Common Rabbit Illnesses and How To Treat Them (Known Facts)

Common Rabbit Illnesses and How To Treat Them
Common Rabbit Illnesses and How To Treat Them

Your rabbit might get ill. As a rabbit owner, it’s important to know the symptoms of various illnesses your rabbit might get. Often people ask me about what to look for if they think their rabbit is ill.

So, what are common rabbit illness and how do you treat them? Keep an eye out of certain symptoms that would indicate your rabbit is ill. Swelling, fever, loss of appetite, runny eyes or breath difficulties are concerning symptoms. Prevention is the best medicine for your rabbit. Provide your rabbit regular check ups, vaccinations, a good healthy diet and regular exercise. Play with your rabbit, too. This can stop boredom and will increase his healthy mood.

An rabbit illness is defined as ill health. It’s the symptoms your rabbit exhibits based upon his physical symptoms such as he’s not acting normal or healthy. A rabbit’s illness might be due to a disease, but maybe not. Or it could be because of a more psychological reason such a severe fear or stress.

Sometimes people use the words disease and illness interchangeably, but they are very different. Disease is a condition that’s already been diagnosed by a vet.


Symptoms Your Rabbit Is Ill

  • Swelling-Your rabbit experiences swelling on his body due to abscesses or tumors. Usually these can grow slowly, so you might not notice them at first. If your rabbit acts stiff like he’s in pain, check his body for bumps that could be a tumor or abscess. If you find lumps or bumps on your rabbit, get him to your vet for immediate care.
  • Poisoning-Rabbits can get into trouble from what they nibble on. One common poisonous plant for rabbits is ivy which grows in many backyards. Usually symptoms shows up within a couple hours of eating, sometimes longer. Signs that your rabbit has been poisoned is loss of appetite, diarrhea, stomach tenderness, paralysis and convulsions. If you suspect poisoning of your rabbit, take him to the vet immediately.
  • Head Tilt (Wry Neck)- Head tilt is often from a bacterial infection in the rabbit’s middle or inner ear infection caused by bacteria or a parasite.
  • Loss of Appetite-Sometimes a rabbit loses his appetite. It could be due to a variety of reasons such as swelling or abdominal pain or intestinal problems. Your rabbit could lose his appetite gradually over time or all of a sudden. If your rabbit hasn’t eaten for more than four to six hours, you should take him to your vet immediately.
  • Paralysis Of Limbs-If your rabbit is dragging one of his limbs, there’s a good chance he has a fracture, nerve damage or a dislocation. If your rabbits is dragging both hind legs, then he has a spinal injury of some kind like a fractured spine or dislocation. If your rabbit is dragging limbs or acting like he’s in pain when he hops, you should get him to the vet for an x-ray.
  • Breathing Difficulties– Sometimes rabbits have breathing difficulties from heat stress or infection. The symptoms are fast breathing, open mouth breathing or noisy breathing. Your rabbit might also have watery eyes or nose. Both respiratory infections and heat stress is deadly to rabbits
  • Runny eyes-Rabbits with runny eyes could mean an infection but there’s other things that cause these symptoms. If your rabbit gets hit in the eye, his eye might be injured, scratched or have an ulcer in it. Don’t try to treat this yourself. Leave it to a trained vet, you could cause more damage.
  • Fever- If your rabbit gets a high fever, you need to cool him off quickly. You can swab his ears with alcohol or wet towels wrapped in ice cubes works too. Keep checking your rabbit’s temperature to bring it down to at least 104, normal temperature for rabbits is 101-103. Fever is actually your rabbit’s body fighting off whatever is attacking his immune system. Give your rabbit fluids, and call the vet.
  • Heat Stroke-In the summer, rabbits can get extremely hot. If your rabbit is left outside in an sunny area without shade, he might get heat stroke, Get him inside immediately and cool him off like you would if he had a fever. Swab the inside of his ears with rubbing alcohol, or wet towels with ice cubes. Call your vet immediately.

How To Prevent An Illness In Your Rabbit?

Prevention is the best medicine especially when it comes to taking care of your rabbit. Here are practical things you can do to keep your rabbit healthy and strong.

Vaccinations-Get your rabbit vaccinated to prevent disease such as Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease. Both diseases are fatal for rabbits.

Check-ups-Get your rabbit check-ups at least once a year until your rabbit is 4 years old. After your rabbit is 4 years old, he should see a vet every 6 months. Your vet will be able to check your rabbit for signs of illness before it turns into a bigger health issue.

Weekly and Daily Check You Can Make

As your rabbit’s owner, it’s up to you to do daily and weekly checks on your rabbit to be sure he is healthy.

Here is a chart of suggested ways to check your rabbit daily and weekly.

Check rabbit daily Check rabbit weekly
Observe your rabbit whether he’s eating, drinking and actually normal. Nail check-be sure his nails aren’t too long or broken or split
Feet check for sores Teeth check to be sure they’re not too long. Your vet can trim them if needed.
Fur-check your rabbit’s fur for parasites, bald patches, dandruff, wet areas. Weight-check your rabbit’s weight weekly. Lose of weight could mean he could be ill. If your rabbit gets too heavy, it’s not healthy either.
Eyes-check your rabbit for runny eyes.  
Nose-check your rabbit for a runny nose. A runny nose could be the beginning of a respiratory illness.  
Mouth-Check your rabbit for dribbling, wetness around mouth. It could mean your rabbit’s teeth are overgrown.  
Ears-Look inside the rabbit’s ears for hard wax  
Bottom-check your rabbit’s bottom for wet poop stains on his fur, this could mean he has diarrhea  

Good Diet-A good diet keeps your rabbit healthy and able to fight off illness. Your rabbit’s diet should include a fresh hay mixture of timothy hay and oat hay, daily fresh clean water, and fresh vegetables. Go light on the treats, too many will upset your rabbit’s stomach. Fibrous hay keeps your rabbit’s teeth trimmed down. Let your rabbit graze in your backyard if it hasn’t been fertilized or treated with chemicals.

Grooming- Good grooming is important for your rabbit. Your rabbit sheds several times a year. Keep your rabbit well groomed by regular brushing to keep him from swallowing too much fur. This can cause hair balls to get into his intestines. You can clip get your rabbit’s fur clipped if he’s a long hair rabbit.

Nails-Keep your rabbit’s nails a good length. Your rabbit’s nails should stay trimmed naturally as he is running around and digging. Depending upon where your rabbit is kept will determine how often you need to trim his nails.

Teeth care- Rabbit’s teeth grow as long as they live. Eating lots of hay and grass will help keep your rabbit’s teeth trimmed to the proper length. It’s important that your rabbit’s teeth don’t get too long or he won’t eat or drink. It can also cause pain, wet mouth and not eating enough.

Can Neutering or Spaying Help My Rabbit Stay Healthy?

It’s important to neuter your rabbit to prevent unwanted baby rabbits and other health problems.

Female rabbits that aren’t neutered are prone to:

  • Be aggressive to other rabbits
  • Dig a lot in dirt, breaking their nails.
  • Get cancer easier
  • Womb infections easier

Female rabbits should be spayed when they reach sexual maturity, around 4 months, but some vets prefer you wait until 6 months of age. Male rabbits can be neutered anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks  of age.

Male rabbits that aren’t neutered are prone to:

  • Be aggressive to other rabbits
  • Spray urine
  • Mount rabbits and animals

If your rabbit isn’t neutered, he will get frustrated when you prevent him from breeding.

What Kind Of Treatment Should I Give An Ill Rabbit?

Always treat your ill rabbit immediately, rabbits become dangerously ill quickly. Always talk to your vet about what’s going on with your rabbit. In the meantime, keep your rabbit warm and hydrated. Give him water and soft foods through a spoon or syringe if you have one. Give your rabbit all the medications the vet prescribes.

Other Preventive Measures To Keep Your Rabbit Healthy

  • Exercise-Your rabbit needs to get exercise every day. You can build a rabbit run in your backyard for your rabbit to enjoy fresh grass and sunny skies. He can graze on grass, too.
  • Play time-Your rabbit needs to play! Rabbits get bored, they need to be kept busy. Being bored can actually be harmful to his health. There are several ways to keep your rabbit happy, but play is an important activity for your rabbit.
  • Toys-Rabbits, like children, like toys. Cat toy, paper towel rolls, hard plastic boxes or cardboard boxes are perfect toys for your rabbit to chew or climb on. They love to bat, fling and throw toys.
  • Time-Spend some time every day with your rabbit. Create a little play area for your rabbit. Give him a newspaper to rip up.

Can Stress Make A Rabbit Ill?

Rabbits are very prone to getting stressed. Rabbits are animals of prey and their easily frightened. Stress will affect your rabbit’s health. They need to feel safe and secure at all times inside and outside the house.

  • Keep other pets away from your rabbit. Pets like dogs or cats can scare rabbits.
  • Never leave your rabbit outside by himself. This makes him vulnerable to getting hurt by wild animals.
  • Give your rabbit time with other rabbits. Socialize your rabbit at a young age. Introduce him to new people and situations. Rabbits that are socialized young can deal with new situations when he’s older without stressing.

What Stresses My Rabbit?

Your rabbit can get stressed by all kinds of things. Here is a list of some of things rabbits get stressed or fear of:

  • New experiences like being handled by a stranger
  • Loud noises
  • Small spaces, lose of rabbit friend, being alone too much
  • Lack of mental stimulation, not enough exercise
  • Pain
  • Too light
  • Too hot
  • Too cramped space
  • Boredom

What Are Symptoms Of Stress That Could Lead To Illness In A Rabbit?

Keep alert for signs of stress in your rabbit. Here is a list of some stress symptoms that could cause your rabbit to become ill:

  • Nervous, hunched up with ears flat against his body
  • Being aggressive to people or other rabbits
  • Eyes bulging out
  • Jumping around excitedly
  • Lethargy and lack of interest in food or play
  • Restlessness
  • Trying to hide
  • Breathing heavily
  • Not eating
  • Not grooming himself
  • Repeated movements that seem obsessive and not normal
  • Biting water bottle, or food bowl repeatedly
  • Circling or head bobbing

Rabbits are prone to illness. When they’re ill, it can be deadly. As your rabbit’s owners you can keep an eye on his health with regular daily and weekly checks. You can also provide preventative measures to keep him strong and healthy so he won’t be susceptible to illnesses as easily.