How to Care for an Older Rabbit
The limitations caused by aging catch up with everyone, including your fluffy bunny, who may be full of vigor and energy at the moment. Keeping an eye on your pet helps you notice the signs that indicate he’s getting along in years and make adjustments to his upkeep. So, it’s helpful to know how to care for an older rabbit to ensure he continues to have a good quality of life and possibly extend his lifespan.
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At What Age Is a Rabbit Considered Old?
Several factors affect how fast rabbits age. These include size, breed, genetics, and the like. In general, smaller buns live longer than their giant kins.
Here’s a rough guide on rabbits’ lifespans.
These include mini and dwarf breeds, whose weights range between 1 and 5 pounds. Examples of small rabbit breeds are Dwarf Hotot, Netherland Dwarf, Jersey Wooly, and Dwarf Lionhead.
Lifespan: 12 to 13 years
Considered senior: From 8 years onwards
Medium-sized rabbits weigh between 5.5 to 10 pounds. Some bun breeds in this category are the French and English Angora, Harlequin, Mini Lop, and Standard Chinchilla.
Lifespan: 9 to 10 years
Considered old: 6 years and above
Rabbits fall under the large-sized classification if they weigh over 10 pounds. These buns include the giants or those that can grow as big as a small dog. Examples of buns from this category are the Flemish Giant, Standard Rex Rabbit, Silver Fox, and American Chinchilla.
Lifespan: 4 to 7 years
Considered old: 4 years up
Signs Your Rabbit Is Getting Older
As buns grow older, they’ll start showing physical signs and limitations. Because aging is an individual process, not all senior rabbits will exhibit the same manifestations of old age. However, you may observe the following as your furry companion advances in years.
A bun’s fur starts to thin as he approaches old age. This is more apparent in areas with less fur, such as around the eyes, nose, and ears. Eventually, the hair gets so thin that it leads to bald patches on your rabbit’s body. Also, like humans, white hairs pop up in some rabbits, and they develop a salt and pepper coat.
Scaling on Ears
Scales that look like dandruff can appear on a rabbit’s ears during its senior years. This can be itchy, and scratching it can lead to other health issues, such as infections.
Changes in Energy Level
Like humans, you can see signs of decreased energy in older rabbits. They probably won’t be able to binky anymore, and the zoomies could be things of the past. Senior rabbits often spend more time sleeping now than when they were younger.
Aging rabbits may eat less and will prefer food that require less effort to chew. They also start losing muscle mass. This leads to weight loss, which becomes more apparent during the molting season when they lose their thick coat.
Mobility issues are common among older rabbits. Like humans, buns sometimes develop joint problems that lessen their agility. That’s one reason your formerly energetic bunny no longer jumps or plays around as often as before.
How to Care for an Older Rabbit
Due to the physical limitations that older rabbits experience, you’ll need to make adjustments to many aspects of their care. Here are some of the things you can do to make things easier for your aging pet.
Place Rugs and Mats Around the House
Even young rabbits find it difficult to walk on smooth, slippery floors. More so with senior buns who may have weaker muscles.
Placing mats, rugs, and carpets around the house will provide your furry pal with a non-slip surface that allows him to move easily without losing his footing. Soft floor padding is particularly beneficial to buns with arthritis, as cushioned surfaces are easier on the joints.
No, don’t push your pet to be as active as before. Rabbits become less energetic as they age. Still, you need to give your aging bunny reasons to move around to keep him healthy.
Provide physical activities that he enjoys. For example, hide treats inside mazes or toilet paper tubes. Keep his mind stimulated as well with puzzle toys.
Pay Attention to Their Grooming Needs
Older rabbits may lose the ability to groom themselves because of mobility issues. Because they’re naturally clean animals, being filthy can bring added stress to your bun. Brush your senior rabbit more often to get rid of dirt and loose fur.
You can bathe him if he’s particularly dirty, but avoid giving him a wet bath. A dry bath using cornstarch, which you massage through your bun’s fur using your fingers of a fine-toothed comb, will help keep him clean and fresh-smelling.
Check Their Teeth
Senior rabbits are less likely to chew than their younger counterparts. However, chewing is important because it helps grind down their perpetually-growing teeth. As such, older buns tend to have overgrown teeth, which increases their chances of developing dental problems.
Keep Things Accessible
Because older rabbits can develop ailments that limit their mobility, make sure that your pet can easily access everything he needs. These include food, toys, water, bedding, and hiding places. Use a litter box with a low entry, as some buns might have trouble getting into a high-sided litter box.
Look for Physical Changes
Being prey animals, rabbits often hide signs of illness to avoid being targeted by predators. So you’ll need to check for physical changes in your pet to determine his health condition. Treating a sick rabbit as soon as possible can sometimes spell the difference between life and death because some ailments progress quickly.
Pat your bun’s body and look for bulges, swelling, stiff muscles, misaligned bones, and other anomalies. Your bun will surely enjoy the attention.
Make Dietary Adjustments
Senior rabbits often lose weight, so they’ll need a different diet. Provide your furry pal with more pellets to keep his weight up. He may struggle to get sufficient calcium, so feeding him calcium-rich foods, such as Alfalfa Hay, can help meet his dietary requirements. Try different types of hay if your pet loses interest in his regular feed.
Also, make sure he gets the following:
- Grass and oat-based hay
- Leafy greens
- Hay-based pellets
Once your bun shows signs of getting along in years, you should bring him to the vet more often. A rabbit-savvy vet can give you added tips on how to care for an older rabbit aside from making sure that your pet is in the pink of health despite his age.
More on Rabbit Care
- Do Rabbits Hibernate in the Winter?
- Head Tilt in Rabbits: 6 Causes and How to Prevent It
- Can Rabbits and Chickens Safely Live Together?
- 6 Signs Your Rabbit Has an Ear Infection
- What to Do If Your Rabbit Isn’t Eating Cecotropes
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