Why is My Rabbit Hyperventilating?

Why is My Rabbit Hyperventilating
Why is My Rabbit Hyperventilating

Rabbits breathe through their noses and should breathe quietly without any loud noises. If you notice your rabbit wheezing, snuffling, or breathing quickly, there could be a serious issue. In a healthy rabbit, you shouldn’t even notice that the rabbit is breathing as there should be nothing to hear and very little to see except the rising and falling of their sides.

Why is my rabbit hyperventilating? Rabbits may hyperventilate due to stress caused by injury or disease and sometimes due to digestive issues. You should take your rabbit to the vet as soon as possible if you notice it is hyperventilating.


What is Hyperventilating?

Hyperventilating is when an animal that breathes air begins breathing very quickly, usually more quickly than is safe. Some animals such as dogs can breathe very quickly and not be in danger, while humans may pass out or get hurt by hyperventilating. Dogs usually pant rather than hyperventilate, which helps cool them down in hot environments because they are not able to sweat. However, rabbits cannot pant and also cannot sweat, which means that hot weather poses a significant risk to rabbits. If you see your rabbit breathing quickly, it’s not due to heat and you should assume something is wrong.

What Does Hyperventilating Look Like in Rabbits?

When a rabbit is hyperventilating, you will usually see its sides rising and falling very quickly. Rabbits can’t breathe through their mouths, so you won’t see them panting the way that dogs do. In fact, other than the movement of their sides due to the expanding and contracting of their lungs, it may be hard to tell if your rabbit is hyperventilating. Rabbits should have between 30 and 60 breaths per minute. To tell how many breaths per minute your rabbit is taking, count your rabbit’s breaths for 15 seconds and then multiply by four. If the total is more than 60, your rabbit may be hyperventilating. Keep in mind that after heavy play or exercise sessions, your rabbit may breathe more heavily or quickly than normal, but this should go back to normal within a few minutes.

What Does Hyperventilating Sound Like in Rabbits?

If your rabbit is hyperventilating, you will hear it breathing if you get close enough. The breathing will usually be louder than normal in addition to being faster than normal. You may hear a wheezing or snuffling noise as your rabbit breathes faster than its body can handle. Your rabbit will not breathe through its mouth, so you won’t see or hear any panting. However, it will breathe quickly through its nose which usually creates noise.

Why Do Rabbits Hyperventilate?

Rabbits hyperventilate for a variety of reasons, all of which indicate bad situations that should be addressed immediately. Rabbits may hyperventilate due to some diseases, though this shouldn’t be confused with wheezing or snuffling, which can happen even when the rabbit is breathing at a normal pace. Rabbits will also usually hyperventilate when injured or scared, and may hyperventilate if they are in shock or stressed. They may also hyperventilate due to digestive issues, usually because of the pain of gas buildup or internal injuries.

What Diseases Can Cause Hyperventilating in Rabbits?

Rabbits may have labored or wheezing breaths due to a number of diseases, but only a few diseases actually cause hyperventilating as a symptom. Rabbits are more likely to hyperventilate if they are in severe pain or very stressed, so they could hyperventilate for these reasons while sick. Diseases that can cause hyperventilating are usually related to respiratory infections. These can also cause labored breathing or wheezing in addition to the hyperventilating. Rabbits may also hyperventilate due to heat stroke or overheating. In this situation, get your rabbit to a cooler environment as soon as possible, as rabbits can’t expel heat through panting and will die if they get too hot.

What Injuries Can Cause Hyperventilating in Rabbits?

Most injuries will cause your rabbit to hyperventilate due to the pain and shock of the situation. More minor injuries may not cause hyperventilating because your rabbit is able to bear the pain, but those injuries should still be addressed with veterinary attention. Severe injuries that may cause hyperventilate include broken bones, severe bruising, and deep cuts or gashes. These injuries may also cause your rabbit to breathe very slowly or struggle to breathe. You should take your rabbit to the vet immediately if you notice your rabbit has any injuries regardless of whether it is hyperventilating.

Can Stress Make My Rabbit Hyperventilate?

Yes, stress and shock can make your rabbit hyperventilate. Your rabbit may breathe quickly because it has been startled due to a predator encounter or a perceived predator encounter. This means that even well-intentioned encounters or play sessions with dogs or cats can cause panic and hyperventilation. Stress from gastrointestinal issues can also make your rabbit hyperventilate. While pain from gas buildup is a common cause of hyperventilation, rabbits can also hyperventilate due to the stress of GI stasis or internal injuries or blockages.

Can Hyperventilating Hurt My Rabbit?

Hyperventilating can hurt any animal that is not equipped to pant or breathe quickly the way that dogs and some other animals do. Hyperventilating brings too much oxygen to the brain, which causes a number of symptoms that can impair or hurt your rabbit. Symptoms that you may able to see and identify include dizziness, shivering, and stiffness, and there are other symptoms that the rabbit can feel that you may not be able to see such as tingling, blurred vision, and sickness. Rabbits have a higher tolerance for hyperventilating than humans, but they can still experience these symptoms if it’s allowed to go on too long. Rabbits can even sometimes die from the hyperventilation or the underlying cause of the hyperventilation if it is not treated quickly.

What Do I Do If My Rabbit is Hyperventilating?

If your rabbit is hyperventilating, you should take it to the vet as quickly as possible. This may mean taking it to an animal ER rather than to your regular vet. Don’t go anywhere that requires a drive of longer than 30 minutes, as the shock of the drive could kill your rabbit. Before you leave, check for any other symptoms that might explain what’s causing the hyperventilation. This could include bulging eyes or sitting hunched over due to pain, obvious injuries, a taut or distended belly, scratching at a specific part of the body, or wheezing or snuffling. If you can’t tell what’s wrong, your rabbit could have any number of things going on and you need to get a diagnosis quickly.

Related Questions

Why is my rabbit grinding its teeth? Your rabbit may be grinding its teeth because it is in severe pain. Check for other symptoms such as hunching over, limping, or bulging eyes. If your rabbit has no reason to be in pain, tooth grinding can actually also be a sign that your rabbit is happy.

Why is my rabbit wheezing? Your rabbit may have an upper respiratory infection that needs to be addressed quickly. Some breeds of rabbits have flat faces like pugs and may naturally make small noises when they breathe, but this won’t be as loud as wheezing.

Can rabbits breathe through their mouths? No, rabbits are called obligate nasal breathers, which means they can only breathe through their noses. This allows for the esophagus and the windpipe to be separated so that rabbits can continue to breathe while they eat.