8 Signs That Your Rabbit Is Sick (And How To Prevent)

Rabbit Sickness

Most rabbit owners know that caring for rabbits includes extra effort because they have a different lifestyle than other pet animals. Moreover, this pet has sensitive body functions, especially in its digestive area. That is why one of the common illnesses diagnosed in rabbits is stomach-related problems. 

According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), rabbits are considered prey animals; hence you might not notice some signs that they are already sick. That is because they are good at hiding those symptoms. So as part of a pet owner’s responsibility, it is crucial for you to know what symptoms you should look at. That way, you will know how to respond to the situation once your rabbit shows those signs.  

Signs That Your Rabbit Is Sick

1. The Rabbit is Not Eating

A rabbit not eating is one of the signs you should be worried about immediately, especially if they are enjoying their food days before showing this behavior. 

Ideally, rabbits can survive without food for two to three days. But you don’t want your pet to exhibit this behavior of not eating even for a day because it will only risk their life. Most rabbits depend on their meal intake because this is where they get their energy and nutrients. 

In addition, as herbivore animals, their food consists of hays, meaning it is a fiber-rich food that helps them develop a good digestive function. So, if your pet starts to lose its appetite, further complications can occur in its body. 

Oxbow Animal Health stated that one of the dangers of appetite loss is gastrointestinal statis in rabbits. It is known to give severe risk to your pet because of a lack of nutrients. So to avoid this, you can visit your trusted veterinarian and plan a proper diet for your pet.  

2. The Rabbit Has Difficulty Breathing

Difficulty breathing in your rabbit shows something wrong inside its body, especially in its respiratory system. You can notice this behavior in rabbits because they constantly lift their nose, like gasping for air. 

Moreover, your rabbit will keep sneezing because of a possible bacterial infection inside their lungs. These signs indicated possible snuffles in rabbits. Most pet owners think that snuffles are the equivalent of a cold. But PETA says that rabbits do not catch a cold, unlike humans. 

Snuffles can occur in rabbits because of bacteria called Pasteurella. It is highly contagious, so you should treat this immediately, especially if you are caring for more than two rabbits in the same household.

However, difficulty in breathing for rabbits does not mean snuffles already. This symptom can also mean low oxygen levels, toxicity, hypertension, and other complications in your pet’s body.   

3. The Rabbit Has a Head Tilt

Some people think that head tilt in rabbits is just part of how the pet expresses themselves. So sometimes they find it a gullible and cute behavior. But, head tilt is one sign that your rabbit is already sick. 

According to The Pets Dispensary for Sick Animals (P.D.S.A.), the common reason why rabbits begin to tilt their head is because of the ear or head bacterial infection. Although occasionally, your rabbit must have experienced a head trauma leading to head tilt.

If your pet starts exhibiting this sign, you should immediately set a schedule with a local veterinarian near you. You don’t want to risk your rabbit having a head tilt for days, especially if the root cause is trauma because a surgical operation might be required. That is because part of the nervous system of your rabbit is ruptured, which is why they begin to tilt. 

Once the vet assesses your rabbit through a CT scan and physical examination, they will immediately tell you the proper treatment you need for your rabbit. Remember, do not self-diagnose your pet because it will only lead to a more serious risk in their life. Always trust the expert in the medical field when it comes to the health of your rabbit. 

4. The Rabbit has a Poor Poop Texture

One way to tell if something is wrong with your rabbit is by looking at its poop. Rabbit poop can indicate many things because stool is formed inside your pet’s body. Hence, you can see right away if the nourishment of your rabbit suits its body. 

If your pet’s digestive system does not accept the nutrients from their meal, their poop activity will also be affected. For example, you can see this if their poop appears soft and watery. Or occasionally, mucus can also appear along with their poop. This is an indication that your rabbit might be suffering from diarrhea. This type of illness can cause severe pain in your pet’s abdomen, so you need to treat this immediately. 

Moreover, poor poop texture can also indicate toxicity or poisoning in your rabbit. This can happen if your pet consumes food with compounds unsuitable for its body. 

Here are the foods that you should avoid giving to your rabbit;

Therefore, planning your rabbit diet is important to avoid problems with your rabbit’s digestion. This will also help them produce a good poop texture since there are types of poop that your rabbit will ingest again, called cecotrope. 

If you see your rabbit eating poop, it is not an indication of sickness already. It is natural for them since they are consuming the extra nutrients your pet didn’t ingest the first time they ate the food. 

5. The Rabbit is Grinding Their Teeth

A rabbit will start grinding their teeth because of several reasons. That is why if your pet shows signs, one of the reasons is that something is wrong with them. Usually, rabbits grind their teeth because of body pain, such as wounds or abdomen pain. 

As a rabbit owner, you must differentiate teeth grinding from teeth purring. Occasionally your pet will purr along with their teeth because they are happy and content. According to this article, you can tell the difference by hearing what sound your rabbit is producing. Often, teeth grinding in rabbits is like loud snaps because their teeth continuously click with each other. While teeth purring is like a snoring sound. 

6. The Rabbit is Sleeping Too Much

One of the things that you should not overlook is the amount of time your rabbit is sleeping. The regular sleeping time of rabbits is eight hours a day. So if they sleep too much, such as more than twelve hours, your rabbit might be sick. Like humans, if something is wrong with our bodies, we tend to sleep a lot. 

Although resting is important for your pet, you need to check the root cause of oversleeping in your rabbit. Especially if the rabbit is naturally active and playful before this behavior, if you visit your vet, take note of the important information so that they can assess your pet right. 

For example, what kind of lifestyle does your pet have? What are the other symptoms that you noticed? Or the food that they last consumed? All this information in your rabbit affects its sleeping activity, which is why it will help the doctor diagnose your rabbit and provide treatment if you take note of this Info. 

7. The Rabbit is Dehydrated

Another clinical sign of a sick rabbit is its body is dehydrated. Dehydration in rabbits does not only mean that they don’t drink water. Dehydration is a condition where a rabbit lacks body fluid, including the breakdown of nutrients. Nutrients come from the meal of your rabbit, which is why foddering them with healthy foods helps your pet develop a strong immune system to fight common sicknesses. 

Check their skin and pull it upwards to see if your rabbit is dehydrated. If the skin returns to its original position, your rabbit is rehydrated and healthy. While if their skin appears tight and slowly returns to its position, your rabbit most likely lacks body fluid. 

When your rabbit is dehydrated, visit their vet immediately to give proper treatment. Sometimes, IV fluid is inserted in your pet to assist them in acquiring fluids and helps them become dehydrated again.

8. The Rabbit is Distressed

A distressed rabbit is one of the common signs you can notice in your pet. Stress can happen to rabbits due to many reasons. It is also harmful because it can lead to several complications in rabbits. Like in humans, stress should not be overlooked. A sad rabbit can lose their appetite, and not consuming nourishment is bad. 

As an owner, you should know that rabbit nutrition is important for good digestive and body function. You will know that your rabbit is stressed if they are not paying attention and sometimes sleeping too much. Consider playing with our pets or giving them their favorite treats. It is also recommended to ask for the doctor’s advice on why the rabbits suddenly exhibit behavioral signs fo stress. 

Read More: Definitive Guide to Your Rabbit’s Health

Things You Should Do To Prevent Rabbit From Getting Sick

Avoiding sickness is inevitable. However, you can prevent your rabbit from serious complications due to various diseases and illnesses. Here are the things you can do as an owner to keep your rabbit healthy and away from constant sickness.

Provide a Balanced Diet

Again, diet and the food that your rabbit is consuming are important. One of the reasons why rabbits get sick is because some owners let their bunny fodder on non-nutritional food, or sometimes they offer food scraps. 

According to the Veterinary Centers of America (VCA), the ideal diet for rabbits is composed of hay and grass because it is rich in fiber. You can also add vegetables as supplementary nutrition.  But remember that their primary meal should come from alfalfa grass or timothy hays. 

A rabbit pellet is also an alternative option for your rabbit meal since they are specifically made to suit your pet’s digestive system. 

When feeding your rabbit, you can balance the nutrition by measuring each food you offer them. In that way, you will know that your pet is acquiring the right amount of nourishment to keep its body healthy. Or, if you are unsure, you can always ask a veterinarian for advice.

In addition, it is also recommended to give your fruits additional nutrients. However, you must note that not all kinds of fruits are safe for rabbits. You should introduce them to new foods gradually by giving them small pieces and then gradually increasing them once they are familiar with the new nourishment. 

Here is the list of safe fruits and veggies that your rabbit can safely eat:

If you want to know more about Rabbit foods, read this article:

The Definitive Guide To What Foods Rabbits Can & Cannot Eat

Provide a Clean and Safe Place

Another thing that you can do to prevent your rabbit from getting sick is to provide them with a clean and safe place. Ensure that their cage is big enough for your pet to have good ventilation and an area to sleep well. A safe place will help your rabbit acquire the right amount of sleep and help them rest well every day. 

In addition, cleaning is also important because you can avoid bacterial and parasite growth in the cage of your rabbit. Unlike humans, who can sanitize their home now and then, a rabbit cannot clean their shelter on their own. One of the common risks of rabbits because of the unsanitized cage are ear mites and parasitic infestation. It can be cured easily if you provide treatment early. But ensuring that your rabbit’s cage is clean will prevent them from getting this parasite in the first place. 

Ensure an Active Lifestyle

Rabbits are sociable animals, so keeping them fit and healthy is important. That is why one of the responsibilities of a rabbit owner is to ensure that their pet is getting the right amount of exercise. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), rabbits must exercise daily. Aside from keeping them fit, they will also release the pent-up energy in their body. 

In addition, your rabbit also releases happy hormones when they are playing and active. Hence, it decreases the chance of stress in your pet. Some reports show caging rabbits for long hours or a lifetime contributed to the stress level of animals. And if the rabbit is stressed, it can result in different risks such as banging their head and developing illnesses because of long hours of confinement in their shelter. 

Keep Your Rabbit Hydrated

Your rabbit needs to drink water every day to keep their body hydrated. As stated above, dehydration in rabbits is one of the signs that your pet is sick. So providing them with clean drinking water will keep them cool and hydrated, especially every after-meal intake. 

In addition, water also helps your rabbit digest their food well. Hence their metabolism can easily break down the nutrients and distribute them throughout different body parts.  

Also, if it is your first time caring for rabbits, you should help them develop the habit of drinking water. You can encourage them to go to their water bowls or bottles and let them sip after a meal. According to a study, about two-thirds of your pet’s body is composed of water. So letting them drink enough liquid will maintain the water inside their body and decrease the chance of heart-related diseases such as stroke and hypertension. 

You can also let your rabbit fodder on food rich in water. This will help your pet acquire additional hydration. However, remember not to overfeed them with water-rich food. Their primary source of hydration should still come from drinking water. Also, it is not advisable to give the food together since it can lead to diarrhea because of too much hydration. 

Here is the list of water-rich food that is safe for your rabbit to eat:

Regular Check Up

Taking care of rabbits does not mean that all of the responsibilities are for you to shoulder. Sometimes, asking for assistance, especially regarding your pet’s health, is crucial. One of the things that you can do to keep your pet healthy and avoid sickness is regularly checked with your trusted veterinarian. 

Check up helps your rabbit to have a routine assessment if they have a good lifestyle or if your pet is hiding some underlying disease. In that way, you can also provide early treatment if the check-up results are bad. 

Moreover, when visiting the veterinary clinic, some of the general tests that the doctor will conduct are physical, blood, stool, and urine examination. This will help the doctor determine the overall function of your rabbit’s body. 

Now, choosing the right veterinarian for your pet is important. There are different areas that doctors specialize in. Find someone who will fit the characteristics of your rabbit. Having a trusted doctor is crucial so that when an emergency occurs, you have someone on your contact who can respond to your rabbit. 

Follow Vaccination Plan

Vaccination is important in rabbits because it will help them fight common diseases and illnesses. Especially when your rabbit is young, they are more vulnerable and sensitive. If they acquire a virus or bacteria, it can be deadly for them. Vaccination will ensure defense to fight off the infection. 

There are two primary vaccines that your rabbit should have. Myxomatosis and hemorrhagic disease (R(V)HD). The two are known to be contagious and fatal to rabbits, so veterinarians recommend that younger rabbits be vaccinated as soon as possible. 

Key Takeaways

  • Rabbits sometimes don’t show that they are sick. They are good at hiding the pain in their body. However, there are general signs to help you notice if your rabbit has an illness. That is why it’s important to know these symptoms so you can provide treatment and it will not result in more serious complications. 
  • Here are the common signs of a sick rabbit that you should keep an eye on;
    • 1. rabbit not eating,
    • 2. difficulty in breathing,
    • 3. head tilting,
    • 4. poor poop texture,
    • 5. grinding teeth,
    • 6. oversleeping, and
    • 7. dehydration.
  • Note: Do not self-diagnose your rabbit. Some medical experts, such as veterinarian doctors, will properly assess your pet if they are sick. They will also provide the right treatment so that it will not lead to a more serious problem with rabbits’ health. 
  • Provide a balanced diet and safe space for your rabbit. This will ensure that your pet is gaining the right amount of nutrients and away from parasitic infestation. 
  • Daily exercise can also help your rabbit prevent getting sick because it will keep them fit and help them release all of their pent-up energy. 
  • Hydration is important because it assists in rabbits’ metabolism and digestive function. In addition, it also decreases the chance of heart-related disease because the body is getting enough water. 
  • Regular checkups also contributed to the overall health and wellness of rabbits. It will be easier to track if your pet has some underlying disease. In that way, you can provide medical treatment right away. 
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