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Caring for Giant Rabbits

CARING FOR GIANT RABBITS [22]

 

‘Giant rabbits’ is a term used for breeds that generally weigh over 5kg (eg. French Lop, New Zealand White, Continental Giant, Flemish Giant, Belgian Hare, English Lop), and not just a term for an overweight rabbit. Giant rabbits are meant to be big, and come with their own set of special requirements and potential problems, so it’s important to ensure you can meet these needs before making a commitment.

 

Accommodation 

The size of a giant rabbit will mean you need much larger housing than you would for a smaller rabbit. A giant rabbit can stretch to over 4ft when lying down or when standing on their hind legs. The basic minimum amount of space to give a rabbit is the ability for them to do 3 hops in any direction. A rabbit also needs to be free to exercise daily at any time they want, so you’ll have to provide a large enough area for them to run and jump about. You’ll need to think very carefully before getting a giant rabbit to ensure you can provide them with the amount of space needed for them to exercise, play, graze, forage and live comfortably.

 

Giant Rabbit

Handling

Most rabbits don’t really like to be handled, and due to their large size, giant rabbits are particularly awkward and difficult to handle in a safe way. If handled incorrectly, they can injure both you and themselves as they kick to get away, and could cause fatal damage if they fall. Try to only handle your rabbit when necessary (ie. health checks, claw clipping, etc.) and do so when sitting on the ground, ensuring their spine is supported at all times.

 

Diet

Giant rabbits don’t require any special diet and should be fed the same as any other rabbit. That being a constant supply of hay/grass, handfuls of fresh greens and a small amount of pellets, as well as a supply of fresh clean water to drink (See Diet – What do Rabbits Eat). They should not need to be given any mineral or vitamin supplements, unless prescribed by your vet.

 

Health

Giant rabbits are very prone to sore hocks (Pododermatitis), due to their size putting added pressure on their feet. They should be checked regularly to catch any problems early, and use thick soft bedding in their home to provide extra cushioning.  

 

Arthritis and spondylosis are common in giant rabbits as they get older. If you notice your rabbit slowing down, shuffling on their back legs, and failing to clean their bottom, take a visit to the vet, who can assess what’s wrong.

 

Giant rabbits, especially those with a pronounced dewlap, may find it hard to groom their bottom, so it’s best to prevent them getting too overweight. Check daily that they’re clean, to prevent Flystrike, and use preventative measures, such as fly netting or Rearguard.

 

Heart problems, such as Cardiomyopathy, are common in large and giant breeds of rabbit, and can cause sudden death. The most commonly seen problem is when the heart becomes enlarged and weakened, no longer being able to pump blood effectively around the body. If caught early, there’s a chance it could be managed medically.

 

Lifespan

Giant rabbits tend to have a shorter life expectancy than smaller breeds, and on average, have a lifespan of 4 – 6 years, though can exceed this.