You feed your rabbit twice a day, just as you should. Normally, they’re quite happy to enjoy a meal, but something’s different the past few days. First, they only nibbled at their food, and now they’ve stopped eating entirely. Why has this happened?
Rabbits can stop eating for a myriad of reasons, including:
- Dental diseases
- Exposure to toxins or poisons
- Respiratory conditions and diseases
- Infectious diseases
- Organ disease, including organ failure
- Gastric ulcers
- Excessive stress, often due to changes in their environment
- External and internal parasites
- Hock sores or bumblefoot
- Neurological diseases
- Body abscesses
As you can see, there’s an exhaustive list of reasons your bunny might have stopped eating. In this article, we’ll expand on these conditions and diseases so you can get your rabbit the treatment they need ASAP.
What Causes a Rabbit to Stop Eating?
Rabbits can develop a slew of dental diseases. These include teeth spikes and spurs, which are painful growths that can cut through oral tissue, cheeks, and the tongue. As you could imagine, this makes it incredibly painful to eat, so the rabbit might stop trying.
A molar malocclusion is just another word for a misalignment of the teeth. Often, it’s the incisors. Most of the time, a veterinarian will take these teeth out because they make it hard for your rabbit to consume food.
Oral fractures can cause mouth abscesses and uneven growth of the teeth. Rabbits may also have teeth that grow too long. That’s why they need to munch on hay. It keeps their teeth down at a reasonable level. However, if your bunny stops eating, their teeth can grow out of control.
Here’s some symptoms of a dental disease or oral condition:
- Stinky breath
- Weight loss
- Making less fecal waste to correspond with eating less
- Less water consumption
- Unable to keep food in mouth
Ileus, also referred to as gastrointestinal stasis, can lead to death. This condition occurs when the rabbit’s intestine stops contracting and expanding, a process known as peristalsis.
Your rabbit can have ileus for many a reason, including:
- Not getting enough dietary crude fiber
- Having an intestinal blockage
- Already having an illness or disorder that causes intense pain, including urinary tract disorder, certain infections, and dental diseases
- Excessive stress
Toxin or Poison Exposure
Rabbits, like most animals, should not ingest toxins or poison. However, if you let your bunny roam outside and you don’t watch them, you don’t necessarily know what they can get into until it’s too late.
Keep your eyes peeled for these symptoms in your rabbit:
- Bodily pain
- Irritation around the mouth
- General slowness
- No drinking or eating
- A heartbeat that’s too slow or too fast
- Inflammation of the intestines
- Postural changes; they may curl up and hunch more
- Unable to breathe
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Internal and/or external bleeding
- Tender abdominal area
If your rabbit ate toxins or poison, they could die. You need to get them medical treatment immediately.
Certain types of cancers might affect your rabbit’s appetite, such as uterine cancer. Your rabbit may also stop eating due to uterine disorders, endometrial hyperplasia, endometritis, endometriosis, uterine inflammation, mastitis, and mammary cancer.
Don’t jump to the conclusion that your rabbit has uterine cancer just because they’re not eating. If they have some or all these symptoms, then it’s likely they have a tumor:
- Abdominal swelling
- Abdominal cavity and/or mammary gland lumps
- More aggressive behavior than usual
- Pale gums
- Blood clots or blood in the urine, known as hematuria
- Vaginal discharge
If your bunny can’t breathe, then of course they won’t eat. The main respiratory infection that affects rabbits goes by the name snuffles. This may sound cute, but it’s anything but. Typically, snuffles has a bacterial source that causes symptoms in rabbits, like pasteurellosis and bordellosis.
If your rabbit was around other infected animals, they’re very stressed out, or the temperatures have drastically changed recently, then your rabbit could have snuffles. The symptoms include:
- Matted or runny eyes
- Shaking their head a lot
- Inability to breathe
- Body or neck inflammation or lumps
- Not eating
- Front leg fur matting
- Lots of sneezing
- Runny nose
Another reason your rabbit won’t eat? They have a serious infectious disease. We talked about the Pasteurella multocida infection or pasteurellosis already. These bacteria can get in a bunny’s nose, ears, eyes, and tear ducts. The animal will develop abscesses across the body, such as in internal organs, skin tissue, jaw bones and other bones, and tooth roots. The rabbit may also have chronic inflammatory disease and respiratory infections from pasteurellosis.
An encephalitozoon cuniculi infection or encephalitozoonosis can affect people as well as rabbits and pets like cats and dogs. This parasite latches onto an animal and then spreads. The rabbit remains asymptomatic for a time, then has seizures, bodily rolling, an inability to walk, eye twitching, and even cataracts.
Viral hemorrhagic disease, which sometimes goes by the names rabbit hemorrhagic disease and rabbit calicivirus, can cause death in rabbits. If your bunny got exposed by unclean environments or infected pets, they could act lethargic with bloody nasal discharge, mouth foaming, and even coma and convulsions.
Then there’s myxomatosis. This viral disease mostly affects wild rabbits, but domesticated ones can get it, too. Fleas, fur mites, flies, and mosquitoes spread the condition. You rabbit will exhibit symptoms like skin tumors, fever, breathing difficulty, and subcutaneous bodily swelling. They can die from this disease.
If a rabbit has osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, they lose cartilage around their joints. This can cause intense pain in the body. Your rabbit will have less mobility. This in turn can alter their appetite or prevent them from eating even if they wanted to.
Whether you call it bumblefoot or ulcerative pododermatitis, hock sores can cause a lot of pain in your rabbit. This bacterial condition affects their hocks and back feet, particularly the skin there. The condition can degenerate to deep cellulitis or deep pyoderma. With deep pyoderma, the rabbit develops lesions with pus as well as inflammation. If they get deep cellulitis, then the connective tissue gets affected, swelling up painfully.
At that point, your rabbit risks developing bone marrow infections like osteomyelitis and joint tissue swelling or synovitis.
There are five grades of hock sores. It’s best to treat them ASAP so they don’t advance.
- With the first grade of bumblefoot, the rabbit may lose some of their fur in addition to having the skin bacteria.
- In the second grade of this condition, their hocks and feet redden and swell up. They may lose more fur still.
- With the third grade of hock sores, symptoms worsen. Scabs can appear, as can ulceration and broken skin.
- By the fourth grade of bumblefoot, your rabbit could have tissue and tendon inflammation as well as abscesses.
- The most severe stage, the fifth grade of the condition, causes tendonitis, synovitis, and bone marrow infection or osteomyelitis.
In some instances, your rabbit may have a severe neurological disease or condition. These include hind limb weakness and head tilting. They might not seem serious on the surface, but these conditions are often a sign of a deeper, more underlying problem. In most cases, the E. cuniculi bacteria we discussed earlier causes these symptoms.
There’s also sarcocystis, a newer neurological condition that may be triggered by a parasite. If your rabbit has sarcocystis, they’ll often develop ataxia. This makes your rabbit have tremors that leave them unsteady on their feet. Some rabbit experts liken ataxia to your bunny being drunk. Obviously, they’re not, but they move that way.
Besides ataxia, your rabbit may also experience bodily rolling, head tilting, moving in circles repeatedly, seizures, and bodily weakness. The symptoms tend to progress and get more serious without treatment.
Many of the diseases and conditions we covered thus far could cause body abscesses. Not only do these hurt, but they’re a symptom of a serious disease or condition. Most of those diseases cause a lack of appetite in your rabbit, which could explain why they’re not eating.
What Should You Do if Your Rabbit Won’t Eat?
While we explained many a condition and disease that can affect a rabbit, don’t assume you know that’s going on with your pet. Your rabbit may have stopped eating because they don’t like the brand of food you’re giving them, but more than likely, something more serious is afoot.
That’s why, as a rabbit owner, you should schedule a vet appointment immediately. It could turn out there’s nothing wrong with your rabbit. If so, then great! However, if they have any of the conditions mentioned in this article, then quick treatment can save their life. You don’t want to wait for symptoms to worsen before getting your rabbit help. Take them to a vet right away.
Your rabbit, which usually has a healthy appetite, has stopped eating. In almost every instance, this should concern you. There’s many diseases and infections that can cause your rabbit to shy away from food. The sooner you catch and get treatment for these conditions, the better.