Rabbits are prey species, so when they are in pain or ill they will hide it as best they can. This is because in the wild an injured or sick rabbit is easy prey for would be predators. Our domestic rabbits carry these same traits. What does that mean as an owner? Unfortunately, this means that spotting signs of illness or injury is that more difficult.
However, there are signs you can look out for that indicate to you as the owner that you need to take your rabbit to a rabbit savvy vet immediately.
Not eating/ eating less
If your rabbit is not eating or passing faecal pellets then you need to take them to a rabbit savvy vet immediately. There are various reasons why your rabbit may stop eating, this can include blockages within the gastro intestinal tract, GI Statis, bloat or stress. This is an emergency, failure to seek treatment will be fatal, death can occur in as little as 24 hours.
Many serious conditions can manifest as lethargy within rabbits. You will be able to tell as an owner if your rabbit is less active than usual or reluctant to move. This is a sign that something very serious is wrong and will require a thorough examination by a rabbit savvy vet.
Hunched posture/ teeth grinding
These signs are an indication that you rabbit is in pain, take your rabbit to your vet immediately keep an eye for any other signs and symptoms and report these to your vet. This may help them to diagnose the cause of the pain. Screaming is a very obvious sign that your rabbit is in severe pain, the sound is so disturbing that it is instantly recognisable.
Reduced mobility in limbs
Reduced mobility in the limbs or reluctance to put pressure on the leg may indicate that your rabbit has broken or fractured their leg or spine. In older rabbits this could also by a symptom of arthritis, immediate treatment from a rabbit savvy vet is paramount.
If your rabbit is tilting their head to the side some of the likely causes could include; E Cuniculi, Vestibular disease or a severe ear mite infestation. Immediate treatment from a rabbit savvy vet will be needed, to diagnose and treat the condition.
Runny nose/ eyes or dribbling around the mouth
Breathing through their mouths
Rabbits do not breath through their mouths, if they are doing this immediate veterinary attention is required.
Messy bottoms/ urine scalds
If you notice that your rabbit has a messy bottom or urine scalds take them to your vet for treatment. There may be an underlying cause for this which will need to be investigated by a rabbit savvy vet.
Flystrike is often a result of messy bottoms or urine scalds, if you spot maggots or fly eggs around your rabbit’s rear end take them to your vet immediately. Do not attempt to wash the maggots of this will make it worse. If left untreated fly strike is fatal.
These are symptoms of a large variety of serious and often fatal conditions. Take your rabbit to the vet immediately, this is an emergency.
Regular grooming and contact will allow you to get to know what is normal for your rabbit. If you notice any lumps and bumps that were not there before you will need to take your rabbit to the vet for treatment.
One of the obvious signs that your rabbit needs immediate treatment will be any wounds, cuts or obvious signs of injury. These will require expert veterinary treatment.
This list is not exhaustive but covers some of the most evident signs of ill health. Ultimately we all know what our rabbit’s usual behaviour is like, if you notice any changes in the behaviour ask yourself why is this and could there be any underlying medical reasons for the change in behaviour. The most important thing is to seek veterinary advice so that treatment can be given, hopefully preventing any fatalities.