Rabbits sometimes develop respiratory problems. I suggest that you learn about your pet rabbit’s tendency towards certain respiratory illnesses. In fact, I get asked by people all the time why their rabbit is breathing so hard. So, why is my rabbit breathing so fast and heavy?
Why Do Rabbits Hide Their Illnesses?
Because rabbits are prey animals, they are prone to kicking into a survival mode when they get sick. Because of this, they hide their illnesses. This is frustrating for a rabbit owner. If you sense that something is not right with their rabbit, but can’t put your finger on the problem, take her to your vet right away. This tendency to conceal symptoms gets a rabbit into trouble. Rabbit owners say that they’ve had rabbits on death’s door that had only one symptom- being quieter than normal. So, if your rabbit is exhibiting symptoms, take notice and act. It’s not normal behavior for rabbits to show their symptoms.
What Is A Normal Breathing Rate For A Rabbit?
If your rabbit is healthy, he’ll have a normal respiration rate and temperature. Rabbit owners should keep a thermometer to check their rabbit’s temperature. Ask your vet to teach you how to take your rabbit’s rectal temperature, which gives the most accurate reading. Normal temperature for a rabbit is 101.3-104 F.
How to check your rabbit’s respiratory rate: Count the number of breaths your rabbit takes in 15 seconds and then multiply that number by four. The best way to count your rabbit’s breaths is to watch the rise of her chest or to put your hand in front of her nose and count each time she exhales. Normal respiratory rate should be 30-60 breaths per minute.
Why Is My Rabbit Breathing Fast?
Rabbits breathe faster than humans. When your rabbit is lying down, her breathing is more noticable to you. Check her breathing rate. Normal respiratory rate is 30 to 60 breaths per minute. Some rabbit breath faster than this if stressed or overheated. If your rabbit is breathing faster than normal, give your rabbit a quick health evaluation to determine if you need to call the vet.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Is your rabbit:
- Acting normal?
- Pooping and peeing normally?
- Relaxed most of the time?
- Moving around her cage or her play area?
If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then your rabbit is probably fine. Remove her to a quieter location where it’s cooler and give her water. She should start to breathe normally again. If not, contact your vet.
If you answer “no” to any of the above questions or if your rabbit has any of these symptoms, call your vet:
- Flinching as if in pain
- Not eating
- Not drinking
- Staying crouched or hunched up all the time
- Acting frightened
- Not able to move
- Grunting and labored breathing
- Lips or tongue has a blue tint
- Head tilted upward-clean sign your rabbit can’t breathe
What Else Can Cause My Rabbit To Breathe Fast?
If your rabbit is breathing fast, but looks healthy and is in a cool location, especially if it’s summer, but shows no symptoms of illness, she is fine. But she may breathe quickly because she’s scared or in shock. In the wild, rabbits steer clear of their predators, you rabbit has the same prey animal instincts. Rabbits frighten easily. If your pet rabbit is afraid you’ll notice she hides, acts restless like she wants to run away, grunts and breathes heavily. Your rabbit might thump the ground which is an instinct domestic rabbits get from their wild rabbit cousins to warn of danger. Loud noises such as a barking dog near a rabbit’s cage, loud music or screaming can give a rabbit a heart attack or put her into shock. A cat sneaking around your rabbit’s cage can also scare a rabbit into shock. Shock can cause the rabbit to die suddenly. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it’s possible. Socializing your young rabbit is important. They learn that their owners house or backyard is a safe place for them. Young children should always have supervision when holding or playing with a pet rabbit. Pet dogs or cats should be kept clear from your rabbit to prevent any mishaps.
Why Is My Rabbit Making Weird Noises When She Breathe?
Because they breathe through their noses and not their mouths, rabbits are prone to respiratory problems. The term for a rabbit’s nasal breathing because of respiratory problems is called “Stertor or Stridor.” Stertor is noisy breathing. It’s a low pitched snoring sound. Rabbits get this from some kind of blockage in the nose or throat. Stridor is a higher pitched, noisy kind of breathing. Here are common symptoms of these conditions.
- Rapid or loud wheezing when your rabbit breathes
- Nasal discharge
- Discharge from your rabbit’s eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Rabbit can’t chew or swallow
- Hoarse breathing
There are many causes of rabbits stertor and stridor including:
- Trauma on face or nose
- Bites from insects or other animals
- Allergies such as pollen, dust or insects
- Hypothyroidism or other diseases
- Tumors in the nose area
- Swelling in the upper respiratory system
- Inflammation of the soft palate or throat or larynx
- Anxiety of stress
Your vet will do lab tests, blood work and x-rays to determine the cause of the stertor and stridor.
What Respiratory Infection Look Like?
Rabbits are prone to respiratory infections. One infection common to rabbits is the Pasteurella multocida bacteria. This infection causes nose infections, ear infections, conjunctivitis and pneumonia in rabbits. This infection, called “snuffles” causes the rabbit to make a snuffling noise when they’re sick. If your rabbits is young and healthy, she might have an infection with little to no symptoms. But she is still contagious through contact with other rabbits.
Once a rabbit has this bacterial infection, it can spread from her sinuses to the bones of her face, into her ears, blood, joints and organs. The severity of the infection depends upon whether your rabbit’s immune system is healthy enough to fight it off. The stronger infections cause pneumonia and bone thinning. If the infection gets into your pet rabbit’s blood stream, it might cause shock and death.
Symptoms of the Pasteurella multocida bacterial infection are different depending upon the severity of the infection, but the symptoms to watch for include:
- Dizziness, somewhat disoriented-Your rabbit might fall over when walking
- Trouble breathing
- Shortness of breath-this will happen if your rabbit has pneumonia
- More saliva than normal, drooling
- Face swelling-This is if infection has reached the facial bones
- Stained front paws-As your rabbit cleans itself the nasal discharge gets on her paws
- Loss of appetite
- Head tilt- This is always a sign of something wrong with your rabbit
- Lots of head shaking
- Scratching at her ears
- Pain in bones-Your rabbits moves painfully and stiffly
- Lameness-Although this could be symptoms of other illness, lameness can mean your rabbits has an abscess on her feet or toes from this infection
- Swelling under the skin-This could be an abscess under your rabbit’s skin
If you see these symptoms in your pet rabbit, take her to the vet. Your vet will diagnose and provide the proper treatment for your pet. Because Pasteurella multocida bacteria is very contagious, you need to keep your rabbit away from other rabbits until the infection is gone. Keep your rabbit’s cage and play area clean and sanitized to stop any spreading of the infection. Provide your rabbit with a warm, quiet atmosphere so she can recover. Put your rabbit outside in her play area to encourage a bit of exercise. This will keep her digestive system working and help her body to heal. Your rabbit should eat her regular, healthy diet of leafy greens, lots of water and an abundance of hay. Fresh greens such as parsley, cilantro, dandelion greens, collard greens and spinach have a lot of folic acid which will help her fight infection. If your rabbit is too weak to eat, feed her a thin mixture of foods through a syringe.Ask your vet to show you how to do this. Don’t feed your rabbit a diet too high in carbs or fat-this kind of diet weakens your rabbit’s immune system making her more apt to come down with infections and unable to fight them off.