My Rabbit Is Limp But Still Breathing
See files for Rabbits
If you see your rabbit is still breathing, but lying limp on its side, it is a worrying sign. As sensitive creatures which crave security, any threat can make them move like lightning. Even with the best of intentions, guardians can even give their animal a fright which makes them run from us. All this means that a limp rabbit not moving, even when we try to manipulate them, means something is wrong. Although we may be able to see them respire, it is understandable we worry if they are about to die.
At AnimalWised, we look at why my rabbit is limp but still breathing. We understand the reasons the rabbit might be immobile and what we can do to help them.
Why is my rabbit not moving?
There are many reasons why a rabbit will stop moving and become limp, even if they are still breathing. The first concern is that the bunny may be suffering from a serious illness. Equally, we also need to know there are other reasons why a rabbit isn't moving. It could be due to environmental situations, accidents or other contextual problems. If a rabbit is not moving, but still breathing, it means they are alive. However, they may be suffering from one of the following:
- Advanced age
- Heat stroke
- Pathological anorexia
Whatever the cause of your rabbit going limp, it is important we take them to a veterinarian. You will likely need to see an exotic vet who will be able to administer to a rabbit. Fast action is vital in most circumstances to ensure the well-being of the bunny.
Traumas, accidents, falls from a great height or attacks by other animals can make our rabbit stop moving. This may be due to the impact and the internal damage caused (if there are not external wounds visible). Bones can break which causes the rabbit acute pain, rendering them immobile and lying on their side, but still breathing. If you have seen your rabbit fall or experience trauma, take them to a veterinarian immediately if they are not moving.
As with all living organisms, a rabbit's body will experience wear and tear with age. This can lead to specific problems such as osteoarthritis. They may also have less vitality and energy, manifesting in restricted movement even if they are still breathing. Ultimately, the rabbit will spend more time throughout the day remaining static. The bunny lying on their side can reduce the pressure on their joints and make themselves more comfortable.
Aging is a progressive development. If you see your rabbit slowly move less and less as they get older, it is natural. However, if your rabbit stops moving all of a sudden, this means something else will be happening to them. Take a look at our article on common diseases in rabbits to learn more.
Rabbits can suffer from paralysis for various reasons, explaining why they can breathe, but don't move. There a three main types of rabbit paralysis:
- Neurological paralysis: when the rabbit suffers a spinal injury that affects the spinal cord or the peripheral nerves of the extremities, they may present paresis (muscular weakness) or paralysis. They will likely be accompanied by other neurological signs. Pasteurella multocida is a bacterium that can cause encephalitis in rabbits, resulting in secondary paralysis.
- Nutritional paralysis: if our rabbit does not have a varied and balanced diet to obtain all their necessary nutrients in correct proportion, they will develop a multitude of problems. They can result in mineral and vitamin deficiencies which cause the body to shut down. Our article on how much food should rabbits eat will help to know how to avoid this problem.
- Parasitic paralysis: parasites that affect rabbits, such as Encephalitozoon cuniculi or Toxoplasma gondii, can cause them to lose mobility in their hind legs. Parasitized rabbits generally have a weak immune system, do not follow a proper diet and are not dewormed frequently. In addition to the loss of mobility, the rabbit may show a bulging, sore and hard abdomen.
To help prevent paralysis in rabbits, we need to be careful when we pick them up, ensure not to drop them, offer a balanced diet and ensure proper deworming. If you don't pick up your rabbit properly, it may be one of the reasons they pee on you when you do hold them.
As sensitive animals, rabbits are susceptible to stress. We need to be very careful to avoid situations which can cause anxiety in the bunny. If you have observed your rabbit is breathing, but not moving, it could be stress-related. We need to look at other symptoms of stress in rabbits, such as compulsive movements, overgrooming, scratching themselves raw or even self-mutilation.
Rabbits don't always go limp when they are stressed. Stress and anxiety can also cause them great amounts of tension, so they may be in a more agitated state.
To prevent the rabbit going limp or tesne due to stress, it is vital we ensure our rabbit's mental well-being. We need to spend time with them and establish a healthy bond. This doesn't mean enforcing interaction (this can be a cause of stress in rabbits), but let them come to you and be reassuring. Allow them to feel safe when by your side. Also avoid noise, yelling, and frequent changes in routine, diet or home environment.
Extreme temperatures can increase the body temperature of our rabbits and cause heat stroke. Rabbits suffer when the ambient temperature exceeds 28 ºC /82 ºF. The high ambient temperature can cause the rabbit to remain stretched out, static, dehydrated and lethargic, in addition to presenting more serious signs such as:
- Red ears
We can avoid heat stroke by ensuring we keep the rabbit in a cool place and monitor their environment carefully.
A rabbit will stop moving when it is too cold as much as they will when they are too hot. Although it is less frequent, rabbits can suffer from hypothermia. This is when their body temperature drops so low their body can no longer function. This is another reason it is so important to maintain the ambient temperature of their living areas. If the rabbit's body temperature falls below 36 ºC/96.8 ºF, they will manifest some of the following signs:
- Reduced heart rate
- Mydriasis (pupil widening)
- Dry Skin
- Cold ears
For advice on how to protect rabbits during the cold months, take a look at our article on how to care for rabbits during winter.
Different from anorexia as a psychological disease, anorexia is a symptom of various pathologies. The rabbit will stop eating and lose significant weight. In its acute phase, the rabbit will also be weak, depressed, have low energy and eventually stop moving. There are many diseases and medical conditions which can result in a rabbit developing anorexia, including:
- Dental malocclusion
- Hemorrhagic disease
- Gastrointestinal disorders
In addition to immobility and loss of appetite, you need to look for other other signs of illness in rabbits. These include weakness, weight loss, inflammation, lumps, diarrhea, respiratory distress, cough, fever, runny nose, etc. It may indicate that they have a disease which requires diagnosis and treatment by a qualified veterinarian.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to My Rabbit Is Limp But Still Breathing, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.
- Unknown author. Pathology of rabbits. Retrieved from: https://ddd.uab.cat/pub/cunicultura/cunicultura_a1980m8v5n26/cunicultura_a1980m8v5n26p148.pdf
- Lebas, F., Coudert, P., Rochambeau, H., & Thébault, R. G. (1986). The Rabbit: Husbandry, Health and Production. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
- Wegler, M. (2008). The dwarf rabbit. Editorial Hispano Europea.