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If you think that your rabbit is breathing more quickly than usual, get them to a vet.
I KNOW that all I ever seem to recommend when a rabbit is acting unusual is whisk them off to the vet, but it’s because rabbits hide illness and pain so incredibly well that by the time they’re outwardly showing pain, the problem has advanced.
But also, please don’t panic. Veterinary care for rabbits has improved a lot in a short space of time, so a lot of issues that were once a death sentence can be dealt with pretty easily.
Rabbits do naturally breathe more quickly than humans
If your rabbit is thin, you can easily see them breathing, and it’s much, much quicker than human breaths.
And by thin, I don’t necessarily mean underweight. Sometimes when a rabbit is laid flat out on the floor (I believe the scientific term is ‘flumped’), they go really flat and you can see every breath they take. It’s actually quite uncomfortable to watch, because sometimes you subconsciously try t catch up, and, er, you can’t.
A healthy rabbit will breathe once every 1 or two seconds. If you have a rabbit that naturally breathes 60 times a minute, it’ll seem fast to us.
Rabbits breath quickly when they’re hot
You’ll often see your rabbits laying out in warm weather, and they do breathe faster.
Whilst there’s not a lot you can do about the weather, faster breathing can indicate that your rabbit is too hot, and you’ll need to help them cool down.
Rabbits are build to deal with the cold, rather than the warm. They would snuggle up underground in the cold weather, with their fur to keep them warm.
They don’t like the heat, and breathing faster will help them to cool down a bit (I suppose like panting in dogs), since they can’t sweat.
My rabbit like to lay on my laminate flooring, but you can improvise with a paving slab or large tile or something.
Make sure they have access to shade and plenty of water.
A lot of people do the whole wrapping a frozen bottle of water in a towel thing, but my rabbit have never bothered with that BUT it never really gets that hot for that long in the UK.
If your rabbits are in a particularly warm room, it’s worth investing in a fan. Make sure you leave windows open so that the air can circulate.
Rabbits breathe quickly when they’re in pain
Check your rabbit over thoroughly for any injuries, and listen to see if they’re grinding their teeth. If there are no obvious causes of pain, go to the vet.
One of the more common ailments is dental issues, which, if caught early, are pretty easy to treat, and don’t always require sedation. this will depend on your vet and the temperament of your bunny.
Rabbits breathe quickly when they’re ill
Similar to the point above. This can cover hundreds of illnesses, from small abscesses that can be treated with antibiotics, to tumours and cancer.
Some rabbits are prone to respiratory issues, so keep an eye out for any mucus or gunge around their eyes and mouth. Again, a common cause of this is dental issues – unchecked dental problems can leads to abscesses which can lead to infection.
Always take them to the vet. If the vet can’t find anything wrong, they can at least give your bun sedatives so they can calm down.
Allergies can cause rabbits to breathe quickly
I don’t think any of my rabbit ever had allergies (or maybe they just never came into comtact with the allergen!) but rabbit can 100% have allergies.
As in humans, a rabbit’s reaction to an allergen can vary massively. Some humans can be allergic to something and never realise it because their immune system just deals with it quickly and quietly. Other people experience anaphylaxis
Rabbit breath quickly when they’re stressed
You might notice your rabbit breathing quickly if there are fireworks, or other loud noises going on outside.
Sometimes Holly will frighten herself (though we’re leaning towards her being able to see ghosts tbh) and sit bolt upright, breathing quickly, and then zoom into box. It’ll take a few minutes for her breathing to return to normal, and it can be scary if you’re not used to it (some rabbit can be very over dramatic).
Bear in mind that rabbits can literally be scared to death, so don’t intentionally make your rabbit jump. Something that isn’t frightening to you (like a dog or cat) might be terrifying to your rabbit.
When you first bring your rabbit home, take the time to get accustomed to the normal rhythm of their breathing (wait until they’re settled, because it may be faster than normal at first due to stress and change of environment).
Make sure you have somewhere cool when it’s hot, and always cause the vet if you think something is amiss. It’s always better to be safe than sorry – rabbits are delicate little beasts!