Rabbits are prey animals, they are very good at hiding signs of illness. Being a prepared bunny parent is knowing which vet your bunny can go to during times of an emergency. Luckily for us in Northern Virginia we have Pender 24:7 emergency clinic (703) 591-3304 (4001 Legato Rd, Fairfax, VA 22033) and Stahl’s Exotics (703) 281-3750 (4105 Rust Rd, Fairfax, VA 22030 ) who may be able to get your bunny in for an emergency appointment during their hours of operation. Emergency visits to a clinic may require you to place a down deposit of 500 or more, rabbits are exotic animals and should only be seen and worked on by a staff that is knowledgeable about their unique anatomy.
There is no amount of writing that fully cover every condition, so this guide focuses on spotting symptoms and behaviors that are the most common. We want to help people spot symptoms early, so small problems don’t turn into big ones. Cuddlybun parents are always welcome to contact us anytime for help and advice.
A Change in Behavior and Appetite
Often the first warning you will encounter if your bun bun isn’t feeling well. Many rabbit owners get into the routine of feeding their rabbits on a schedule. Happy healthy bunnies are always excited for their morning veggies, if your rabbit is suddenly not showing up for the breakfast veggies, that is a big sign something is wrong.
Your rabbit is in a hunched position most of the day; the back is arched, 4 feet are planted firmly on the ground and the noes is nearly touching the ground. They seem more secluded and you may find they have hidden themselves and refuse to come out. They refuse all their favorite veggies and treats. You may be even able to hear your bunny slowly grinding their teeth together. You may see your bunny squinting their eyes or their whiskers will be pinned back. This means your bunny is in pain or discomfort. If your rabbit is still eating, drinking, and pooping, schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
If your rabbit is an ADULT and has stopped eating, stopped drinking, stopped pooping and seems lethargic for over 24 hours this is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY. If your rabbit is a BABY (under 3 months) and has stopped eating, stopped drinking, stopped pooping and seems lethargic for over 12 hours this is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY.
If your rabbit is ever seen limping it’s very likely you will need to take them to a vet right away for an x-ray. I’ve dealt with 4 broken bones in my time, none of the rabbits ever made a sound of pain. There are numerous stories of rabbit owners online who mistook a limp for a sprain, only to discover bones fused back together wrong or shoulder sockets were damaged beyond repair, leading to amputation. Make an appointment as soon as possible.
If a bone break is obvious or any blood is seen this is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Broken bones are sharp and can easily rip through skin, veins and arteries.
Sneezing, Boogies and Wet Noes aka Snuffles (Rabbit Cold)
These signs could be benign as a piece of hay stuck in the sinus or an active upper respiratory infection. First signs we often hear is sneezing, then the noes and paws may become soggy with snotty discharge. It’s best to seek out medical advice from a rabbit savvy vet as soon as symptoms begin. Left untreated it can block the air way and become life threatening.
Mouth Breathing – Asphyxiation
Rabbits are known as olfactory breathers, they only breath through their nostrils if they resort to mouth breathing then something is terribly wrong. The rabbit will point its noes up and gasp for air through their mouth. They may panic and attempt to claw at their face and noes. If their choking on food they may seen salivating heavily and spitting up bits of food. A bunny Heimlich maneuver should be preformed all saliva and food particles should be cleared from the mouth.
The nostrils are blowing out mucus, or alternatively you may hear wheezing or a whistling noise as your rabbit breaths. You may witness seizures and convulsions, please never let your rabbits snuffles get to this point. This is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY head to the vet asap. The sinuses are plugged up with mucus and death by affixation often occurs within mins to hours.
Excessive Head Shaking and Ear Scratching and Head Tilt
You’ve witnessed your rabbit is shaking it’s head far more frequently and their itching their ears way more than normal. This can be a sign of ear mites, ear wax or even an inner ear infection. Best to schedule an appointment with a rabbit savvy vet sooner rather than later as catching ear infections early on will have the best prognosis. Lop eared breeds of rabbit are more prone to inner ear infections especially as they hit 6+ year old mark.
If at any point you begin to see your rabbits head tilt to even a minor degree make an appointment within the next 48 hours. Head tilt is progressive and can leave your bunny permanently damaged if treated too late.
Wet Mouth, Chin, or Neck
Normally when dental issues appear it will start as a constant wet spot in the corner of the mouth. Over time the wet spot grows larger and travels to the chin and neck. Areas that are constantly moist will begin to lose their fur. Most likely a sign of a dental issues. Generally the faster you seek out help and treatment the better the prognosis. Often the problem is dietary and your rabbit needs more course fiber in their diet. Swapping them to timothy first cutting or second cutting will fix this. However if the problem keeps getting worse it’s time to schedule an appointment.
If your bunny is kept outdoors a wet mouth, chin, and neck is signs of a heat stroke, this is MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Please do not keep your bunnies outside.
Your young bunny drinks over 2 cups of water a day. You may notice your bunny dribbling urine on their way to the litter box or just in general as they run around. If you see pee soaked inner thighs and the under side of the tail it wet with urine. If urine has been there for a while, hair will fall out and the skin will look irritated. There are signs your rabbit may have bladder sludge or even EC. Make an appointment with a rabbit savvy vet.
Rabbit pee can come in a variety of colors from yellow, brown, orange, to even red. When a rabbit pee’s they excrete excess calcium. When the pee dries you may find a light layer of chalk like dust this is normal. However if there is large deposits of sludge then your rabbit should get a check up at the vet sooner rather than later. Reducing the amount of calcium they consume along with adding exercise can prevent this condition, and even reverse it.
Wet, Red, Teary, or White Eyes
Conjunctivitis (eye infection) is common in rabbits, most will get it numerous times in their life and most of the time they will be able to fight off the infection naturally or with a little bit of help from an antimicrobial eye wash like the one by Vetericyin. Signs of white discharge, or hazing of the eyes itself in the eye means the infection is more server and you should make an appointment right away with the vet to get proper antibiotics. Using a grid style litter box system and avoiding the use of dusty hay will reduce the risk of eye infections.
Examining your rabbits droppings is one of the best ways to monitor the digestive health of your bunny.
Extra Healthy Poops from a 5lb lop.
Rabbit poops should be spherical and large, they should crush easily under pressure and are dry in the inside. Your bunnies gut is in optimal shape!
Fur in poop.
Poops strung together by fur is a sign your rabbit needs to be brushed. Fur can not be digested thus the risk of ingesting fur is dangerous. Once you start seeing these it’s time to brush your bunny and get the excess fur off their body. Alternatively you can purchase papaya or pineapple chucks and feed them to your bunny daily during their molt. Special enzymes in these fruit break down proteins in the the hair lowering the risk of intentional blockage. Brushing your bunny is the best preventative.
The presence of soft stools often means there is a bacterial imbalance in your rabbits gut. Careful analysis by an expert can help you figure out the cause of the wet stool, in the meanwhile remove all veggies and pellets from the diet until things have calmed down. Schedule a visit with your vet to talk about your rabbits diet.
POOPY BOTTOM “I found cabbage and ate it all night!”
Diarrhea in rabbits under 4 months old is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY go to the vet asap. Death by dehydration often occurs within hours.
Poopy bottom in adults is a sign your rabbits micro flora is off or there is a pathogenic infection in the digestive track. Schedule an appointment with your vet asap. Making sure your rabbit in on a primarily hay diet is the best way to avoid poopy bottom.
Diarrhea in adult rabbits is a MEDICAL EMERGRNCY. However as long as they are still drinking you can make an appointment within the next 24-48 hours. But must start force feeding your rabbit critical care, follow directions on the packet for best results. Keep up critical care feeding until you can make it to your appointment.