Every rabbit can get sick. In order to recognize diseases early on, it is important to observe the rabbit daily and in the case of small abnormalities to take a closer look at it immediately and if necessary to visit a veterinarian. How you can check your rabbit properly, you learn here:
Disease signs are usually inconspicuous with the rabbit, seriously ill rabbits do not notice some owners. Therefore, I can only call to look closely and to act already with small abnormalities!
Many owners report that their rabbits “suddenly lay dead in the barn”, almost always inconspicuous signs of illness precede death (the rabbit was calmer the last time than usual, ate less or nothing, drank more water…), but the animal was not presented to the vet.
A close living together with the animals is of advantage, who keeps its rabbits for example in free housing, recognizes disease signs early. The better one knows his rabbits with their peculiarities and habits, the more likely changes are to be noticed.
Rabbits and guinea pigs suffer quietly, because as loot animals they may not be noticed in free nature as ill. Even the smallest signs of disease are therefore always an occasion to visit a veterinary practice on the same day if possible. Good observation by the animal owner and close meshed veterinary support secure also small Heimsäugetieren a ever longer life.
Demeanor – “My rabbit behaves differently than usual.”
Rabbits are flight animals in nature and therefore have a hard time resting. As soon as they behave conspicuously, they become the loot of raptors, martens or foxes. Therefore, our domestic rabbits also hardly show a change of behavior, although they have strong pains or are seriously ill. Therefore always take signs of disease very seriously and immediately consult a veterinarian experienced in rabbits (emergency service).
Typical signs of disease:
- A rabbit does not appear during feeding, although it is otherwise always is right there*
- It does not leave the enclosure when freewheeling, although it is otherwise already at the open door*
- It sits or lies apathetically around*
- It can suddenly be lifted up or cuddled up, or it is suddenly tame*
- It’s flaccid*
- It behaves differently than usual*
- It’s huddled together*
- It does not react to external stimuli*
These signs are an indication of an acute, already far advanced disease, the rabbit is already in a very bad, often even life-threatening condition. Without veterinary help death threatens. There are many underlying diseases.
Weight – “My rabbit looks skinny/has lost weight.”
Weight fluctuations occur due to winter bacon (in autumn an increase, in spring a decrease). If the rabbit should lose weight suddenly or creepingly or appear lean, this is a serious sign for a disease.* Behind such a loss of weight there can be many diseases, e.g. kidney failure, dental diseases or digestive disorders. Usually a blood count is necessary to find out the cause.
Eating behaviour – “My rabbit eats nothing or less than usual.”
If a rabbit refuses to eat* or stops eating* (indigestion, pain, acute illness), this is a serious sign of illness. Likewise, if it wants to eat but the food falls out of the mouth again, it can not bite or it salivates strongly during food intake (mouth or tooth diseases) * Should it reduce food intake, this is usually an indication of a creeping, chronic disease, which may soon become life-threatening (eg kidney failure). Differently than with carnivores, one may never wait with rabbits but should immediately visit the veterinary surgeon (emergency service!).
Coat & skin condition – “My rabbit has bald spots in his fur, wounds on his skin, or scratches.”
It is normal, if rabbits in the spring or autumn (with house-rabbits often also time-shifted) strongly hair. This is the change of coat. If a female rabbit plucks her own hair to build a nest, it is (sham) pregnant, this does not require veterinary treatment, unless it occurs very often.* If another rabbit plucks its hair out, a new group composition or other measures must be considered, or if it licks itself or another rabbit sores or strongly nibbles, the cause must also be clarified. In all other cases a veterinarian is to be visited! e.g. if…
- it scratches more often* (mites, fungus…)
- bald spots occur* (mites, fungi…)
- Wounds that need to be treated are visible* (have heavy/heavy bleeding wounds treated in the emergency service!)
- the fur is matted* or (joint diseases, pain, diarrhoea…) the rabbit does not clean itself sufficiently (dirty/unkempt fur)*
- dandruff is visible* (mites, fungus…)
- crusts/scabs or redness occur* (mites, fungi…)
- Wound sores attract attention* (mites, wound sores, fungus…)
- The fur on the chin is wet* (dental diseases…)
- the rabbit often pees/cocks on* (urinary tract diseases, joint diseases, diarrhoea…)
- the coat is not healthy or shiny but shaggy, matt, sticky…*
- pale mucous membranes*
- scab on the lip* (e.g. syphilis)
Faeces – “My rabbit eats his own or someone else’s excrement.”
Rabbits eat their own appendectomy, this is quite natural. The rabbit must not be prevented from doing so. See for this also “blind gut excrement” in the small Köttelkunde.
Eye changes – “My rabbit’s eyes look hurt/sick.”
Eye diseases can be recognized by the fact that…
- the eyes water or have discharge*
- they protrude or hang out*
- injuries are recognizable*
- the rabbit pinches his eyes together or blinks frequently*
- the songs are swollen*
- the eyes are reddened*
- the eyes are sensitive to light*
- the nictitating membrane is visible*
- is an edge around the eye*
- the eye is cloudy*
- the eye is no longer visible*
- the eyes are strangely twisted (not symmetrical)*
- injuries to the eyelid can be detected*
It is advisable to consult a veterinarian specialising in ophthalmology. Don’t make the mistake of “experimenting around”, it often costs the rabbits their eyesight.
Thickening/inflating/protruding areas – “My rabbit has a swelling or a knob on his body.”
Normal is a hanging “fat-sack” at the chin of the rabbits, the so-called dewlap. With strong predominance also fat folds can develop. All other swellings or knots or increase in circumference are in need of treatment*. Such symptoms can be recognized by palpation/ stroking.
The veterinary surgeon must be visited, if…
- swelling of the eyelid, genital area etc. are visible* (often due to diarrhoea, syphilis or myxomatosis)
- lumps that are displaceable or firmly anchored occur* (e.g. abscesses, tumours…)
- the abdomen or part of the abdomen is hard/bulbous/inflated* (indigestion)
- the suckling is swollen, although the rabbit is not pregnant*.
Nose – “My rabbit has nasal discharge or is bald on the nose.”
The veterinary surgeon must be visited, if…
- the nose has discharge*
- the nose is stuck together*
- the front paws are glued (by cleaning movements). there has been baldness on the nose
- It sneezes.
- It intensifies its nose cleaning*
The most common cause of nasal discharge is respiratory disease, but other causes can also be considered, such as dental disease.
Changes in faeces and urine – “My rabbit has different excrement than usual or is dirty on his butt!”
Here I refer to the parate page, which helps to recognize diseases at the excrement condition.
It is important to regularly have a faecal sample examined for parasites (coccidia, worms…), as untreated intestinal parasites lead to diseases such as digestive disorders, but also to a general weakening. At least once a year before vaccination, better twice a year, excrement should be given to the veterinarian.
The general condition is good (go to the vet the next day at the latest). The general condition is bad (emergency service!)
If the rabbit should no more set down excrement, this is likewise an acute illness sign (emergency service).
Outflow from the vagina is in need of treatment,* as well if it presses but does not urinate. (Emergency service!)*
Teeth grinding – “My rabbit grits his teeth.”
Teeth grinding is an indication of pain or relaxation, but can also have other reasons. If a rabbit grinds its teeth, you have to observe it very closely to be aware of other symptoms* at an early stage. Pay particular attention to changes in behaviour, food intake and faeces.
Neurological deficits – “My rabbit has seizures, cramps, head misalignment…”
A veterinarian must be consulted immediately if…
- the rabbit holds his head crooked*
- it cramps or has seizures*
- clouding of consciousness occur*
- it is (partially) paralyzed*
- it suddenly falls over or cannot maintain its balance*.
This can be caused by the parasite E. Cuniculi, an ear infection, an injury (e.g. to the spine), arthrosis/spondylosis/HD, toxoplasmosis, a stroke and many other diseases. Therefore in this case a careful diagnosis with blood count (incl. EC titre), ear control (in case of oblique head posture), X-ray (in case of paralysis) etc. is unavoidable. If the wrong disease is suspected/treated, of course no cure is possible!
Ears – “My rabbit is scratching his ears or there are conspicuous features.”
One recognizes diseases of the ears:
- Scabs, dandruff in the ear*
- Redness in the ear*
- Adhesions in the ear*
- Clogged ear*
- “Grown” ear.
The main causes are ear mites and ear infections.
Teeth – “The teeth don’t look healthy or are much too long!”
One recognizes diseases of the teeth:
- Broken teeth*
- Far too long teeth*
- Not straight growing teeth*
- Brown, black or other discolorations of the teeth or tooth tips.
The rabbit’s teeth grow back for the rest of its life, so tooth problems (e.g. false teeth or lack of abrasion due to wrong food) have a devastating effect. Rabbits can starve to death in front of a full bowl. However, you can only see the front teeth, the molars remain hidden from the holder. Therefore, it makes sense to have the teeth checked by a vet in case of digestive disorders, refusal to eat, deviations in faeces etc..
Movement behaviour – “My rabbit moves differently than usual.”
Signs of illness:
- Gentle posture*
- wrongly positioned/protruding limbs*
Causes are e.g. bone fractures, injuries, wound runs, joint diseases and E. Cuniculi. A careful diagnosis by the veterinarian (with x-ray) is absolutely necessary.
Respiration – “My rabbit has a conspicuous respiration.”
A rabbit is sick when…
- you can hear the sounds of breathing*
- it breathes extremely quickly or slowly*
- Striking, strong flank respiration occurs. it opens its mouth to get better air
- it puts its head in the back of the neck to get better air*
Breathing noises are life-threatening with the rabbit, the emergency veterinary surgeon is to be visited immediately!