Safety precautions for rabbits
Rabbits are relatively fragile animals, and even toys and experiences that seem harmless can cause severe health problems or even death. Just because a bunny shows an interest in chewing a corner of the carpet or hopping into the backyard doesn’t mean it’s good for them. “These guys are so domesticated that they can’t tell what’s safe and what’s not,” said Berman.
Domestic rabbits are bred to live indoors, so they are highly sensitive to extreme temperatures. “They do best between 50 to 75 degrees, so they really need to live inside a climate-controlled area,” said Ratches. In fact, not only can the outdoors be too hot or too cold for a bunny to be comfortable, they pose other dangers, too.
Highly contagious rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) was discovered in wild rabbits in the Southwest United States for the first time in 2020. In that outbreak, officials reported that approximately 90% of rabbits exposed to the virus died within three to five days of the onset of symptoms. Because RHDV is easily spread and domestic rabbits are equally as susceptible to it as wild ones, bunnies should not be taken outdoors for play or to walk on a leash and harness in places where it is present, said Berman.
In the coastal areas of Oregon, California, and Baja Mexico, bunnies are also vulnerable to myxomatosis, a virus spread by wild rabbits, mosquitos, and fleas that attacks the skin, eyes, lungs, liver, and genitals and often results in death.
Predators, including neighborhood dogs and cats, pose a severe danger to rabbits when outdoors, as well.
Indoors, the biggest threat to a rabbit’s health is the possibility that they may chew and swallow something they cannot digest. Because rabbits cannot vomit, if they swallow something indigestible, it can block their intestines, leading to severe pain and death unless surgically removed. Rabbits should never be given toys made from soft plastic, polyester, or cloth and should be prevented from accessing dangerous household items like carpet and electrical cords.