Netherland Dwarf Rabbit – A Guide to Ownership and Care

Netherland Dwarf Breed History

In comparison to many of the other popular rabbit breeds, the Netherland Dwarf is actually relatively modern. As you have probably already guessed, they originate from the Netherlands. They came about as a result of breeding small Polish rabbits with wild rabbits.

These small rabbits were not actually introduced to the United Kingdom until 1948 and much later in the 60’s and 70’s in the United States. They were accepted into the American Rabbit Breeders Association in 1969.
The early Netherland Dwarfs, even those back in the 80’s and 90’s were not ideal pets. This is because they often showed a lot of fear and aggression due to their genetics being part wild. Through selective breeding, they are now very gentle and friendly pets; albeit very energetic.

An Overall Description of Netherland Dwarf Rabbits

Appearance

One of the things that makes the Netherland Dwarf such a popular breed is its’ unique appearance. Because this bread has dwarfism, these rabbits appear infantile even into adulthood.

They have incredibly small ears which are positioned high on the head; another feature caused by their dwarfism. Their eyes appear bigger than the rest of their features and often look disproportionate to the rest of their body.

Size and Coat

The Netherland Dwarf is actually one of the smallest breeds of pet rabbit. They typically weigh between 1.1 and 2.5 pounds and are very small in stature. Their coat is very easy to maintain because it is short to medium in length and very soft. They do shed during shedding season but their coats are still very easy to take care of.

Colors

This particular breed comes in a huge array of different colors. Whilst common colors include black, chocolate and tan, there are also more rare colors including Magpie, Siamese Smoke, Tortoiseshell, Lilac, Himalayan, Harlequin and many more.

small brown rabbits with food

Temperament

The early Netherland Dwarfs were found to have a temperament that didn’t really make them ideal for pets or for showing purposes. Because they were bred with wild rabbits, they were quite aggressive due to their fear.

It is often recommended that Netherland Dwarfs are pets for adults only. This is because they don’t typically like to be picked up or held tightly, which young children will naturally do. However, they do enjoy a lot of human interaction. Because this breed of rabbit is often very nervous and timid, it can take quite some time to build a bond with them. Once they have bonded with their owner, however, they make very affectionate pets.

Netherland Dwarfs as Pets

Despite its’ nervous disposition, the Netherland Dwarf can actually make a very cute, loving pet in the right conditions. Here is everything you need to know about this breed to make sure you form a solid bond and give them the best care possible.

How long do Netherland Dwarfs Live

Often people will assume that because of the dwarfism present in this breed that their lifespan will be shorter than other rabbit breeds. However, this is not actually the case. The Netherland Dwarf has a fairly good life span of between 7 and 9 years. However, as with any small pet, this will all depend on the care and diet that the rabbit receives.

Health Issues in Netherland Dwarfs

As with all rabbit breeds, there are some health issues that Netherland Dwarfs are going to be more susceptible to. Below you will find all of the information that you need about common ailments that your pet Netherland Dwarf may have to deal with at some point in their lifetime.

Respiratory Tract Disorders

Respiratory tract disorders are, unfortunately, very common in Netherland Dwarfs. This is because the roots of their top set of teeth are directly below their sinuses. If your rabbit ends up with inflamed or infected gums then this can travel and cause a sinus infection which can be very uncomfortable for the rabbit. These types of infections have to be treated by a qualified veterinarian who will likely prescribe antibiotics among other treatments.

Dental Disease

As we have already discussed above, Netherland Dwarfs have a much smaller head than most breeds. Whilst this gives them a very cute appearance, it can actually cause them a range of health problems.

Because they have a smaller head and a slightly longer jaw, these rabbits often suffer with dental problems that are caused by issues with misalignment. Rabbits teeth constantly grow and they need to be able to grind them properly to keep them health. If their teeth are misaligned then they may end up with elongated teeth or even misplaced teeth which can cause problems with their stomach and many other aspects of their health.

To keep them healthy, it is important to have regular dental check-ups at the vets, as well as ensuring that your rabbit is consuming the correct diet to help keep their teeth healthy. If you have noticed that your rabbit’s teeth are causing them problems, then a qualified veterinarian will be able to grind down problem teeth and remove sharp pieces which may be making the rabbit uncomfortable.

Parasites

Unfortunately, parasites are common in all breeds of domestic rabbits. One of the most common parasites that are a huge cause for concern is Encephalitozoon cuniculi. This is spread by rabbits consuming or inhaling spores from infected faeces and urine. It has also been known for does to pass it on to kits.

The symptoms of this parasite are alarming and definitely something that needs to be addressed urgently. Some of the common symptoms include a head tilt, unsteadiness, paralysis, behaviour changes, heart disease, lung disease and even coma. Some rabbits can carry this parasite without ever showing any symptoms of the disease, whilst others can become very sick in a very short space of time.

If you suspect that your Netherland Dwarf may be suffering from a parasite then it is important that you get them to the vets immediately.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Rabbits in general have very sensitive gastrointestinal tracts. They are also known to lose their appetites completely if they are stressed or unhappy. The problem is that Netherland Dwarfs are naturally a more nervous breed so they are more likely to lose their appetite if they are stressed.

The problem with this is that rabbits need an awful lot of fibre in their diets in order to maintain a healthy digestive system. If they lose their appetite then there is a risk that they will end up with a blockage or a build-up of a gas which can be potentially lethal if left untreated.

The best way to make sure that your rabbit doesn’t suffer with gastrointestinal disorders is to make sure that they have the correct diet. It is also important to get them straight to the vets if you have noticed that they are off their food.

Uterine Cancer

Unfortunately, uterine cancer is actually quite common in female rabbits. The best treatment is prevention in this case. This is why most vets will recommend spaying. The problem is that Netherland Dwarfs are more likely to develop this form of cancer.

It can cause symptoms including still births, blood in the urine and a total loss of appetite. Fortunately, if the cancer is caught early enough then it can be treated by removing the uterus before the cancer has spread. However, most vets will recommend spaying your rabbit if you have no intentions of breeding.

Caring for Netherland Dwarfs

If you are about to become the proud owner of Netherland Dwarfs, then it is definitely a good idea to arm yourself with as much information as you possibly can so that you can give it the best care possible. Below you will find some very helpful information about caring for your new pet.

Grooming

As we mentioned at the top of our post, Netherland Dwarfs tend to have a short to medium coat with very soft fur. One of the things that make these rabbits so popular is that they don’t require much grooming at all. However, it is important to note that grooming your rabbit can be a great bonding exercise and although their coats are easy to maintain, Netherland Dwarfs do actually enjoy being brushed once a day.

Housing

Because of their small stature, Netherland Dwarfs are perfectly fine in a large cage or hutch. However, if you wish to let them roam in the house then you can do so. It is important to remember that this breed is known for being very energetic, so you will need to give it plenty of space to run around. It is also important to remember that their housing should be tall enough for them to comfortably stand on their hind legs.

Diet

In order to keep your Netherland Dwarf healthy and happy, it is vitally important that they are given the correct diet. Because this breed has a more sensitive digestive tract than most other rabbit breeds, their dietary needs are quite specific. Ideally, they should be eating an eighth of a cup of nuggets per day, roughly their body weight in straw, small portions of fresh vegetables and an unlimited amount of water.

If you are going to be feeding your rabbit fresh fruit and vegetables then there are a couple of things to remember. Firstly, don’t overfeed fresh food to your rabbit as this will upset their digestive tract. Ideally, their diet should be mostly hay. Secondly and lastly, always make sure that you are feeding them foods which are safe for rabbits to consume.

Interaction and Exercise

As we mentioned in the behavior section, Netherland Dwarfs are typically shy and nervous in nature. However, they do still enjoy human interaction. They don’t particularly enjoy being picked up and held, but once they have formed a bond with you they are very affectionate and do enjoy being brushed.

In terms of exercise, these rabbits are quite energetic, probably due to their small stature. It is important that they get fresh air and exercise in a secure run, much like all other rabbit breeds. However, you will find that they are very quick on their feet.

Hopefully you now have all of the information that you could possibly need about caring for your new addition and you are now fully prepared to care for the Netherland Dwarf rabbit.

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