How Long Do Rabbits Live As Pets?

Whether you’re considering getting a pet rabbit or you already have one, understanding the rabbit lifespan will help you give your bunny the best life. With proper health care, your rabbit will be around for a long time. 

How to Keep Your Rabbit Healthy

To keep your rabbit healthy and happy throughout their life, you need to understand your rabbit’s needs. Most domestic rabbits can easily live to be 8 years old, and many can live for up to 12 years. Unlike wild rabbits, who face constant stress and predators, domestic rabbits have regular access to food and safe places to hide. 

Rabbit breeds and lifespan. There are many breeds of rabbits. Just like with dogs, each has a different lifespan. In general, larger rabbit breeds live shorter lives than dwarf breeds, and purebred rabbits have shorter lives than mixed breeds. But each rabbit is different; a large purebred rabbit may live up to 10 years, while a mixed-breed dwarf rabbit may only live eight.  

The role of nutrition and exercise. The food and exercise you give your rabbit have a bigger impact on how long your rabbit may live than genetics do. Despite the common idea that rabbits are “low maintenance,” they actually need a significant amount of daily exercise and a specific diet in order to thrive. 

Rabbits need relatively large cages, as well as several hours outside their cage each day in order to get enough exercise. Large rabbits need at least 5 square feet of cage space, according to the American Rabbit Breeders Association. They should also be allowed to explore in a safe room for a period of time during the day so they can stretch their legs and play. Too little exercise can lead to obesity and heart problems that can shorten your pet’s life. 

They also need a specific diet. Rabbits’ teeth grow throughout their lives, so they need constant access to clean timothy hay or dried grass. You should also supplement their diet with fresh, leafy greens and high-fiber pellets. 

Fresh grass and carrots can actually harm your rabbit. They’re too rich in sugars and can impair their digestion. A poor diet can not only stress your pet, but it can also cause illness. 

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Tips for Caring for Your Rabbit

There’s more to their health than just keeping your rabbit fed and exercised. Here are a few other tips to help your pet live a long and happy life.

Keep cages clean. Rabbits can be messy animals, so it’s important to keep their hutch clean. Remove feces and soiled bedding every day, and completely clean out their pen at least once a week. Unclean cages can lead to contagious diseases

Spay or neuter your rabbit. Female rabbits who aren’t spayed are more likely to get uterine tumors if they aren’t regularly being bred. Always spay or neuter your pet rabbits to help keep them healthy.

Find a small-animal veterinarian. Having a rabbit as a pet is fairly common, but they’re still generally considered a “small animal” or even an “exotic” pet. You may want to find a specialist vet in your area who understands rabbits in particular.

Common rabbit illnesses. Rabbits can get sick even if you’re taking the best care of them. Getting treatment early is key to helping your pet recover quickly and safely from an illness. A few common concerns to watch out for are:

  • Overgrown teeth. If your rabbit doesn’t have enough things to chew on, their teeth can become overgrown. Their teeth can become pointy and quickly damage your rabbit’s mouth. That can cause them to stop eating and potentially even die. If your rabbit’s teeth are overgrown, you’ll need to visit a vet to have them ground down.
  • Snuffles. Rabbits kept in dirty enclosures may develop snuffles, or pasteurellosis. This disease looks like a common cold, but it is actually a bacterial infection that can lead to abscesses and ear infections. If your rabbit has it, it will need antibiotics to treat it. 
  • Uterine tumors. Female rabbits who haven’t been spayed may develop tumors in their uterus. If your female rabbit is unspayed and develops health problems, it may be cancer. Surgery to spay them often cures the cancer without much further treatment. 
  • Myxomatosis. Outdoor rabbits can contract myxomatosis, a flea- and mosquito-borne disease that’s invariably deadly. Symptoms include eye discharge and swelling. Because of myxomatosis, rabbits should be kept as indoor pets or kept inside mosquito netting if allowed outside. 

If you have any concerns about your rabbit’s health, check with your small-animal veterinarian, and you can help your rabbit live a long and healthy life.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on July 07, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Blue Cross for Pets: “How long do rabbits live?”

Blue Cross for Pets: “What food is best for rabbits?”

House Rabbit Society: “How Long Does a Rabbit Live?”

MedVet: “RABBIT CARE GUIDE.”

Michigan State University Extension: “Determining cage size for rabbits.”

VetWest Animal Hospitals: “COMMON RABBIT DISEASES.”

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