Pet Advice Pet-Care-Advice-for-Rabbit-Owners

Published on August 6th, 2014 | by Debbie Martin


Emergency Pet Care Advice for Rabbit Owners

What should you do if your pet bunny is suffering from a medical emergency? How can you help them? Read on for loads of advice for rabbit owners.

What to Do in A Medical Emergency

The most important thing in a medical emergency is to keep calm. Make sure that you phone your vet and let them know you are on your way, so that they can tell you which surgery to go to. Also, have a pen and a paper ready when you call the vet so that you can write down directions and instructions – because you might be sent to a different clinic if it is outside of business hours.

Common Health Issues with Rabbits

What are some of the most common health problems that your rabbit can suffer from?

Breathing Difficulties

If you see that your rabbit is having trouble breathing, has an increased breathing rate, is breathing with an open mouth or has noisy breathing with discharge from their eyes and mouth, these are all signs of heat stress or respiratory infections. Rabbits are very susceptible to heat stress because they do not sweat, so make sure that in the summer they are kept in air conditioned areas and are not outside if the weather is warmer than 24 degrees Celsius.

Loss of Appetite

Has your rabbit lost their appetite over time, or have they suddenly stopped eating? Are they exhibiting other symptoms such as abdominal swelling, abdominal pain, passing mucus rather than droppings or wet fur around the mouth due to increased salivation? A loss of appetite in a rabbit is not necessarily an indicator of any specific disease, but along with these other symptoms it can be a warning sign that something is wrong.

When your rabbit stops eating it can lead to a lack of gut movement, which is called ileus or gut stasis. This can result in shock due to bacterial poisons that are released in the rabbit’s gut. If you notice that your rabbit hasn’t eaten in more than 4-6 hours, you should take them to a vet.


A swelling might be an indication of an abscess or a tumour, so it is important to get it looked at by the vet as soon as you notice it. The swelling can sometimes be slowly growing over a number of days or even weeks, but you might not notice it until it gets to a certain size. It is a good idea to get into the habit of examining your rabbit on a regular basis for any strange lumps and bumps. If you discover anything unusual, contact your vet right away.

Loss of Balance

If your rabbit is tilting their head, circling continuously in one direction or struggling to stand up properly, this can be a warning sign for an illness. It can be a result of bacterial infections of the middle and inner ear, possibly to do with a parasite known as Encephalitozoan cuniculi. If your rabbit has this condition, you should keep it as quiet as possible where they are located, dim the lighting and protect them from hurting themselves. Contact your vet as soon as possible so that your rabbit can receive the treatment they need.

Ear Mites

An ear mite infestation in your rabbit might be caused by the parasite Psoroptes cuniculiis and the main symptom of this problem is skin scales on the inner ear. These scales can turn into large, crusty lesions and the hair around the area will start to fall out. If these ear mites are left untreated, these lesions within the ear can become infected. This will put the inner ear at risk and can eventually cause loss of balance and hearing.

The symptoms of this problem that you will see in your rabbit are itching of the ear, head shaking and a thick brown fluid in the ear canal. If you see any of this, contact your vet right away so that the mites can be removed.

Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease

This is a dangerous virus that is spread by biting insects such as mosquitos and fleas. It causes swelling around the ears, eyes, genitals and anus and it can be fatal if your rabbit is not vaccinated. VHD is spread by contaminated feed or clothing and it is also fatal in un-vaccinated animals.

Make sure that your rabbit is vaccinated against these two diseases in order to prevent these very serious infections.

These are just a few of the common medical emergencies that occur in pet rabbits, along with some advice on how to deal with these issues. If your rabbit is suffering from any of these ailments, you should take the appropriate steps.

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About the Author

Debbie Martin has worked at Beeston Animal Health for over five years, having previously worked as a nurse in equine and small animal practice. Although generally involved with aspects of marketing these days and putting her psychology degree to good use, she still has a great depth of up to date knowledge in all creatures great and small. Debbie lives at home with her partner and two children and spends much of her spare time looking after her horses, dogs and cats or at the home farm with the cows, sheep and turkeys.

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