How can you tell if a rabbit is sick? What are the signs you should be looking for?
Since your bunny can’t talk to you, it can be tough to see how they’s doing. And being such sensitive little guys, it doesn’t take long for one symptom to start snowballing.
To help you decipher the bunny code, I’ve compiled a list of signs that your rabbit is sick. These have all come either from my experience or through deep research in my time having rabbits. Let’s get into them, shall we?
Disclaimer – This article should not be used in place of veterinary advice. These are the signs I have found in my research and in my 15 years of having rabbits. If you think your bunny is sick, you should always seek advice from a qualified veterinarian.
Table of Contents
- 1. Unusual Droppings (or None at All)
- 2. Frequent Urination/Difference in Urine Color & Odor
- 3. Appetite Changes
- 4. Lethargy & Constant Sleeping
- 5. Crouching
- 6. Changed Grooming Habits
- 7. Grinding Teeth
- 8. Eye and/or Nose Discharge
- 9. Wobbly Movements & Head Tilting
- 10. Labored Breathing
- 11. Unusual Behavior
- Common Health Problems in Rabbits
- What to Do if You See Any of These Signs in Your Rabbit
1. Unusual Droppings (or None at All)
The clearest sign that your rabbit is sick is when they have unusual droppings or none at all. It’s not the best part of having a rabbit, sure. But, it’s something you really need to pay attention to.
- Healthy Droppings: Round and brown “cocoa puffs” your rabbits leave everywhere.
- Cecotropes: Look like they might be a sign your rabbit is sick, but they are completely healthy. In fact, your rabbit will eat these to reabsorb the vitamins.
- Linked By Fur: This means your rabbit needs more fiber and greens to move the fur through his gut.
- Misshapen/Weird Droppings: This can mean that he’s experiencing some tummy troubles.
- Diarrhea: It can mean that they’ve picked up something or simply that they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t have. It’s not always harmful, but if it persists, you should see a vet.
- Mucus or Mucus-Covered Droppings: Caused by poisoning or infection of the digestive tract. You should seek a vet right away.
No poop at all can mean that your bunny has a blockage somewhere in his digestive system. This can be a hairball, food, or other issues. No matter what’s causing it, it is serious and will need attention right away.
2. Frequent Urination/Difference in Urine Color & Odor
Another sign that your rabbit may be sick is a change in your rabbit’s pee. If your rabbit is soaking up more litter than usual or isn’t peeing at all, it’s directly related to their water consumption and water retention levels.
A rabbit’s urine color ranges from yellow to orange to red, depending on their diet. Here’s what each color means:
- Yellow is normal, meaning your rabbit is healthy.
- Rusty orange means your bunny may be dehydrated.
- Red urine, although scary to see, is not as dangerous as it looks. It’s usually just too many greens in your rabbit’s diet.
Rabbits can also develop stones and “sand” grains in their urine. These grains are usually caused by too much calcium. If you do spot sand, stones, or even blood in your rabbit’s urine, take them to the vet immediately. This could be a sign of a more severe illness like kidney issues or even cancer, which is common in unspayed or unneutered rabbits.
3. Appetite Changes
Drastic changes in your rabbit’s diet like not eating or drinking, or consuming much more food and water than usual. Changes in appetite can also mean your rabbit eating things that he has never eaten before.
Usually, these drastic appetite changes mean that your rabbit is experiencing digestive issues like GI Stasis or even a vitamin or nutrient deficiency.
When my rabbit Bubba decided he liked cat food more than his own, I knew something was up. At the vet, I was told he had a protein deficiency and was turning to meat to get it. Now, he gets all the protein he needs with his new rabbit food and high-protein veggies.
4. Lethargy & Constant Sleeping
Rabbits are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dusk and dawn. But that doesn’t mean they should be sleeping all day long. If your rabbit isn’t as lively as usual, there’s something up.
Note that lethargy isn’t always a sign that your rabbit is sick. It can also mean that your rabbit is stressed or depressed.
Crouching is when your rabbit remains in a hunched posture and is a sign that he’s either stressed or experiencing some sort of pain. Sometimes, it can mean that your rabbit is cold. But most of the time, a rabbit crouches because of stomach issues.
Some common stomach troubles in rabbits that could be causing your rabbit to crouch all the time include GI Stasis, a hairball blockage, or even cancer. If crouching persists for more than a few days, you may need to get your bunny over to a vet for X-Rays or bloodwork.
6. Changed Grooming Habits
If your rabbit develops bald spots, this may not only be a sign that your rabbit is sick. But if it’s from overgrooming or pulling out hair, it can cause problems via hairballs.
The only time a healthy rabbit pulls out tufts of hair is during the nesting phase of pregnancy. Overgrooming can be a sign of stress, depression, or just sheer boredom, too.
On the other hand, if your rabbit has stopped grooming, this is also a clear sign of illness. Rabbits are very clean creatures, and can always be seen pruning. So, if they stop, something is stopping them from doing so.
7. Grinding Teeth
When a rabbit constantly grinds his teeth, this is a sign that he’s in some sort of distress or pain. Teeth grinding can be caused by gut pain, constipation, being scared or stressed out, and the most likely cause, dental problems.
Check your rabbit’s teeth first, and if it is his teeth, a vet can have his teeth filed down easily. And, you can prevent this from happening again by giving your bunny lots of apple and willow branches to chew.
If it’s not your rabbit’s teeth, this definitely means something is going on, on the inside. Either way, a trip to the vet is the best way to find out.
8. Eye and/or Nose Discharge
Some eye “goop” is normal, like some crust after sleeping. But, if your rabbit starts to produce more than that, then this is a clear sign of an infection like pink eye or scratched cornea.
The case is the same with your rabbit’s nose. After running around, it’s normal for your rabbit’s nose to run slightly. But, if the mucus becomes translucent or turns white, yellow, or green, then you should seek a vet right away.
9. Wobbly Movements & Head Tilting
Rabbits are built for agility and balance. It’s extremely rare to see a rabbit stumble or run into something. And even then, it’s probably because it’s been caught off guard by something. So if your rabbit seems unbalanced and is moving in a wobbly, uncoordinated way, then there is something definitely wrong.
Similarly, head tilting isn’t normal for rabbits and is a severe sign of illness or equilibrium problems. Both of these issues can be caused by something as easily treated as an ear infection. Or, it can be something much more severe like a parasitic infection or even head trauma.
10. Labored Breathing
Breathing issues are not uncommon, but they are quite severe in rabbits. A clear sign of breathing issues is that your rabbit is breathing heavily or struggling to breathe. They may even stick their neck out to breathe better.
This is a clear sign that your rabbit is having respiratory issues that can be caused by several things like mold, using the wrong type of bedding, and even respiratory illness like pneumonia.
If you’re using wood shavings, this may be the cause of your rabbit’s heavy breathing. Dusty wood shavings can irritate your rabbit’s lungs. Instead, opt for safer bedding such as those made from recycled paper or fleece.
11. Unusual Behavior
The last sign that your rabbit may be sick is one that you will notice first. It’s that they’re behaving way differently than they normally do. Most often, this means hiding all the time, not being friendly, or even becoming aggressive.
If your rabbit is new to you, this may be tough to spot right away. Look out for weird behaviors of rabbits in general. Try to decipher what is causing the behavior to get to the health problem behind it.
Common Health Problems in Rabbits
Being such delicate animals, rabbits are susceptible to getting sick quite easily. Here are some of the more common health problems that are found in pet rabbits:
- GI tract issues
- Bladder stones
- Dental problems
- Respiratory tract infections
- Infections from wounds
- Heat stroke (that’s why it’s important to keep them cool during summer)
What to Do if You See Any of These Signs in Your Rabbit
Always remember to pay close attention to your rabbit. If you’re new to rabbits, study your new bun’s normal behavior so that if anything does happen, you’ll be able to pick up on it.
And if you do see any of these signs in your bunny, call the vet and schedule an appointment ASAP. Some simple issues might be treated at home with a properly equipped first aid kit for rabbits. However, other ailments like GI Stasis or any kind of infection will require immediate veterinary attention.