To date, nearly 3 million rabbits are owned as pets in the United States. Like any other animal that is kept as a pet, there is always a risk that your rabbit may become ill. Unfortunately, rabbits are not able to tell us what is wrong with them, which can lead to an unhealthy pet and a scary situation for the owner. So how can rabbit owners know if their pet is sick?
10 Signs of sickness in rabbits include:
- Appetite Changes in Your Rabbit
- Teeth Grinding
- Bald Spots
- Changes in Urine or Stools
- Lethargy or Energy Level Changes
- Posture Changes
- Changes in Appearance: Fur, Eyes, or Ears
- Coughing, Sneezing, or Breathing Problems
- Body Temperature Changes
- Your Rabbit is Making Unusual Noises
When your pet rabbit is sick, it is important to know the signals to look for that may indicate medical treatment is necessary. If you notice any of the following things, you need to seek medical treatment for your rabbit right away. In this article, you will learn the signs that your pet rabbit may be under the weather, what may be causing the symptoms, and what are potential options for treatment.
1. Appetite Changes in Your Rabbit
Rabbits are considered grazing animals, which means they are continuously eating throughout the day. Because of this, rabbits need to be provided with a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains that are easily accessible.
When determining if your rabbit is eating enough, if your rabbit is going 4-6 hours without eating, this may be an indication that he is not feeling well and may need to be seen by a veterinarian.
Causes of Appetite Loss in Rabbits
It is important to know that the above list may not be the exclusive reason your pet rabbit has decided to stop eating. There are times that a rabbit just simply does not feel as hungry as usual, which may lead to a lower food intake.
Situations that cause a decreased appetite in rabbits include:
- Dental issues
- Gut blockages
- Bacterial infections
- Food changes
Treatment for Appetite Loss
If you notice that your rabbit has stopped eating or has a sudden aversion to food, try not to panic. Before rushing to the vet, you can try some things at home to see if you can get the rabbit to eat on its own.
If you notice the health of your rabbit declining:
- Make sure your rabbit is getting fluids.
- Provide your rabbit with his favorite foods
While these things may encourage your rabbit to begin eating, there is a chance they may not work, and you will need the support of a veterinarian to ensure your rabbit is healthy.
2. Teeth Grinding
Rabbits are well known for their big, beautiful teeth. Rabbits often use their teeth to communicate affection; however, those same teeth can also give you an indication that something is very wrong.
Causes of Grinding Teeth
It is important to know that when rabbits grind their teeth, it is not always bad. Often, rabbits communicate pleasure with gentle tooth grinding. If you notice excessive grinding that seems to be painful or uncomfortable for your rabbit, there could be an underlying cause.
Reasons for teeth grinding may include:
- Extreme stress
- Overgrown teeth
Treatment for Grinding Teeth
Treatment for grinding teeth is best administered by a trained veterinary professional. If your rabbit is grinding its teeth because of overgrowth, the teeth will likely need to be trimmed.
Some rabbit owners determine they can trim their rabbit’s teeth. In general, this is not advisable, as it could cause great harm to your pet.
If you choose to trim your rabbit’s teeth on your own, you run the risk of creating micro-cracks that could run vertically into the rabbit’s teeth and cause severe infection.
Preventing Teeth Grinding
Grinding teeth can be problematic to your rabbit’s health, so it is important to know what you can do to prevent teeth grinding. It’s important to ensure your bunny’s teeth are continuously being worn down.
You can help prevent teeth grinding in rabbits by:
- Provide ample chew toys. This will allow the rabbit to naturally wear their teeth down.
- Make sure their diet is balanced and includes items that require the work of the teeth to eat.
3. Bald Spots
Rabbits are notoriously clean animals and usually keep themselves quite clean. It is important to monitor your rabbit’s grooming habits to ensure they are not overgrooming themselves, which could cause hair loss and could indicate a more serious medical problem.
Causes of Bald Spots
Sometimes rabbits have mild skin irritations that can cause a small bare patch on their body, whether that be from excessive licking or scratching. While this may be common, if you notice bare patches beginning to appear on your rabbit, it is something that should be monitored.
Bald Spots could indicate any of the following medical conditions:
- Skin parasites
- Urinary tract infections
- Dental issues
- Bacterial infections
Treatment for Bare Skin Patches
It is not recommended that you try to treat a rabbit with a skin condition at home. Because skin conditions often indicate more significant health issues, rabbits should receive proper treatment from a veterinarian. If you fail to seek the opinion of a veterinarian, you could be putting your rabbit’s life at risk.
Preventing Skin Patches
It is important to be proactive when it comes to preventing skin patches or other issues. Always keep a close eye on your rabbit and the condition of his fur. Like any animal, rabbits are susceptible to parasites and fleas, both of which can become problematic.
As soon as you recognize any medical issue, it’s best to take your rabbit to the vet to receive a recommended treatment option.
While it may be tempting to use an over the counter flea or skin treatment, it could be dangerous for your rabbit because the formulation is likely not made for the small size of a rabbit.
4. Changes in Urine or Stools
If your rabbit is an indoor rabbit, it is helpful to monitor urine and stool output as well as the consistency and look of each. Like most animals, these can be indicators of more serious underlying health issues.
Causes of Changes In the Urine or Stool
Just like humans or other animals, urine and stool can be a good indicator of something that is amiss in the body. If you notice your rabbit has abnormal stool or urine that looks or smells different, there is a good chance he has an illness he is trying to fight off.
Causes of Changes In the Urine or Stool include:.
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Bladder stones
- Bladder infections
Treatment for Urine and Stool Changes
The treatment for urine and stool changes is best left to a licensed veterinarian. While changes are not necessarily an indicator of significant health issues, they should not be ignored.
If an infection is present, a veterinarian may perform the following:
- Administration of antibiotics
- Bladder flush
Prevent Urine and Stool Changes
Sometimes urine and stool issues occur with no rhyme or reason – and sometimes it’s cause for concern. As the rabbit’s owner, you need to be proactive to help prevent any issues from occurring. While these are not magic cures, they may help protect your rabbit from unnecessary illness and suffering.
You can help prevent urine or stool changes in rabbits by:
- Ensuring your rabbit eats a balanced diet
- Making sure your rabbit is drinking plenty of fluids
- Providing plenty of opportunity for exercise
- Cleaning your rabbit’s home often
While all these preventative measures are positive and will likely help prevent some future health issues in your rabbit, it is still important to monitor the urine and stool output as well as the color and consistency of urine and stool.
5. Lethargy or Energy Level Changes
Rabbits are typically quite energetic and playful. You can use any lack of energy to determine if there is a potential health issue that you need to be aware of. If your rabbit has been extremely energetic and racing around, it is only natural that they would be tired. But keep an eye on this; if your rabbit does not have any energy, it can indicate an underlying health issue.
Causes of Lethargy
All animals enjoy taking naps and sleeping. There is a difference between casual napping and lethargic sleeping. If you notice your rabbit is spending a lot of extra time sleeping, with little energy to engage in normal activities, such as play or even eating, there may be a problem.
Lethargy in rabbits can be caused by:
- Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus
Treatment for Lethargy
Treatment for a lethargic rabbit may become a complicated situation because the cause may not be immediately evident. If you notice excessive lethargy, you should take your rabbit to the vet right away to determine the cause.
If an infection is the cause of lethargy in your rabbit, possible treatments could include:
- Providing antibiotics
- Giving pain medication if needed
- Providing extra fluids
Unfortunately, there is not anything you can do to stop lethargy from occurring; however, keeping a close eye on the overall health of your rabbit will help a sudden illness from striking. The best prevention is to seek help as soon as you notice a problem.
6. Posture Changes
You can probably picture the way a typical rabbit looks when sitting up, either eating or just relaxing. rabbits have a unique posture, so when something looks off with their posture, it is worth looking into.
Causes of Posture Changes
The posture of an animal when it is not feeling well is likely much different than normal. Your rabbit may look like he is struggling to sit upright or like it just cannot find a comfortable position. If you notice your rabbit has different posturing or seems to be in pain, it is important to take him to the vet to discover the cause.
Causes of a changed posture in rabbits could include:
- Stressed or anxious
Treatment for Posture Changes
When finding treatment for your rabbit with poor posture, the vet will likely investigate to determine why the posturing is occurring.
If your rabbit is older, Posture changes may be the result of arthritis or other age-related issues.
If your rabbit is young, there could be an underlying health issue that will determine the best treatment.
Preventing Posture Changes
It is highly unlikely that you will be able to prevent posture changes in your rabbit; however, you should carefully observe your rabbit each day to ensure there is nothing out of the ordinary. Keeping your Rabbit healthy is the best line of defense when it comes to protecting their posture.
7. Changes in Appearance: Fur, Eyes, or Ears
Rabbits typically have a smooth and shiny coat with perky ears and bright eyes. Rabbits that are not feeling well will typically have a different appearance, so you need to be observant.
Causes of Appearance Changes
Not all appearance changes indicate a medical emergency. A lot of these changes will take place slowly and may not become evident until they have progressed to a dramatic level. Sometimes the change in appearance can be from something simple like diet.
Causes of appearance changes in rabbits include:
- Dietary issues
- Ear canker
- Cataracts or other eye problems
- Parasitic infection
- Bacterial infection
Treatment for Appearance Changes
When you notice appearance changes in your rabbit, whether it be in their skin or eyes, it is typically an indicator of an underlying health issue. The cause of the appearance change will dictate the treatment that needs to be performed.
If the appearance changes are related to an infection of some sort, medication will likely be administered. If the changes are age-related, there may not be medication to treat the issues. In this case, the vet will likely give recommendations to help keep your rabbit comfortable.
Preventing Appearance Changes
Because appearance changes are either age or health-related, the best thing you can do to prevent the changes is to be observant of your rabbit. Providing health care to your rabbit as soon as it is needed is likely the best preventative measure you can take.
8. Coughing, Sneezing, or Breathing Problems
Rabbits are not typically loud animals. If they have underlying health issues though, this can cause distressed breathing, coughing, or sneezing issues.
Causes of Coughing, Sneezing or Breathing Problems in Rabbits
Rabbits, like any animal, can develop coughs and sneezes. These can be caused by a simple irritation in the air or even an infection of some sort. If you notice your rabbit coughing or sneezing excessively or difficulty breathing, it may be cause for concern.
Causes of respiratory problems in rabbits include:
- Bacterial infection
- Blocked nasal passage
Treatment for Sneezing and Breathing Problems
The first line of treatment will be to diagnose the cause of sneezing and breathing issues. If it is determined that the rabbit is suffering from an infection, antibiotics will likely be administered.
Treatments for respiratory problems in rabbits include:
Preventing Sneezing and Breathing Problems
It is important to remember that even if you spend all the time you can cleaning and disinfecting, there is always a chance that your rabbit will develop a sneeze or breathing issues. The best thing you can do is seek the advice of a veterinarian for treatment options if needed.
Respiratory issues in rabbits can be prevented by:
- Keeping your rabbit’s area clean
- Disinfecting your rabbit’s toys, food dishes, and bedding often
- Making sure your rabbit is not too cold
9. Body Temperature Changes
Rabbits typically have a body temperature of 100.5 – 103.5. If a rabbit has a higher temperature, it may indicate a serious health issue. However, if you take your rabbit’s temperature in the evening, it may be a bit higher than normal.
Try to monitor your rabbit’s temperature about the same time each day to get a baseline of your rabbit’s normal temperature.
Causes of Body Temperature Changes
When the body is fighting off germs, the first line of defense is often to elevate the body temperature to help attack the intruders before they can do damage. A slight variation of temperature is normal, but elevated temperature can be a sign of a serious medical problem.
Causes for body temperature changes in rabbits include:
Treatment of Body Temperature Changes
If your rabbit has a fever, it can be an extremely distressing thing for both the rabbit and owner. A fever is usually indicative of an infection of some sort and will often subside with proper medication. Before you go to the vet, you can help make your rabbit comfortable by using some tried and true methods to reduce the fever.
Treatment of body temperature changes in rabbits include:
- Gently rubbing your rabbit’s ears with rubbing alcohol or ice cubes wrapped in a towel.
- Wet your fingers with cool water and rub your rabbit’s ears
- Pack your bunny in ice (wrapped in towels)
- Seek veterinarian attention quickly
Preventing Body Temperature Changes
Unfortunately, you can’t predict or prevent a fever related to illness. But you can prevent drastic body temperature changes by ensuring the rabbit is kept in a location that will not allow the body temperature to rise or fall too quickly.
10. Your Rabbit is Making Unusual Noises
Rabbits are not loud animals, though they do use noise to communicate with their owners when something is not right.
Causes of Noise Production
Think about what you do when you are not feeling well, or you are in pain. It is common to make noises or even cry. Rabbits cannot cry as we do, but they can let us know they are experience discomfort with noises. Not all noises are bad, but if they seem to be abnormal, you should try to discover the cause.
Unusual sounds from your bunny can indicate:
Treatment for Noise Production
If your rabbit is making shrieking or loud noises, this is an indicator that they need veterinary treatment right away, as this is typically an indication of severe pain. As a result, the treatment administered by the veterinarian will be based on the cause of the pain.
Preventing Noise Production
It is important to know the difference between positive and negative noise production. Like most animals, rabbits make noises to show comfort or happiness as well as to indicate pain. Knowing your rabbit and the sounds they make will help you to determine if it is a medical emergency.
Can My Rabbit Go to a Regular Vet?
If you are new to rabbit ownership, you may be wondering if there is a specific type of clinic that is qualified to treat rabbits. Because a rabbit is not the typical domestic animal, not all small animal clinics are qualified to treat them.
It is best for rabbits to seek care from an exotic or small animal vet.
Do Rabbits Need Vaccines?
It is well known that cats and dogs need to have annual vaccines, but it may be called into question when dealing with a rabbit. Pet rabbits need to be vaccinated. Remember, a vaccine is not a treatment; it is a preventative measure to protect the health of your pet.
How Many Vaccines Do Rabbits Need?
It is recommended that rabbits receive two vaccines: Myxo-RHD and ERAVAC. Both vaccines will help maintain the health of your rabbit and help prevent life-threatening illnesses.
- Myxo-RHD: This vaccine is given when the rabbit is five weeks old and is good for one year. At the end of one year, the rabbit needs to receive another injection of the vaccine to ensure protection continues.
- ERAVAC: This vaccine is also administered when rabbits are 30 days old; it is only good for nine months. It is recommended that the rabbit receive a booster every nine months.
While vaccines are not required for rabbits, it is a good way to help ensure that your rabbit is protected against diseases that could be potentially life-threatening. Because the duration of the vaccine is quite limited, you need to be sure to keep accurate records, so you get the boosters in the correct time frame.
Owning a pet rabbit can be a lot of fun and quite an enjoyable experience. But it can be frightening when your rabbit is feeling under the weather. With careful observation and proactively providing for all your rabbit’s needs, you will likely experience a long and meaningful companionship.