0208 943 2303   info@alpha-vets.co.uk
24h Emergency Service 0208 783 2850


How to care for your rabbit

Of course, we welcome rabbits at our veterinary surgery. At our rabbit clinic, we provide rabbit vaccinations and surgery, along with a range of other services. We offer weight monitoring, as well as general and geriatric health checks. If you have any other questions about looking after your rabbit, our highly trained vets will be more than happy to help you.


We have different fee schedules and booking availabilities depending on your pet and its situation.

Please call our regular telephone number:  0208 943 2303 (Alpha Teddington) 01372 460107 (Claygate) during office hours and speak to one of our receptionists who will help book you for the correct consultation appointment.


Please remember to inform our receptionists how many pets you will be bringing. Each pet will need to be scheduled individually for a consultation to allow the vet time to properly examine each pet and discuss its problems.


Please note that our staff who answer the ‘Emergency Call’ number outside of office hours are unable to book regular day time consultations.


Here is a guideline to the different types of consultations we normally provide:

  • Regular Consultation: This is our standard 15-minute consultation with the vet for an animal with a new health problem, a problem that has recurred from some time ago, or an ongoing problem.
  • :  If your pet has been to see another vet for this problem (within the last year) and you would like our opinion on the problem, then we need to read the previous medical record, blood results and x-rays etc. We can then learn what medicines have been used and what the original vet found on examination. We need to do this in order to properly understand your pets ‘condition and provide you with a good second opinion. As this takes time to arrange the consultation must generally be booked at least one day in advance. As this is a more complex and time-consuming procedure, we normally schedule for you to spend 30 minutes with the veterinarian and we charge a higher fee.
  • Walk in Consultation:  If you come in without an appointment booked we will try our best to fit you in; however you may have to wait for an hour or even longer if the vets are busy. Of course if your pet’s life is in danger we will assess their condition and may admit them into the hospital while we make a vet available. The Walk in Consultation is generally scheduled for 15 minutes with the veterinarian but is charged at a higher fee than the Regular Consultation.
  • We strongly advise our clients to try and make an appointment, as we are often fully booked or very busy. We do not want your pet to become stressed if they have to wait a long time.
  • Referral Consultation: This is when another vet has asked you to come and consult with us as they feel we have more expertise with rabbits or with your rabbit’s specific problem. In these cases the other veterinarian will directly fax us a ‘Referral Letter’ and your rabbit’s medical records. Afterwards we will also inform your original vet of the outcome of the case. This also requires the extended 30-minute consultation.

Once you have made the appointment please make sure that you, or whoever is bringing in the pet, has all the information as follows:

  1. How long your pet has been sick for and what symptoms is it showing.
  2. What food your pet is fed on, including any snacks and supplements.
  3. Any medicines that may have been given to your pet (please bring in the packets or containers).
  4. What is the origin of your pet and what animals has it been in contact with.
  5. What are the urine & faeces (poop) usually like and what are they presently like.
  6. That the owner or a decision maker will be available on the telephone if they cannot come in.

Please note that to sign a consent form (for example for an operation or if you pet needs to be admitted into hospital) legally it must be someone over the age of 18 years old to sign.

We require payment for the services provided immediately after a consultation. If your pet does unfortunately need to be admitted to hospital or for surgery you will be required to pay a deposit. To try and make it more convenient for you we do accept payments by cash, cheques, debit and credit cards.


We have our HEALTHY PET CLUB which is a great way of ensuring the best preventative healthcare for your rabbit, giving you great savings on essential annual vaccinations, life-saving parasite prevention and many other benefits and discounts!


And don’t forget to collect your  ALPHA CARD – our free loyalty card that gives you 1% back on everything you spend with us! You collect points on your card, which you can redeem against any of our services or products! The card is free to all clients, and we even give you 500 points (=£5) to get you started! Ask at reception for more details when you come in.


Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Diarrhoea (VHD) are the current standard recommended vaccinations for rabbits: they now come as a combined injection, which we recommend as both initial (from 5 weeks of age) and annual or (for myxomatosis) six-monthly boosters. Please call us to discuss vaccination of your rabbit.

Health Checks

We recommend a health check shortly after bringing your new pet home.

Bring in details of all foods and any supplements or medicines you may be using.

Collect samples of urine and faeces from that morning if you can.

Take videos of any behaviour that you are worried about or confused by.

Isolate from the rest of your animal family at home (that means do not introduce or let them play together) until after the first check up and the vet has assessed the pet as being healthy.

If you do wish to introduce them then please ask us how and when this should be done.

At the ‘Health Check’ we will perform a full physical examination. We will be assessing your new pet’s overall condition, the muscle and fat levels, and hydration and checking for anaemia.

We will be paying particular attention for parasites & for signs of any infectious diseases.

We will be focusing on gut function and on the diet, whether is it appropriate and the amounts suitable.

We may not perform a full dental check on young animals if the incisors look normal.

Once we have examined your pet hopefully we will have found nothing seriously wrong, and we will then make whatever recommendations we think are necessary for the diet and care of the pet. If there is time we will talk to you about handling and training as this is the right age to be teaching your pet!


Regular Health Checks

Once your new pet is settled in and any health problems have been solved, then we recommend a six-monthly general health check.

Please ensure you know the brands of foods your pet is on, and any supplements or long term medications.

Bring urine and faeces from that morning if you can. We would also like to see a photo of the cage set up.

At this check we will assess body condition, muscle and fat levels, hydration and check for anaemia.

We will check the eyes, ears, and perform the very important dental examination.

We will feel the lymph nodes, palpate the abdomen for any abnormalities and listen to the heart and lungs.

We will search for parasites, and examine the skin, and look for any pressure sores or ‘sore hocks’ on the feet and also assess the nail length.

Once we have examined your pet hopefully we will have found nothing seriously wrong, and we will then make whatever recommendations we think are necessary for the diet and care of the pet.

Geriatric Health Checks

Once your rabbit is older, or ‘geriatric’ we advise moving to checks every six months as it is safer.

6 months for a rabbit is roughly equal to 5 years for a human.

We believe this ‘geriatric’ to be over 6 years for a rabbit although just like humans, animals age at different rates!  If you are worried or would like a check every 3 months, that’s fine with us. We do understand that many of our owners worry very much.

At this check we will assess body condition, muscle and fat levels, hydration and check for anaemia.

We will check the eyes, ears, and perform the very important dental examination.

We will feel the lymph nodes, palpate the abdomen for any abnormalities and listen to the heart and lungs.

We will search for parasites, and examine the skin, and look for any pressure sores or ‘sore hocks’ on the feet and also assess the nail length.

We will also be paying particular attention to the ‘gait’ or movement of the pet, and the flexibility as mobility problems become more common in the older animal. As they are often too nervous to move freely in here a video of walking and running, and self-grooming can be very helpful.

We will probably suggest taking a blood test every 6-12 months to monitor the liver and kidney function. We usually collect the blood from a vein in the back leg, we use a small needle and collect about 3 drops of blood, and it should be over in a few seconds

Once we have examined your pet hopefully we will have found nothing seriously wrong, and we will then make whatever recommendations we think are necessary for the diet and care of your older rabbit.

Nutritional Advice


The wild rabbit lives on a diet of grasses and leaves and has developed a specialized gut which is adapted for this high fibre and coarse diet. The large intestine contains bacteria which break down the grass fibre to make it digestible.  The rabbit passes the fibre through the gut twice to make sure all the nutrients are absorbed. This means that rabbit produce and eat a special kind of faeces (poop) which many owners do not ever see as the rabbit eats them directly from their bottom. These faeces are dark, sticky and smelly, and are called caecotropes.

Because of this specialised gut and the constantly growing teeth the adult rabbit needs a high fibre, restricted carbohydrate, restricted protein and virtually no fat diet to stay healthy.

We recommend that the healthy adult rabbit be given a limited amount of fresh rabbit pellets twice a day, each time around 1/2 to 1 flat soup spoonful.

Your rabbit must have 24-hour access to loose hay (not cubes).

We strongly recommend TIMOTHY hay (first cut, or high fibre).

Orchard grass, botanical & mountain hay are also good choices as they are high fibre, low protein hays.

Alfalfa hay is too rich, too much protein and calcium.

Check the hay is good quality. It should have a fresh sweet smell and not smell dusty or mouldy.

Hay varies in colour according to the weather conditions and can be cream, yellow, green or light brown. As long as it smells fresh and nice it should be fine.

An occasional insect may be found, and this is quite natural, but if it is crawling with insects it should be thrown away.

Be careful where you buy your rabbit food. You should buy from a busy rabbit pet shop or from our retail shop.

You must buy from a supplier that sells a lot of food to ensure the foods will be fresher. We keep all our hay in air conditioning to ensure it is fresh. We recommend the shop you buy from does the same.


Young (under 6 months), pregnant, sick or old (over 6 years) rabbits

They should usually be given more pellets than adults as they have increased nutritional needs. It is best to seek advice on the exact quantity of food to feed, as it is depends on their current health condition. They may also be offered a proportion of alfalfa hay, as it is richer, with more protein and calcium.

Fresh vegetables

These are an important source of vitamins, and most rabbits love them

Around 1-2 bowls should be given every day.  It is best to feed at least 3 different vegetables every day and to rotate through different types.  Sticking with one or two vegetables may lead to dietary imbalances or problems.

Choi Sum, pak choi, Chinese lettuce, romaine lettuce, and broccoli leaves, carrots, parsley, spinach, coriander and yau mak choi are all good choices.

Like all new foods, introduce them slowly, start with a little and work up.

Wash thoroughly and make sure they are fresh.  Organic is best!



A few small pieces are acceptable twice a week – perhaps 1/2 a teaspoonful.

Rabbit snacks and sweeties, seeds, nuts and biscuits are very unhealthy and should not be given.

Any diet changes MUST be slow and gentle. Upsetting the gut causes bacterial imbalances and can kill your bunny. Take up to 1 week to introduce a new vegetable or hay or brand of pellets.

Neutering (De-Sexing) Surgeries

Female rabbits: We very strongly recommend spaying (de-sexing, removing of the ovaries and uterus/womb) of all female rabbits as disease is so common when they get older.

Female rabbits are best spayed at around 7-8 months. Older female rabbits can be spayed, but the surgery may be more challenging due to increased fat tissues around the uterus. The anaesthetic risk also becomes higher as they get older.

Nevertheless, we still advise spaying of all female rabbits, as long as they are in general good health. If you are worried bring her in for a consultation and we will give you an honest appraisal of risk.


The most important reasons for spaying female rabbits are as follows:


– Prevents cancer and cystic change of the uterus

– Reduces risk of mammary gland {breast tissue} disease

– Improves behaviour, no false pregnancy, less territorial aggression


Signs of uterus disease can be difficult to detect and these signs may not be obvious until the disease is quite advanced. These disorders are frequently fatal – uterus cancer can spread to the lung or liver and other abnormalities can lead to blood loss, weakness and eventual death.

Cancer of the uterus can affect between 50 and 80 % of rabbits by 4 years old according to scientific studies

Mammary/breast cancer, inflammation or cysts can also occur in female rabbits that are not spayed, due to the large amounts of hormones secreted from the ovaries.

The de-sexing surgery is done under general anaesthetic and involves entering the abdomen of the rabbit to remove the ovaries and uterus. Though the surgery is not without risks, it is a relatively safe procedure in our experienced hands.

We use 3 types of pain relief injections, before, during & after the surgery to keep her as comfortable as possible.

We always give fluids before or during the surgery to reduce the risk of dehydration. Our nursing staff will also normally give 2 meals of critical care after the surgery to reduce the risk of gut stasis.

Once she goes home your girl will need a couple of days of nursing, support feeding and rest after the surgery.


Male rabbits

Male rabbits can be castrated at the age of 5-6 months old, once the descent of the testicles into the scrotal sacs is obvious. (I.e. you can see the testicles hanging down).

The surgery is done under general anaesthetic, is fairly quick. There are some potential complications like post-operative infection or bleeding, but is usually safe.

We use 3 types of pain relief injections, before, during & after the surgery to keep him as comfortable as possible.

We always give fluids before or during the surgery to reduce the risk of dehydration.

Our nursing staff will also normally give 2 meals of critical care after the surgery to reduce the risk of gut stasis.

Once he goes home your boy will need a couple of days of nursing, support feeding and rest after the surgery.
Some advantages of castration of a rabbit include:

– Decreasing aggression and dominance behaviour

– Minimise urine marking and promotes litter box training.

– Eliminate risk of testicle cancer

– Cannot make a female rabbit pregnant


Older rabbits (1 year and above) can still be castrated but the behavioural benefits from the surgery may be less obvious

Call our reception to make an appointment for your rabbit de-sexing.

Rabbits do not need fasted before surgery like dogs and cats.

Routine operations are done on weekdays.

Make sure your rabbit is well fed for the morning, and is in good health – good appetite, good faecal output and is lively and energetic without breathing problems.

Preventative Care

Gut Stasis

Gut stasis is a very serious disease, which can affect rabbits, chinchillas and guinea pigs.

If your pet has not eaten or pooped for 12 hours then you should be taking them to see a vet as soon as possible, this is an urgent condition and cannot wait for 2 or 3 days.  You may also syringe feed some water carefully before the consultation.

Do not offer them junk food or snacks as this may make things worse.

Gut stasis can be caused by any problem that causes a lack of appetite, and if not treated quickly can become fatal.

Causes include stress, fast diet change, dehydration, eating too much junk food, too much sugar or carbohydrates, grooming too much fur and not eating enough fibre, as well as dental disease, liver and kidney problems.

We have seen ‘gut stasis’ after such events as owners moving house, changing the pet’s cage, changing from one type of hay or pellet to another, going to a rabbit party, having a hot-pot gathering at home, construction work taking place next door, a new pet, the loss of a bonded companion and thunderstorms!





To reduce the risk of this common and serious disease you should:


1) Follow our diet advice to give high fibre, hay based diets.

2) Do not give too many pellets, oats, biscuits, or junk food.

3) Always have fresh water available.

4) Groom your pet.

5) Encourage exercise.

6) Keep stress down and reduce change.

7) Make all diet changes smooth and gradual.

Dental Services

Dental disease is one of the most common problems we see with our rabbit, chinchilla and guinea pig patients. It is a terrible disease as it hurts when they eat!

These animals are all adapted to feed on tough and fibrous grasses, and these take a lot of chewing.

The teeth grow throughout their life and if they are not worn down properly, or if the tooth position changes in the jaw then the teeth can overgrow or develop sharp points or spikes which can cut into the cheek or tongue.

This can be extremely painful as can easily be imagined and some animals will stop eating and starve to death without proper attention.

Symptoms of dental disease usually include eating less, (particularly the foods that need more chewing like hay) salivation and dropping foods.  Some animals may show temper changes, becoming angry, throwing the food bowl around, biting the cage bars, but some want more love and cuddles from the owner.

You may hear ‘tooth grinding’ or clicking as well.

Some animals may only be seen to lose weight or produce smaller faeces.

During the consultation the vet will carefully examine the jaw bone and face, check the incisors, or front teeth, and examine the teeth within the mouth using a speculum. It is difficult to get a good view as the poor animal will usually chew and push the speculum away with the tongue, and there may be too much saliva and pieces of food floating around.

If we suspect there is dental disease we will advise a full and proper examination under anaesthetic.

We use a specialised dental ‘rack’ which holds the mouth open and examine with the endoscope (a kind of miniature medical camera) and we will usually collect photos for the record and to show you later.

The vet will then use a combination of equipment to take away sharp spikes and reduce the length of any overlong crowns. If there are loose or rotten teeth we will need to remove these.

Owners of course often worry about the risk of anaesthetic, and it is true that there is a risk, especially with older animals, and those that are not in the best condition.

However, to leave your pet in pain, slowly starving is not fair to them.

We will give you advice on how best to reduce the risk for example, support feeding for a few days, or putting the animal onto an intravenous drip.

Please be assured that we want the same as you, a happy healthy pet, and we will try our best to make this happen.


We have a ward dedicated to our rabbit, chinchilla and guinea pig patients, designed by our vets to keep these special animals as relaxed and comfortable as possible during their stay here.

This ward is cooled to 22 degrees to keep them comfortable. The cats and dogs that are potential predators (and therefore very scary) are kept in separate wards out of the sight and smell of these nervous creatures.

We try to keep it calm and quiet in this ward and most animals settle down quickly.

We have a wide range of pellets, hays and vegetables available to tempt the appetite, but if you would like to pack a little lunch box of the home foods you are very welcome.

You may also bring in your pets own water bottle too.

We have wonderful team of nursing staff that are very experienced with the care and handling of these nervous creatures.  This is particularly important when they are not eating and need to be support fed, as many of our sick patients do.

Husbandry Advice


Twenty-four hour access is essential.  Most rabbits are accustomed to a sipper bottle, but some prefer a bowl.

If you have a new pet, offer them both at the beginning. Do not change water abruptly (i.e. to a bottled water) as it may taste different and the rabbit may not want to drink it. We have seen animals dehydrated or in gut stasis for reasons such as the water sipper ball getting stuck, and because the animal did not like the taste of the new water



A rabbit should be able to hop 3 times from 1 end of cage to the other end. This means the cage should be 1 – 1 1/2 metres long.

The main part of the floor of the cage should be solid, not wire as wire may cause ulceration of the feet. The floor should be kept clean and dry.

Newspaper may be used to cover it; the newspaper inks are soya based and non-toxic.

You may also use bedding such as hay or paper bedding like ‘Care Fresh’.

We don’t like woodchips here as they can be dusty, irritant and even poisonous.

You can use a piece of ” vet bed ”  a fluffy bedding available from the clinic although not all rabbits like to sit on this as it is too hot for some.

If you leave a corner with wire many rabbits will use that corner for the toilet.

You may also put a specialised rabbit toilet in

Of course you must keep the toilet clean and dry.

A hide box in the corner will help keep your pet feeling safe.

Weight Monitoring

Many of the pets we see become overweight as they mature. They have an easy and comfortable life with food available every day and often not enough exercise.

If you feel that your little darling is overweight (or if the vet tells you this!) you are welcome to make an appointment for a ‘Weight Consultation’ with one of our veterinarians.

The vet may also discuss this and recommend a weight loss diet during a health check or consultation and give you advice on the right combination of foodstuff for weight loss for your pet as well as how to encourage exercise.

The vet will set a target weight & a time span to lose this weight over.

Losing weight too fast is not healthy, and as these animals are much smaller than us, we may plan for them to lose a few grams per week.

Once the diet plan has been set we will then be happy to make free “weight monitoring” checks for you to follow up, usually every month or two months, and these will be with one of our Registered Veterinary Nurses.

It can be very rewarding to see a little, chubby rabbit regaining a slim healthy shape and becoming more active and flexible!


Have you ever found your pet rabbit digging carpet, chewing toys and scratching furniture?

To us these may be seen as “bad habits” but the truth is that these are just natural behaviour of the rabbits.

Rabbits are social animals and in the wild they spend a lot of time digging burrows, searching and digging for food and exploring. However, our pet rabbits are usually not able to express these natural behaviours in our household so what we see are those ‘bad habits”.

As they are social animals they do like companionship.

As they are prey to many animals (i.e. they will be killed and eaten) they are always alert and aware of their surroundings.

Letting them express these natural behaviours is important to reduce the stress of your rabbit and to help their health, especially the bones and muscles, gut function, as well as their mental health.

The living environment of the rabbits should be enriched to stimulate the expression of the natural behaviours without causing much trouble.

The cage should be high enough so that the rabbit can sit upright without its ears touching the top of the cage, since rabbits in the wild sit on their hind legs with ears pricked to look around.

They like to jump to different levels of height if they can, to see what is going on in their surroundings. This can be done in our household simply by placing a box in the cage. Being exposed to open area without anywhere to hide can be extremely stressful. The box also serves as a hiding place for the rabbit to rest and escape from potential danger so they will feel more secure and comfortable.

Rabbits in the wild chew sticks and dig burrows so chewing and digging are part of their natural instincts. In our home environment, encouraging these behaviours can be done simply by providing our rabbits with chewable toys and a digging box.

Free roam exercise daily can help maintain the health of our rabbits. Building a playground of tunnels for them or just letting them out of the cage for exercise can make a great difference to our pet’s happiness.

Foraging – making them work for food. In the wild they need to search out food. It is rewarding for them to find it.


We can mimic this by:

  • Stuffing hay inside a cardboard roll (toilet/kitchen paper roll).
  • Poking bits of vegetables through the bars of the cage high up so the rabbit needs to stretch up.
  • Scattering pellets around the floor  when the rabbit is let out to roam
  • Using a cardboard box and filling it with hay so the rabbit can dig through it. Pop some treats in here for your bunny to find. This is called a forage box

Providing an enriched environment for your rabbits is lots of fun for both you and your pets!

Learn more about your pet

You can download our PDF documents for more information.

Cushings Syndrome

Guinea Pig – Feeding


Cat – Moving House

Exotic – Critical Care

Cat & Dog – Bereavement

Remember, you can contact us anytime!