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As I’ve mentioned a good twelve thousand times, rabbits are not forthcoming when they’re sick. A sick rabbit in the wild is a dead rabbit, so they’re incredibly good at hiding when they’re ill.
But once you’re used to your rabbit’s behaviour, you can usually tell that something is up. There are often little clues in their behaviour that tell you that they’re not feeling 100%.
Your rabbit might be sick if they’re not eating
Not eating in itself can be fatal to rabbits, so get your rabbit to the vet. Once the rabbit is at the vet, then you can try to work out why they’re not eating, but just the fact that they aren’t is cause for concern.
Try to tell the vet if you’ve done anything different over the past couple of days that could have caused your rabbit to stop eating – perhaps you tried a new vegetable, or they chewed a new toy, or got spooked by the vaccum
Any information could potentially help.
Your rabbit might be sick if they’re acting withdrawn
One of the things that alerted us to kale causing gas in one of our rabbits would that she just…wasn’t herself.
She was still eating and pooping, so we weren’t so concerned, but we definitely kept a very close eye on her.
Sometimes rabbits can seem a bit sad and withdrawn around moulting time, and it can be that they’re ingested a bit too much hair.
It can be a weird time for them anyway (hormones, maybe) so we’re always extra vigilant and give them lots of treats like lettuce and dandelions, but cool it with the sugary treats.
Make sure to be extra on it with the brushing during moulting times, because they can get hairballs and potential blockages.
Your rabbit might be sick if their eyes are tracking
This was the first thing that alerted us to Daisy’s EC.
Daisy survived her attack because we were so quick off the mark, but she’ll probably always be pretty disabled.
Before anyone panics, rabbits with red/pink eyes often track, just because…they do, but keep any eye on them anyway.
When a rabbit’s eyes track, it looks like their head is swaying side to side. Their eyes move (Daisy moved right to left) and their head will follow, and then their head with move back to place. It seems to be like a very small fit.
Head tilt is also something that needs to be seen by a vet straight away. There are various causes, but it needs to be treated right away.
Just be aware – head tilt usually gets worse before it gets better, and it is a sucky thing to have happen.
I have a whole article on how to help your rabbit get through it, since they often can’t move properly, or use litter boxes or anything, and it can be a struggle to keep them protected and clean and safe (we found a way though, after weeks of trying various things!)
Your rabbit might be sick if they’re sneezing
Rabbits don’t get colds like humans do, so a lot of sneezing could be a sign of a respiratory infection. Rabbits are particularly susceptible to such problems due to the shape of their faces and the fact that they are nasal breathers.
That being said, there are a plethora of things that could cause a rabbit to sneeze randomly. They can have allergies, a stray piece of hay tickling their nose…any of the many things that can make us sneeze.
Your rabbit might be sick if they’re not pooping
Not eating or pooping is a general sign that all is not well with their digestive system. As you’ve probably guessed, this is a vet visit.
If your rabbit is still eating, there may be a blockage or something. Vets can take xrays and give medication to keep the digestive system moving.
Keep an eye on your rabbit’s poops – if they’re significantly smaller than normal and your rabbit seems a bit off, a visit to the vet might be able to halt potential stasis before it really gets going.
Your rabbit might be sick if they’re being pickier than normal
When Daisy first started with her EC, she stopped eating pellets. She was drinking fine and more than happy to eat hay and veggies, but no pellets.
Whilst that in itself isn’t really an issue, since rabbits don’t strictly need pellets, any changes to eating habits are worth keeping an eye on.
We had medication for the EC, so there wasn’t much else to do (which is scary in itself) other than monitor how much she was eating. Luckily, she never actually stopped eating, and started eating pellets again whilst she was in the hospital.
We’re still not sure why she didn’t want pellets – perhaps she was worried she’d choke – but even if your rabbit has no other symptoms, it can be important.
Suddenly not wanted to eat certain foods can be a sign of dental issues too. If your rabbit won’t eat their pellets but is still eating veggies, you can try adding a little warm water t the pellets. They’ll make a paste that a rabbit with sore teeth could eat more comfortably.
If your rabbit has had dental work done, do the same thing. It’ll be easier on their teeth and they may recover faster.
Your rabbit might be sick if they’re displaying a change in behaviour
If your rabbit is suddenly very aggressive, it could be a sign they’re in pain. This is pretty common in many animals.
However any significant change in behaviour is worth monitoring and checking over with a vet.
If your rabbit is only a baby, a sudden change in behaviour is likely a sign that they’re reaching sexual maturity.
Since it’s recommended that you wait until your rabbit is at least six months old before you have them fixed (my vets prefer a year, I prefer to get pre-fixed rabbits), you may just have to put up with hearing your homie with a stinky, furry little arsehole for the next few months.
Do I get rescues because I don’t think we should breed animals for pets (or food)? Yes. Do I also get them because I like getting rabbits that (hopefully) won’t hump my foot and pee on the sofa? Also yes.
Your rabbit might be sick if they’re got a poopy butt
Diarrhea can be fatal in bunnies so get them to a vet straightaway if they’re not producing dry poops. However, smushy poops can also be caused by overactive bacteria in the stomach that’s usually caused by food that’s too rich.
Often, this can be attributed to something in their diet that didn’t agree – too many pellets, too much fruit, or even just a sensitivity to something.
I have found though, that as rabbits age, they become more susceptible to poopy butt (and they’re less able to bend and clean themselves) so cutting down on treats may be necessary in older buns, nd paying close attention to what disagrees with them.
Your rabbit might be sick if they have a runny nose/goopy ears
As I’ve already mentioned, rabbits are susceptible to nasal problems, but they can get all sorts of problems with any of the little tubes that are in their face.
We had a rabbit that had conjunctivitis and ear infections for most of his life. He had regular eyedrops and various medications, but he always had gross grey gunk in his ears. He was happy to let me remove it, and the vet told me to check that it wasn’t sore or red, and bring him in for any changes.
He never seemed to be in any pain, and was a happy, bouncy little soul, that just happened to have gunk in his ears.
Because all the tubes are connected, discharge in the ears/nose can indicated a dental issue, so a vet will probably check your rabbit’s teeth. They can also flush tear ducts, which can become infected.
In our case, they never found out why George was so susceptible to being gooey, or why they never developed into full on infections. He just…was. Like how some people get more colds than others.
Always, always, alway get a vet to check them over. Dental issues can quickly turn into infections and abscesses, which can get expensive to treat. A quick course of antibiotics might be able to nip a larger issue in the bud.