Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Morbidity and mortality of domestic rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) under primary veterinary care in England
  1. Dan G O'Neill1,
  2. Hermien C Craven1,
  3. David C Brodbelt1,
  4. David B Church2 and
  5. Joanna Hedley2
  1. 1 Pathobiology and Population Science, The Royal Veterinary College, Hatfield, United Kingdom
  2. 2 Clinical Science and Services, The Royal Veterinary College, Hatfield, United Kingdom
  1. Correspondence to Dr Dan G O'Neill; doneill{at}


Background The domestic rabbit is a common pet species, but limited research exists on the health of pet rabbits. This study aimed to characterise common disorders of pet rabbits and reasons for mortality as recorded by veterinary practices in England.

Methods This cross-sectional study covered anonymised clinical records of 6349 rabbits attending 107 primary veterinary care clinics.

Results The median age was 3.2 years (interquartile range (IQR) 1.6–5.1), and the median adult bodyweight was 2.1 kg (IQR 1.7–2.6). The most common breed types were domestic (n=2022, 31.9 per cent), lop (1675, 26.4 per cent) and Netherland dwarf (672, 10.6 per cent). For those rabbits that died during the study period, the median age at death was 4.3 years (IQR 2.1–7.0). The most common causes of death were recorded as myiasis (prevalence 10.9 per cent, 95 per cent confidence interval (CI): 7.4 to 15.2), anorexia (4.9 per cent, 95 per cent CI: 4.0 to 10.4), recumbency/collapse (4.9 per cent, 95 per cent CI: 4.0 to 10.4) and ileus (4.3 per cent, 95 per cent CI: 3.5 to 9.5). The most prevalent specific disorders recorded were overgrown claw/nails (16.0 per cent, 95 per cent CI: 14.5 to 17.5), overgrown molar(s) (7.6 per cent, 95 per cent CI: 6.6 to 8.7), perineal soiling (4.5 per cent, 95 per cent CI: 3.7 to 5.4), overgrown incisor(s) (4.3 per cent, 95 per cent CI: 3.5 to 5.2) and ileus (4.2 per cent, 95 per cent CI: 3.4 to 5.0).

Conclusions This study augments the limited evidence base on rabbit health and can assist veterinarians to better advise owners on optimal animal husbandry priorities.

  • VetCompass
  • epidemiology
  • primary-care
  • lagomorph
  • rabbit

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, an indication of whether changes were made, and the use is non-commercial. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was obtained from the RVC Ethics and Welfare Committee (reference number 2015/1369).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available in a public, open access repository.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.