Calcium to support muscle mass, bone health, and dental maintenance 
  • Contains natural antioxidants to help common health concerns associated with aging 
  • Turmeric Powder- Contains curcumin and carotenoids that have anti-inflammatory properties and help alleviate chronic pain 
  • Ginger Root- Contains gingerols which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to reduce inflammation and pain. 
  • Chamomile- Contains terpenoids, apigenin, quercentin, and luteolin which contain anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties. 

Other Ways to Provide Antioxidants for Your Senior Bunny 

  • Provide plenty of fresh greens and veggies.  If you’re unsure of which varieties to offer, be sure to check out our complete list of rabbit-friendly greens and veggies.  
  • Mix our Botanical Hay into other hay varieties to provide an antioxidant boost with the added chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, and clover. 

Support With Help of Supplements  

Our Natural Science Supplements can provide added support to aging body systems and can provide assistance with system-specific problems associated with aging. Speak to your vet about whether one or more of these specially designed snacks may be beneficial to support your senior bunny! 

Multi-Vitamin 

  • For pets during times of stress or with chronic health issues. 
  • Active ingredients include: 
    • Vitamins A,C,D,E, and B-Complex support optimal health & well being 
    • Flaxseed provides beneficial Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids 
    • DHA supports overall brain, eye, skin, coat and heart health 

Joint Support 

  • For pets advancing in age, diagnosed with arthritis, or with issues related to stiffness 
  • Active ingredients include:  
  • Glucosamine helps prevent cartilage degeneration 
  • Yucca: anti-inflammatory, antioxidative 
  • Turmeric: anti-inflammatory, helps protect liver 
  • Ginger root: anti-inflammatory, helps relieve chronic pain 

Digestive Support 

  • For pets with gastrointestinal sensitivity, infection, or a history of problems. 
  • Active ingredients include:  
  • Chicory Root contains inulin, supports growth of beneficial bacteria. 
  • Ginger Root: anti-inflammatory, supports gastric motility 
  • Fenugreek Seed: anti-inflammatory, slows absorption of glucose 
  • Chamomile: anti-inflammatory, helpful during times of distress

Urinary Support 

  • For pets with a history of urinary issues such as infections, bladder stones or urine sludge. 
  • Active ingredients include:  
  • Cranberry: antimicrobial, helps prevent urinary tract infections 
  • Dandelion Leaf: natural diuretic, supports overall urinary health 
  • Astragalus Root: anti-inflammatory, supports renal function 
  • Pumpkin Seed helps relieve spasms and cramping from urinary disorders

Setting Up the Ideal Habitat for Your Senior Bunny 

Movement can be a lot more challenging for our senior rabbits. Wear and tear on joints can lead to arthritis and stiff joints, so they may not be able to move as easily as they could when they were young. The following tips for setting up an ideal habitat for your senior bunny will help ensure they are safe and comfortable in their home setting:  

  • Setting up a single-story cage with minimal ramps in and out of the cage and lots of extra bedding for extra padding is ideal.  
  • Cover any slick areas with soft non-slip mats or carpeting so that your little one doesn’t have issues finding their footing.  
  • Make sure that food, water, and hay are all easy to reach, preferably at floor level so they do not have to overstretch or get up on their hind limbs to eat or drink. You want everything as easy as possible for them.  
  • Provide a low-entry litter box that they can easily walk into rather than one they need to hop into. Achy joints can make doing this difficult and if they can’t easily get into the box to potty you may see an increase of accidents outside their box.  
  • It is also important to keep their habitat as clean as possible, lower mobility can make it difficult to move away from messes and senior rabbits can be prone to grooming issues like urine scalding. 

The Ideal Senior Bunny Habitat will be: 

  • Single Story 
  • Have a low-entry litter box 
  • Have plenty of bedding 
  • Slick areas will be covered with carpet or no-slip mats
  • Water, food, and hay are within easy reach

Regular Grooming: Essential For Your Furry Senior Friends  

Providing regular grooming to your senior friend is important as it offers comfort as well as an opportunity to evaluate their condition. Stiff joints make it more difficult to keep clean so it is likely that your bun will need more help.  

Brushing  

Brushing will remove loose hair and allow you to evaluate their coat and body condition. Some questions to consider include: 

  • Does their coat seem drier or more oily than normal?  
  • Do you notice any areas of hair loss?  
  • How is their body condition?  Do they seem thinner or heavier than normal?  
  • Are there any sores or lumps that are abnormal?  
  • Are there any areas where urine or fecal matter is caught in the fur? 

Nail Trims 

Keeping nails trimmed to a healthy length is important for all rabbits, seniors included.  Some questions to consider when clipping your little loved one’s nails include:  

  • How do their feet and nailbeds look?  
  • Do you notice any signs of sore hocks or urine scalding to their feet?  
  • Do their joints seem to be moving normally?  
  • Is there any wear to the fur on the bottom of their feet that seems abnormal? 

Checking Dental Health 

Dental health is essential for overall health and wellbeing.  Similar to your rabbit’s coat and nails, there are some important areas to look for (and questions to ask yourself) when taking a closer look at your pet’s pearly whites.  Questions include:  

  • Do your pet’s teeth seem to be aligned normally?  
  • Are any of the teeth misaligned or longer than normal?  
  • Do you notice any sharp points or teeth spurs that may be causing discomfort while eating? 

Scheduling Veterinary Check-Ups 

While proper veterinary care is important throughout your rabbit’s life, it becomes doubly so during their senior years. Regular checkups should be scheduled annually but your vet may recommend increasing check-ups to every six months depending on your rabbit’s history and condition.  Bloodwork and other tests may be recommended to check your bunny’s liver and kidney values, among other things, which is highly recommended for our senior friends.  

Changes to Watch for and Report to Your Veterinarian: 

  • Weight (either up or down) 
  • Eating habits 
  • Urine or stool consistency 
  • Ability to move (difficulty getting up, or being less active) 
  • Behavior (acting moody, aggressive, or abnormal in any way) 

Life with a senior bunny can be a bit challenging, but it is so rewarding to know that they are supported and well cared for as they enter their twilight years. While this article provides some great ways to support your aging rabbit, always rely on your exotic specialist vet for the best, most comprehensive plan for supporting your beloved senior bunny. Your veterinarian has the expertise and personal relationship with your sweet pet that will allow them to provide the specialized care your bun bun needs.