Raising House Rabbits

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Is My Bunny Sick?

Anyone with a pet rabbit has no doubt asked themselves, "Is my bunny sick?" Unless the rabbit has been to a veterinarian, chances are we are just guessing. However, only you truly know your rabbit, and when bunny strays from normal behaviour, activity levels or there are changes in eating, drinking and elimination routines there is a good chance that bunny needs a doctor visit.

A good way to tell if your rabbit might be sick is by performing routine generalized exams on your rabbit which can be done during your daily petting sessions. Things to look for in a general exam are listed below. If your notice anything unusual or are not sure if it is a problem discuss the situation with your veterinarian, it could be a vet check is in order.

If you suspect that your bunny is sick please do not hesitate in taking bunny to the vet. Delaying medical attention could be fatal.

My thought has always been if you suspect your rabbit is sick its best to get a check up just to be safe.

If your rabbit is sick and requires medication you might want to check out my page "Medication & Your Rabbit" this page will tell you what medications are safe for bunny and what isn't as well as tips on how to medicate your rabbit.

General Examination



Step 1: Check Overall Rabbit Condition:


Steps 1 thru 6 can be performed during a routine petting session.


  1. Check overall rabbit condition. Is it excessively skinny, can you feel the spine easily or count ribs? Is it overweight, you can't feel the spine when you gently press on it or can't get a handful of loose skin over its back? Is it lethargic, a healthy rabbit should be active?

  2. Check eyes, nose and ears for any discharge. Eyes should be bright and clear. There should be no nasal discharge, a clear nasal charge is alright but if there is a white mucus like discharge the rabbit is more than likely sick. The ears should be clean, there should be no scabs or scaly patches. A rabbit that is constantly shacking its head could indicate a problem with the ears such as mites or inner ear infection. 

  3. Check the rabbit's teeth. The incisors or front teeth edges should be an even horizontal line, and upper and lower teeth should meet fairly evenly. Are any of the teeth overgrown or broken? 

  4. Check the rabbit's coat/fur for signs of dandruff, hair loss, fleas, lumps and scabs, a healthy coat will be soft and shinny with no matting. Moulting is not a sign of illness therefore if hair loss is due to moult that too is normal. 

  5. Check area around anus for urine stains and/or urine scald, feces, and signs of diarrhea. This area should be clean.

  6. Check legs, joints, and feet for signs of open sores, redness or swelling. Are the limbs/joints misshapen?


Step 2: Check The Rabbit's Environment & Routines:


Steps 7 thru 10 can be performed by watching your rabbit and checking the litter box. Changes in normal routines, eating/drinking and faeces/urine should be watched closely and discussed with a veterinarian.


  1. Is your rabbit active, running and jumping normally or is it limping and/or dragging its limbs? Is your rabbit happy or does it appear depressed, lethargic or more moody than normal?

  2. Check the litter box for changes in the rabbit's faeces. Normal faeces should be round and have the consistency of sawdust. Hard and/or small faeces could indicate a problem. Faeces that is strung together much like a strand of pearls might also indicate there could be a problem and that your rabbit is ingesting too much fur. Caecal pellets which are normally eaten as soon as they pass could also indicate a problem if found uneaten in the litter box.

  3. Check the urine output is the litter box wetter or dryer than normal?

  4. Is you rabbit eating & drinking more or less than normal?





Other Signs Your Rabbit Might Be Sick


The following is only a basic  guide, any signs of illness or injury should be discussed with a qualified veterinarian as soon as possible.


Listed by System:



This can be anything affecting the rabbits’ digestive system.

Symptoms may include: Loss of appetite; abdominal pain; arched back; small or no faecal droppings; diarrhea; dehydration; jaundice.

Possible causes include: GI Stasis;  Mucoid-Enteropathy; Coccidiosis;  Bacterial Enteritis.



This can be anything affecting the mouth & teeth.

Symptoms may include: Excessive salivation; inability to eat; weight loss; lip lacerations; weepy eyes.

Possible cause: Malocclusion. (tooth overgrowth)



This can be anything affecting the rabbit’s bones & muscles.

Symptoms may include: Inability to walk; dragging one or more limbs, inability to support weight, Paralysis of hind end or legs.

Possible causes include: Splay leg, Leg and/or Spinal Fractures.


Reproductive Tract:

This can be anything affecting the reproductive organs/genitalia.

Symptoms may include: crusty skin/scabs on nostrils, mouth, eyelids, ears, genitals

Possible causes include: Syphilis


Other Symptoms in Doe/female only: bloody Urine, bleeding from vulva, abdominal pain, GI stasis

Possible causes include: Uterine Cancer or Infection



This can be anything affecting the respiratory system, including the nose & lungs.

Symptoms may include:  Sneezing; nasal & eye discharge; breathing difficulties or heavier/more laboured than normal;  head shaking.

Possible causes include: Snuffles; Pasteurellosis; Heart Disease


Skin & Coat:

This is anything affecting the skin & fur.

Symptoms may include: Moist/ulcerated skin lesions on hind feet; Head shaking; itching/scratching; crusts & scabs in ears and/or body; hair loss.

Possible causes include: "Sore Hocks"; Parasites such as ringworm, mites, mange, fleas, ticks.



This is anything affecting the rabbit’s ability to urinate. Normal urine is cloudy, thick; often orange or brown in colour.

Symptoms may include: White pasty urine; difficulty/straining to urinate; arched back.

Possible causes include: Bladder Sludge; Kidney or Bladder Stones.


Vestibular/Head Tilt:

This can be anything affecting the rabbit's sense of balance

Symptoms may include: head tilt; unable to stand; rolling to one side; rapid back & forth movement of eyes; seizure like sympoms

Possible causes include: internal parasites; inner ear infection


Disclaimer: Raising House Rabbits takes no responsibility for the use or misuse of any information in this article. If you are suspect your rabbit is sick consult your local veterinarian.

This page was last updated on: February 12, 2008

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