Symptoms of a Sick Rabbit

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. June 4, 2020
Symptoms of a Sick Rabbit

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It wasn't long ago that most societies saw rabbits as livestock rather than companion animals. However, the last thirty years or so have seen rabbits being recognized as the lovable family members they can be. For this reason, more and more veterinary clinics are providing rabbit-specific care. They are able to treat rabbit diseases and help ensure they are best prevented. Different types of pet rabbits have been developed, but they all have certain basic care needs. Knowing whether a rabbit is unwell is one of the most fundamental.

This article on the symptoms of a sick rabbit provides 10 signs your bunny is ill. AnimalWised explains these most frequent symptoms and explains the common rabbit diseases behind them. In doing so, you can know what to look for and what you might expect in terms of treatment and prognosis.

You may also be interested in: Is My Parrot Sick? - Symptoms of Disease


  1. Keeping rabbits as pets
  2. How do you know if a rabbit is sick
  3. Lack of appetite
  4. Diarrhea
  5. Weight loss
  6. Difficulty eating
  7. Irritated or reddened eyes
  8. Ataxia
  9. Abnormal inclination of the head
  10. Hair loss
  11. Coughs and sneezes
  12. Physical wounds
  13. Symptoms that a rabbit is going to die
See more >>

Keeping rabbits as pets

Keeping rabbits as pets is a practice which has grown more popular over the years. It depends on the country in which you live and we need to take into consideration people keeping livestock such as horses. However, rabbits are growing in popularity. With this increased popularity, we need to know there is a responsibility to learn more about them and provide the right levels of care. When we know what to do in terms of their care, we can best ensure their health and well-being. This article on tips for raising rabbits will help to shed some light on the subject.

The life expectancy of domestic rabbits can be up to 12 years with the right level of care. However, if we are fortunate, it is also possible they may live for more than this. Both preventive medicine and the implementation of a suitable health plan are important to help ensure their well-being. So too is a general knowledge on the most common diseases in rabbits. With these precautions in place, rabbits can enjoy enviable health.

How do you know if a rabbit is sick

The moment a rabbit presents any disease, the guardian will likely know it immediately. This is because, rabbits necessarily keep a strict routine and fairly even behavior. When this routine is disrupted or this behavior changes, it is a sure sign of a problem. Unfortunately, some conditions will only display symptoms at an advanced stage. For this reason, we need to ensure we remain observant of our rabbit's well-being. These symptoms include:

  1. Lack of appetite
  2. Diarrhea
  3. Weight loss
  4. Difficulty eating
  5. Irritated or reddened eyes
  6. Ataxia
  7. Abnormal inclination of the head
  8. Hair loss
  9. Coughs and sneezes
  10. Physical wounds

Diseases in rabbits affect different organs and bodily systems, but many of the symptoms will be more generalized. Others will be very specific to a certain disease and quite obvious that something is wrong. Below we explain these symptoms your bunny is sick in more detail.

Symptoms of a Sick Rabbit - How do you know if a rabbit is sick

1. Lack of appetite

When a rabbit is not interested in food, their guardian will need to be concerned. It is possible the issues will only be temporary and they will regain their appetite after a short time. This could be due to a digestive problem or even short periods of stress. However, if the rabbit does not regain their appetite after 24 hours, it is best to take them to a veterinarian.

Although a lack of appetite is usually associated with digestive problems, it is also possible other pathologies can generate this symptom. Since rabbits spend much of their day eating, it should be noticeable fairly soon if they lose their appetite.

2. Diarrhea

Rabbits have very specific stools. You may have even seen them eating their own feces. This is because rabbits will only digest part of their food the first time round. This means their feces should be not only solid, but quite dense and fibrous since rabbits eat a lot of hay. If the rabbit has diarrhea, it means there is a serious problem. This problem can be fatal if the diarrhea presents for a prolonged period. Although it can mean the rabbit has digestive issues, diarrhea is a symptom of disease in rabbits which can be linked to many issues.

3. Weight loss

While weight loss can be related to a lack of appetite, it is just as problematic if they lose weight as they continue to eat. Although it can be associated with almost any disease in rabbits, weight loss shows a serious concern. The nutrients the rabbit is ingesting are not going where they should.

4. Difficulty eating

Some rabbits may not necessarily lost their appetite, but have trouble trying to eat. In these cases, the rabbit searches for food and tries to eat it. However, they cannot chew or swallow. One of the biggest problems related to this disease symptom is dentition. Since a rabbit's teeth never stop growing, they can grow abnormally and cause serious health problems. However, if the rabbit cannot swallow, it could be related to other problems such as inflammation in the throat.

5. Irritated or reddened eyes

Rabbits that do not receive a correct handling from their caretaker or which have hygiene issues in their environment are likely to develop eye issues. One of the most common is conjunctivitis which leads to redness and swelling of the eyes. This is frequent in rabbits which are poorly managed. For example, if their hutch is not cleaned regularly, it promotes bacteria which can lead to various problems.

6. Ataxia

Ataxia is a neurological problem, but it manifests symptoms in the muscles of the body. Signals from the brain become scrambled and can lead to muscles spasming or functioning improperly. It can be related to vestibular syndrome or other nervous system problems. However, if their gait is affected, it is also possible ear problems can cause disorientation. If your rabbit has one floppy ear, it is in itself a possible symptom of disease.

7. Abnormal inclination of the head

This is am even clearer sign of otitis or vestibular syndrome. It will usually lead to a diagnosis of one of these problems.

8. Hair loss

Another major issue related to improper care of rabbits is hair loss. If their hygiene is affected, it can promote bacteria and parasites which cause hair to fall out. However, there are many different disease in rabbits which can have this as a symptom. These can be both physical and psychological. For example, stress may lead to a rabbit pulling their own fur out. Regardless of the reason, it is a symptom which implies the problem is advanced.

9. Coughs and sneezes

Respiratory diseases are particularly problematic for rabbits. If you see your rabbit sneezing or coughing, we need to look at related symptoms such as lethargy or a runny nose. One such disease related to sneezing in rabbits is known commonly as snuffles and requires immediate veterinary attention.

10. Physical wounds

Open wounds on your rabbits skin do not necessarily mean they have been afflicted with physical trauma. Parasites, infections, allergies and many other rabbit diseases can lead to physical wounds. As soon as one is discovered, diagnosis is required to ensure the problem isn't serious. Even dry skin from mites can lead to open wounds if not treated promptly.

Symptoms of a Sick Rabbit - 10. Physical wounds

Symptoms that a rabbit is going to die

In addition to knowing how to detect the signs of pain in rabbits, it is important to know what are the signs that indicate that the life of our bunny is in serious danger. They include:

  • They do not eat or drink in 24 hours
  • Remain still
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lower than normal temperature
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Urinate and defecate anywhere
  • Tremors

This video explains these signs a rabbit is going to die in more detail:

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 Symptoms of a Sick Rabbit, we recommend you visit our Prevention category.

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Symptoms of a Sick Rabbit