At the Humane Society of Tampa Bay we LOVE rabbits! During Easter season we see an uptick of rabbits being adopted and bought as pets, then returned or brought to our shelter shortly after.  We want to ensure that you are familiar with the special care a rabbit requires before considering making a rabbit a part of your family. We ask that you please read this educational blog post before considering a rabbit as a pet.

General Care

– Rabbits are social animals that do best with attention and social interactions. Try to talk calmly and stroke them daily.

– Some rabbits can be very affectionate and will nuzzle and lick owners while others are more laid-back and shy.

– Never approach a rabbit directly in front. They have laterally placed eyes and cannot see directly in front of themselves.

– Before picking up a rabbit, pat gently between the eyes until he relaxes.

– Never attempt to pick up a struggling rabbit, they can break their own backs attempting to get away. Always support their back legs when you pick them up and carry them around.

– Rabbits love to move and manipulate objects. This provides exercise and simulations. Brown cardboard boxes are great for chewing. Plain non-toxic wood or hard plastic baby toys are also good.

– Rabbits are prey species. They strive on predictable and stable environment.


– Keep rabbits indoor only to avoid predators, fleas, and ticks. However, in Florida you can keep your rabbits outside (as long as the area is covered) so that they can get plenty of exercise.

– Try to avoid wire flooring this can cause hock problems.

– If flooring is wire, then cover with sections of newspaper (will be messy if bunny digs) or plain cardboard.

– If using a dog cage, make sure the wire spacing is small enough so the bunny’s head or limbs do not get stuck.

– Keep rabbits out of extreme heat.

– Avoid keeping rabbits in the same room as barking dogs and avoid keeping them in full view of cats.

– Place litter box in corner of cage the rabbit has chosen for urination. Line with newspaper and fill with grass hay and dump daily.

– Avoid pine and cedar chips as bedding or litter material.

– Small boxes for bunny to hide in are useful in wire cages to help them feel safe. May increase territorial behaviors (mainly in unspayed females).


– Most important food for a rabbit is hay.

– Rabbits should eat dark-leafy greens daily if possible (all leaf lettuces, dandelion greens, kale, collards, turnip greens).

– Avoid cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, spinach, bread and other high carbohydrate foods.

– Pellets should be plain.

– Good treats in small amounts are slice of apple or banana, sunflower seeds, 2 inch piece of carrot, parsley, cilantro and basil.

Bunny Proofing Your Home

– Cover wires with hard plastic sleeves or flex tubing.

– Use large flex tubing on wooden table or chair legs.

– Cover baseboards with plastic guards or furring strips. Clear packaging tape could also work.

– Most houseplants are toxic to bunnies including poinsettia, holly, tomato leaves, tulips

– Complete list:

Let us help you keep your dogs safe!

You can keep your dogs safe by utilizing heartworm medication. Our veterinarian can test your dog for heartworms and help you pick affordable heartworm prevention products that are available at our Animal Hospital.

Heartworm Testing & Prevention Products: Please call 813-870-3304 to make your appointment.

Our Animal Hospital is open Monday through Sunday from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm and is located just north of the shelter at 3809 N. Armenia Avenue.

Heartworm Disease – What Is It and What Causes It?

Heartworm disease is a serious disease that results in severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, and death in pets, mainly dogs, cats, and ferrets. It caused by a parasitic worm. The worms are spread through the bite of a mosquito.  The dog is the definitive host, meaning that the worms mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring while living inside a dog.  The mosquito is the intermediate host, meaning that the worms live inside a mosquito for a short transition period in order to become ineffective (able to cause heartworm disease).  The worms are called “heartworms” because the adults live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of an infected animal.

The Heartworm Lifecycle in Dogs:

Inside a dog, a heartworm’s lifespan is 5 to 7 years.  Adult heartworms look like strands of cooked spaghetti, with males reaching about 4 to 6 inches in length and females reaching about 10 to 12 inches in length.  The number of worms living inside an infected dog is called the worm burden.

How is a Dog Tested for Heartworms?

A veterinarian uses blood tests to check a dog for heartworms. An antigen test detects specific heartworm proteins, called antigens, which are released by adult female heartworms into the dog’s bloodstream.  In most cases, antigen tests can accurately detect infections with one or more adult female heartworms. The earliest that the heartworm proteins can be detected in a dog’s bloodstream is about 5 months after it is bitten by an infected mosquito. The earliest that microfilaria can be detected in a dog’s bloodstream is about 6 months after it is bitten by an infected mosquito.

When Should a Dog Be Tested for Heartworms?

Dogs 5-6 months of age and older should be tested for heartworms before starting heartworm prevention.  A dog may appear healthy on the outside, but on the inside, heartworms may be living and thriving.  If a heartworm-positive dog is not tested before starting a preventive, the dog will remain infected with adult heartworms until it gets sick enough to show symptoms.

Is There a Treatment for Heartworm Disease in Dogs?

Melarsomine dihydrochloride (available under the trade names Immiticide and Diroban) is an arsenic-containing drug that is FDA-approved to kill adult heartworms in dogs. It’s given by deep injection into the back muscles to treat dogs with stabilized class 1, 2, and 3 heartworm disease. The treatment for heartworm disease is not easy on the dog or on the owner’s pocket book.  Treatment can be potentially toxic to the dog’s body and can cause serious complications, such as life-threatening blood clots to the dog’s lungs.  Treatment is expensive because it requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, bloodwork, x-rays, hospitalization, and a series of injections.

The Best Treatment is Prevention!