Of all the dangers that rabbits face every day, mold is among the most insidious. Predators can be escaped, and accidents can be avoided. Mold, unfortunately, is a constant, menacing presence under certain circumstances. It’s also no less lethal than the bite of a hungry wild animal.
Mold will often end a rabbit’s life, if enough is breathed in or eaten. Sometimes it’s fast, causing respiratory failure. Other types of mold can cause long-term painful illness by infecting your rabbit’s liver.
Exposure to mold can be avoided. You’ll need to be vigilant about keeping your rabbit’s environment safe. This means constantly cleaning their hutch, removing any trace of mold or mildew. You’ll also have to watch what your rabbit eats, and ensure they’re not stockpiling moldy food.
Rabbits and Mold
Rabbits must be kept away from mold at all costs. If they inhale it, mold can lead to rapid respiratory failure. Mold can also be a slow, steady danger. It can cause long-term damage to a rabbit’s liver.
Unfortunately, rabbits are good at hiding ill health. They’re prey animals, after all. A sick rabbit is a weak rabbit. This makes them easy pickings for predators in the wild.
This means that you have a responsibility to keep your rabbit away from mold. This is achieved by monitoring their living quarters. This means both the general environment, and their hutch. It doesn’t take long for mold to gain a foothold.
Why is Mold So Dangerous to Rabbits?
There are many different types of mold. Mold releases are a range of toxins, referred to as mycotoxins. These will all have different health implications, but none of them are good. Some of the most common health concerns connected with mold are:
- Aflatoxin. This is the most common rabbit-killing mycotoxin. It can lead to fatal stomach upsets in the short-term. Long-term exposure can lead to liver damage.
- Ergot. This mycotoxin impacts upon a rabbit’s blood flow. They can lose control of their legs.
- Chaetomium and Stachybotrys Chartarum. These molds eat away at a rabbit’s immune system. This leaves an already-delicate rabbit at enhanced risk of sickness.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mold mycotoxins, though. There are more examples that we can list, and they’re all equally deadly to bunnies.
How Do Rabbits Become Exposed to Mold?
Rabbits typically become exposed to mold the same way as humans. The mycotoxins make their way into the air, and your bunny breathes them in. This is where their health concerns begin.
Even outdoor rabbits could be at risk of mold exposure, though. Some of the ways that mold makes its way into a rabbit’s life include:
- Mold rabbit feed
- Moldy plants in your yard
- Insufficient airflow in your rabbit’s hutch
- Unsanitary living conditions
It’s important to know that rabbits can be indiscriminate eaters. They are just as likely to eat moldy hay or vegetables as fresh.
You’ll also need to observe your rabbit while they enjoy outdoor playtime. Plants, flowers, rock beds, and soil can all cultivate mold. If your bunny eats this, it will not agree with them.
You’ll also need to manage your rabbit’s living quarters carefully. On one hand, you need to protect your pet from draughts and predators.
This means locking them up tight. They also need sufficient airflow, though. Without this, your bunny’s hutch will become a breeding ground for mold.
You need to clean up after your rabbit. Their hutch will need a thorough clean at least once a week. Bedding and litter should be changed no less than every other day. Damp, soiled litter can attract aflatoxin.
Symptoms of Mold Poisoning in Rabbits
Mold poisoning, also known as mycotoxin poisoning, has a variety of symptoms. Rabbits will hide these as best they can. Look out for the following:
- Clear and visible abdominal pain.
- Loss of appetite, and associated weight loss. Some rabbits will outright refuse food. Others will accept, but quickly lose interest.
- Sudden stomach upsets. This will only include diarrhea. The muscles of a rabbit’s stomach lack the strength required for vomiting.
- Sores around the face and mouth.
- Discharge from the eyes.
- Blood in the feces.
- Hope that you do not notice this symptom. By this stage, the damage is usually terminal.
- Changes to the reproductive cycle of mature and unspayed females.
- Low body temperature. Anything lower than 101 degrees Fahrenheit is too low for a rabbit.
In addition to these visible signs, mycotoxin poisoning can also be determined by testing. You’ll need a vet for this, though. It involves running tests on your rabbit’s blood, kidneys, and liver function.
What is the Prognosis for a Rabbit with Mold Poisoning?
All too often, by the time a bunny’s suffering is discovered it’s already too late.
If you see a good, rabbit-savvy vet early enough, your bunny can recover. This will typically involve intravenous fluids to flush out the toxins. Your rabbit may also be prescribed drugs. Sucralfate will treat ulcers and internal bleeding.
Treating mold poisoning is difficult. Avoidance is considerably wiser. This starts with placing your rabbit’s hutch in an appropriate location.
Where to Position a Rabbit Hutch to Prevent Mold
If your bunnies to live indoors, you’ll need to make sure the room can breathe. A hutch placed against a wall may become damp. If there is insufficient air circulation, mold will them grow throughout the hutch.
This means that you should place an indoor rabbit hutch close to an open window. This creates draughts. These will make your bunny uncomfortable and unhappy.
Mold thrives in an environment that lacks ventilation. As a result, a rabbit hutch is less likely to attract mold if it’s positioned outdoors. This will guarantee a constant circulation of air, allowing the walls of the hutch to breathe.
Rain is the biggest problem with an outdoor hutch. If your rabbit’s home is not sufficiently weatherproofed, the roof can attract mold and mildew. Sunlight kills these, but that’s not much use in a harsh winter.
This mold can then spread to the wood of the hutch. Not only will this compromise the integrity of the construct, but it can seep inside. This is dangerous to your bunny.
The best solution is an outdoor hutch that is well insulated. This offers the best of all possible worlds. Your rabbit’s hutch will not become damp or moldy, and they’ll still enjoy plenty of air.
Can Rabbits Survive in a Garage or Shed?
As established, outdoors is best for a bunny to avoid exposure to mold. You may need to bring them inside though, especially during winter. When the temperature drops, many people rehome their rabbits in a shed or garage.
The trouble with these locations is they are frequently dark, and have high levels of humidity. These are the perfect conditions for mold spores to thrive. Due to the lack of ventilation, your rabbit will breathe in this mold.
Before placing your pet in such a location, thoroughly examine and inspect it. If you find traces of mold, seek different shelter. You may only make fleeting visits, and not detect the mold. Your rabbit will be spending hours in the same place.
A golden rule is that a rabbit must always live in a well-ventilated area, with access to natural light. If your garage or shed does not meet these criteria, it’s not rabbit safe. Mold can, and will, make its presence known.
Instead, leave your rabbits outside. Covering their hutch with tarpaulin will protect them from the elements. It may not be ideal, but an outdoor bunny will experience less exposure to moldy conditions.
How to Avoid Mold Inside a Rabbit Hutch
Picking the correct location can go a long way to preventing a rabbit’s hutch from becoming moldy. This is not the end of your responsibilities, though.
The first thing to consider is the gate or door of your rabbit’s home. A constant airflow is pivotal. What’s also critical is your pet’s safety. Wild foxes or other predators can tear through thin or poorly positioned wiring.
You could consider a solid, Perspex cover. This will protect your rabbit. Just ensure that also need to leave enough space for air to circulate.
Once you have mastered this step, keep an eye on cleaning. Soiled bedding, hay, and litter can all quickly become moldy. You must complete a full clean of your rabbit’s hutch at least once a week. Spot cleaning should take place every day. Make sure that your bunny is litter trained.
Hay should be freshened daily, with old hay removed and replaced. Bedding and litter must be changed every other day. Sooner if it’s heavily soiled. You should also clean your rabbit’s litter tray and bed periodically.
If you stick with this schedule, you should avoid mold creeping into your rabbit’s hutch. Despite these precautions, it can still happen. In such instances, it must be cleaned immediately.
How to Clean a Moldy Rabbit Hutch
If you find mold inside your rabbit hutch, don’t delay in getting it removed. Trace amounts may have gone unnoticed by your bunny. It doesn’t take long for mold to become fatal, though.
If you spot mold in your rabbit’s hutch, remove them immediately. You’ll then have to work on cleaning. Use one of the following techniques, or a combination of them all:
- Rescue Disinfectant, from Accel. This product is deemed veterinarian-standard, and is used in most surgeries.
- Bleach, heavily diluted. One part bleach to five parts water should do it. Consider power-hosing the hutch afterward. This will help clear the smell.
- Apply undiluted white vinegar to a spray bottle, and apply liberally. If you stir in some baking soda, you’ll have an even better chance of success.
Dry your bunny’s hutch thoroughly before returning them, ideally in the sun. They can then return to a safe, clean environment. Repeat these cleaning steps on any litter trays, food bowls, and beds.
Be wary of mold inside a hutch, though. If it arrives once, it may return. In such scenarios, consider changing your rabbit’s wooden hutch for a metal alternative. These can still be comfortable, but provide a minimal risk of mold.
How to Avoid Moldy Rabbit Pellets
Rabbit pellets are a great source of fiber, calcium, and protein. They also go moldy very quickly, though. Don’t take any chances with rabbit pellets.
Always purchase the highest quality pellets that you can afford. Inspect the bag thoroughly before feeding your bunny. If the pellets are discolored or smell suspicious, throw them away.
Also, avoid buying pellets too far in advance. Smaller bags are best. This means more trips to the pet store, but that’s better than the alternative. Store them in an airtight container, in a cool, dark place.
Once your rabbit reaches adulthood, they don’t necessarily need pellets. An unlimited supply of good-quality timothy or oat hay will be sufficient. You’ll have to watch this for signs of mold too, though.
How to Avoid Moldy Rabbit Hay
As Raising Rabbits explains, moldy hay is a common killer in bunnies. Rabbits love hay, and will chomp away at it constantly. Sadly, they’re also not the most discerning diners. Moldy hay is still a bunny delicacy, but it’s a fatal one.
The storage of rabbit hay is all-important to maintain its freshness. Hay should be kept in a cool, dry place. If you don’t have a pantry, a garbage can will do the trick.
Water makes hay moldy. This means that wet hay must be removed and replaced quickly. This dampness may be caused by rainfall, or because your rabbit urinated on the hay. Whatever the reason, get it out and get it changed.
Hay should be refreshed daily. It’s the only way to be sure that it’s safe. Rabbits dig for recreation. If you toss fresh hay on top of old, they’ll rummage through the pile. In doing so, they’ll encounter moldy hay and eat it anyway.
How to Avoid Moldy Fruits and Vegetables
If you offer you bunny a tasty treat, they’ll likely eat it on the spot. Some rabbits hide their food, though. This means they can dig for it later, as part of a game.
Can you see the problem with this? Fresh produce does not stay fresh for long. If it’s buried in hay, it will become moldy even faster. This can be harmful to a rabbit’s health.
With this mind, avoid feeding your rabbit vegetables that are past their expiration date. If you would not eat something yourself, there’s no reason your bunny should. Your immune system is considerably more robust than theirs.
You must check your rabbit’s hutch for leftover fruit or vegetables every day. Remove anything that has not been eaten, before it’s too late.
Also, remember not to overfeed fresh produce in the first place. One tablespoon per 2 lbs. of body weight is more than enough.
How to Avoid Moldy Plants and Leaves
While your bunny is enjoying some outdoor playtime, they will invariably become curious. They’ll hop around your soil, grass, and rockery, looking for things to sniff and eat.
This can become dangerous if your yard is attracting mold. White, fuzzy mold is just as hazardous to rabbits as black mold. Before letting your rabbit free, it’s advisable to bunny-proof the area.
Prepare a tablespoon of baking soda, a teaspoon of vegetable oil and a teaspoon of soap. Mix these with a gallon of water, and pour them into a spray bottle. If you apply this to the mold, it will burst.
All the same, it’s still best to keep your rabbit out of these areas. Mold spores are stubborn, and often invisible to the human eye. Fence off this territory until you are confident that it’s bunny-safe.
Mold is never something to take lightly, but especially not where rabbits are concerned. We cannot stress this enough. Mold is a bunny-killer. You must avoid your rabbit coming into contact with it.
Keep your pet’s hutch clean, and ensure they can always breathe freely and easily. Never offer your bunny moldy food, and ensure they’re not eating it of their own accord.
Perhaps most importantly, at the first sign of mold, take action. Sometimes, mold is a fact of life. This doesn’t mean help your rabbit develop immunity, though. Pets cannot necessarily avoid mold by themselves, so you’ll need to step in.