Why Is My Rabbit Shaking and Breathing Fast

By Anaëlle Laurent. October 13, 2020
Why Is My Rabbit Shaking and Breathing Fast

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Rabbits behave differently to humans. This is why it's understandable for a rabbit companion to be worried once their rabbit starts behaving abnormally.

In this AnimalWised article, we're going to explain why your rabbit is shaking and breathing fast. We'll also look at similar behaviour, such as twitching and spasms, as they have different causes. Continue reading to learn more!

You may also be interested in: My Dog's Breathing is Fast and Shallow

Why your rabbit is shaking and breathing fast

It is not normal for rabbits to shake and begin breathing fast. Depending on the situation, it is mostly likely due to fear. Rabbits usually shake and begin breathing fast when they are scared. This could be due to a number of different possible situations. Here are a couple of examples:

You've picked them up when they didn't want to be held

The first and most common reason for a rabbit to shake and breathe fast is because they've been picked up or handled when they didn't want to be. We must understand that in the wild rabbits are prey. They use their amazing hearing and strong legs to detect and escape predators. Therefore, when they are picked up into the air, like a predator would do in the wild, it's understandable for them to fear for their safety.

This is why it's so important to bond with your rabbit before picking them up. It's always best to lower ourselves to their level in order to interact with them. This way, we don't come off as threatening as we could, due to our size in comparison to our little rabbit.

Someone new is in the house and invading their space

Another situation that may have frightened your rabbit is if someone new came to your home. The simple presence of a stranger could frighten some rabbits, however, many times it is because this person has made a sudden movement or has tried to come too close to your rabbit before your rabbit has had time to observe the stranger.

It could especially scare your rabbit if the stranger tries to hold or lift your rabbit. Therefore, remember to go slow. Have them first sniff your new friend. Then, your friend could sit or lay on the ground to interact with your rabbit. They could even give them some fruits and vegetables to munch on. This way, your rabbit will feel safe and remain calm while interacting with someone new.

A new pet has arrived in their home

The last example is similar. If you've recently adopted a dog, a cat, or another animal, your rabbit will need time to adapt to the new dynamic in the household. Rabbits can be especially frightened of larger animals as their instincts will kick in that they need to escape.

This is why we must approach this situation similarly and take it slow. Your pets will need time to get used to each other's scent and presence. In these cases, you can work with an animal behaviour specialist if you're really having trouble encouraging your two pets to get along.

Medical reason

Lastly, if your rabbit isn't scared but keeps shaking or breathing fast and is experiencing other symptoms of a sick rabbit, you must take them to the veterinarian to rule out any medical reasons. If your rabbit is shaking, breathing fast and having their eyes roll back or loses control of her bladder and bowels, it could be a seizure.

Therefore, it's important you take them to their veterinarian to be properly diagnosed and treated.

Why Is My Rabbit Shaking and Breathing Fast - Why your rabbit is shaking and breathing fast

Is it normal for a rabbit to shake?

No, it isn't normal for a rabbit to shake. If your rabbit has begun shaking it is likely due to the following reasons:

High temperatures

Rabbits may begin shaking in the summer due to high temperatures. If this is the case for your rabbit, try turning on the air conditioning to a reasonable temperature or turning on the fan. Rabbits prefer temperature of between 60ºF - 65ºF (15ºC - 18ºC).


The next reason is stress. Sometimes rabbits will showcase their stress by shaking. To learn more about detecting stress in your rabbit, read our article on signs that your rabbit is stressed.


A rabbit hiccup is the result of a diaphragm muscle spasm. If a rabbit eats faster than they can digest, they'll swallow air and irritate their diaphragm. Lastly, although uncommon, hiccups can be linked to respiratory of gastrointestinal disorders.

Is it normal for a rabbit to twitch?

No, this abnormal behaviour is often due to mites. Other than head shaking, the symptoms of mites in rabbits include patches of dandruff, dry skin, hair loss, skin wounds, among other symptoms. To be sure that your rabbit is shaking due to mites, you should take them to the veterinarian to be properly diagnosed.

You can also read our article about mites in rabbits.

Is it normal for a rabbit to spasm?

Like the other behaviour mentioned in this article, spasms in rabbits is not normal and is in fact a sign of illness. If your rabbit has muscle spasms, you must call your veterinarian right away. Spasms in rabbits is often a symptom of two serious illness: head tilt in rabbit and Viral Hemorrhagic Disease in Rabbits.

Why Is My Rabbit Shaking and Breathing Fast -

How to prevent shaking and breathing fast in rabbits

To prevent your rabbit from shaking and breathing fast there are a number of things you can do. The first, however, should be to take them for a check-up at the veterinarian to rule out any medical reasons. Next, you can keep these following things in mind:

  • Bond with your rabbit before picking them up
  • Always come down to your rabbit's level to interact with them
  • Let visitors know that they must be gentle with your rabbit and try not to scare them
  • Make sure your rabbit isn't stressed
  • Keep the temperature within 60ºF - 65ºF (15ºC - 18ºC)
  • Keep up with their regular medical check-ups

We'll also include a video below where we talk about how to care for your pet rabbit!

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 Why Is My Rabbit Shaking and Breathing Fast, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

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