Common Health Problems in Rabbit: Symptoms & Treatments

As a rabbit owner, keeping your furry friend healthy is a top priority. But did you know that rabbits can suffer from various health problems, some of which can be quite serious? In this blog post, we will explore common health problems in rabbits, their symptoms, and the treatments available to ensure your rabbit stays happy and healthy. Let’s hop right in.

Dental Disorders in Rabbits

Dental health is paramount for rabbits, as dental disorders can cause pain and difficulty eating. Teeth issues, such as overgrown teeth and malocclusion, are common rabbit diseases that pet owners should be aware of. Signs of dental disorders may include:

  • Anorexia
  • Bruxism
  • Hypersalivation
  • Food dropping from the mouth
  • Weight loss
  • Painful ulcerations on the tongue or cheeks

Veterinarians typically manage dental disease in rabbits by:

  • Filing or grinding down the overgrown teeth with a dental instrument, usually under anesthesia
  • In some cases, teeth extraction, antibiotics, and pain relievers may be necessary for tooth root abscesses
  • Using a burr to file down the incisor or cheek teeth, so they can be kept in check or removed if required

Adopting a balanced diet and scheduling regular vet visits can effectively prevent dental disorders in rabbits. Feeding hay and staying vigilant for any dental problems can help prevent painful overgrown teeth and re-overgrowth. Remember, prevention is always better than cure, so make dental care a priority for your rabbit.

Read also: Dental Disease in Rabbits: Types, Causes and Treatments

Infectious Diseases: Myxomatosis and RVHD

Infectious diseases such as Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RVHD) are common diseases that can be potentially fatal for rabbits, including wild rabbits, exhibiting symptoms like swelling, fever, and lethargy.

Myxomatosis is caused by the myxoma virus, transmitted by biting insects such as flies or fleas, while RVHD is spread through mosquitoes, flies, indirect contact, or direct contact with an infected rabbit.

Symptoms of Myxomatosis include enlargement of the lips, eyelids, and genitals, while RVHD may present with lack of appetite, agitation, listlessness, and fever. RVHD can be fatal due to obstruction of blood flow in crucial organs and/or internal hemorrhages, resulting in severe liver damage and coagulation disorders, with a mortality rate of 70 to 90% in vulnerable rabbits.

Administering vaccinations and taking preventive steps are effective ways to protect rabbits, particularly those susceptible to Myxomatosis and RVHD. A combined vaccination is available, which immunizes against VHD1 and Myxomatosis.

Don’t let these infectious diseases threaten your rabbit’s health; ensure they are protected with the appropriate vaccinations and prevention measures.

vet doctor carrying a rabbit

Gastrointestinal Issues: GI Stasis and Diarrhea

Gastrointestinal issues like GI stasis and diarrhea can be life-threatening for rabbits, requiring immediate treatment and a high-fiber diet to maintain gut health.

Diarrhea is not typically observed in adult rabbits, but it may signify a quickly progressing infection or result in flystrike, leading to dehydration and the need for fluid therapy at a veterinary clinic in severe cases.

Infections caused by Encephalitozoon cuniculi may disrupt the nerves that aid digestion, leading to recurrent GI stasis in animals like rabbits and guinea pigs. Signs of GI stasis in rabbits may include:

  • Decreased or absent food consumption
  • Diminished or nonexistent fecal output
  • A hunched or swollen physique
  • Exhaustion
  • Gnashing of teeth
  • Abdominal discomfort

Typical treatments for GI stasis in rabbits encompass:

  • Fluid therapy
  • Syringe feeding
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Analgesics
  • GI motility-enhancing drugs

Also, keep in mind, a fiber-rich, healthy diet can play a significant role in preserving your rabbit’s digestive health and may even ward off gastrointestinal issues.

Parasitic Infections: Ear Mites and Fleas

Parasitic infections, such as ear mites and fleas, can cause discomfort, skin damage, and anemia in rabbits. Some signs of ear mites in rabbits include:

  • Headshaking
  • Ear flapping
  • Scratching at the ears
  • Crusting on the pinna and ear canal

Ear mites can irritate the lining of the ear, leading to the buildup of fluid and thick brown crusts, known as an “ear canker”. It is important to treat ear mites promptly to prevent further complications.

Flea infestations in rabbits may present with the following symptoms:

  • ‘Flea dirt’ in their fur
  • Excessive scratching
  • Skin damage
  • Anemia

To prevent flea infestations, it’s imperative to use flea medications specifically formulated for rabbits rather than resorting to those meant for cats or dogs.

The usual treatment for ear mites in rabbits is three Ivermectin injections administered every 10-14 days. However, your veterinarian will provide the best advice for your pet’s circumstances.

Don’t let your susceptible rabbits become affected rabbits, suffering from the discomfort and potential health risks associated with parasitic infections; take preventive measures and seek early treatment if needed.

vet doctor carrying a rabbit

Head Tilt and Inner Ear Infections

This health problem can result from inner ear infections or parasites like E. cuniculi, with treatment involving antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and supportive care. Head tilt is the tilting of the head to one side, which can be attributed to an inner ear infection with bacteria or a brain infection with the parasite Encephalitozoon cuniculi (or E. cuniculi).

Signs of E. cuniculi may include:

  • Head tilt
  • Rolling
  • Ocular abnormalities
  • Renal dysfunction
  • Gastrointestinal stasis

Transmission of E. cuniculi occurs when a rabbit ingests urine from other infected rabbits.

E. cuniculi is typically treated with anti-protozoal drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, and vertigo-type medications, depending on the severity of the symptoms.

Uncovering the root cause of head tilt in rabbits, whether an inner ear infection or E. cuniculi, is pivotal in administering the right treatment and easing their discomfort.

doctor holding a rabbit

Respiratory Tract Infections in Rabbits

Respiratory tract infections, also known as respiratory infections, in rabbits can have serious consequences, as they can affect both upper and lower airways and can be fatal if left untreated. A respiratory tract infection in rabbits may present clinical signs such as:

  • Eye-related symptoms such as mucus or pus-like discharge, redness, and squinting
  • Nasal and sinus-related symptoms such as sneezing, mucus, or pus-like discharge
  • Crusty, matted fur on the inside of the front paws

Certain oral antibiotics, particularly oral penicillin and related medications, can result in fatal dysbiosis in rabbits due to disrupting their normal gastrointestinal bacteria, potentially leading to severe diarrhea and dehydration.

Consequently, for the appropriate treatment of respiratory tract infections in rabbits, which a bacterial infection may cause, consultation with a veterinarian is indispensable.

Recommended treatment options for respiratory tract infections in rabbits include:

  • Oxygen therapy
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Fluids administered subcutaneously or intravenously
  • Syringe feeding

Don’t let your rabbit suffer from the complications of respiratory tract infections; seek prompt veterinary attention to ensure their health and well-being.

veterinarian checking a rabbit

Uterine Tumors and Spaying Female Rabbits

Uterine tumors are common in un-spayed female rabbits, with symptoms like decreased appetite and swollen bellies. Female rabbits over the age of three are at a greater risk of developing ovarian, uterine and mammary cancer if not spayed.

This underscores the importance of having your rabbit spayed at the age of three. Spaying female rabbits is recommended at 5-6 months of age to prevent these health risks.

Palpation of an enlarged uterus or identification of an enlarged/thickened uterus on ultrasound or X-rays may be utilized to diagnose uterine cancer in rabbits. Surgical spaying of the rabbit (ovario-hysterectomy) is the recommended treatment for uterine adenocarcinoma in rabbits. Spaying may also be necessary, in conjunction with antibiotic treatment, to address uterine infections in rabbits.

Prevent uterine issues in rabbits by spaying them early, protecting them from the potentially detrimental effects of uterine tumors. Your rabbit’s health and longevity depend on proper care and preventive measures.

Skin Conditions and Fur Mite Infestations

Skin conditions and fur mite infestations can cause the following symptoms in rabbits:

  • Itchiness
  • Dry skin
  • Bald patches
  • Flaky skin
  • Indications of dermatitis

Fur mites, including rabbit ear mites, are parasites found on the surface of the skin of rabbits and typically do not cause any symptoms unless the animal is weakened by age, illness, or stress.

To control fur mites in rabbits, it is suggested to dust the animals and their bedding with perforin powder every week. Since fur mites may also cause mild skin irritation or inflammation in humans, addressing these infestations in your rabbit is imperative for both your health and theirs.

Proper grooming and treatment can help alleviate skin issues and fur mite infestations in rabbits. Consult your veterinarian if you suspect your rabbit is suffering from a skin condition or fur mite infestation to ensure they receives the appropriate care and treatment.

Poisoning Hazards for Rabbits

Poisoning hazards for rabbits include:

  • Toxic plants such as buttercups, rhubarb, foxglove, ragwort, deadly nightshade, evergreens, hemlock, ivy, poppies, and yew
  • Chemicals
  • Inappropriate flea treatments

Rabbits should avoid eating these plants and be kept away from chemicals and inappropriate flea treatments. Being mindful of these hazards and taking necessary precautions are key to ensuring your rabbit’s safety.

If you suspect that your rabbit has ingested something toxic, contact your veterinarian for advice and bring the packaging or a sample of the plant to the clinic so that they can determine the appropriate course of action.

The use of flea medications designed for dogs and cats on rabbits can be toxic, so it is crucial to use flea treatments specifically designed for rabbits to ensure their safety.

Protect your rabbit from poisoning hazards by being vigilant about their environment and the substances they are exposed to. Remember, prevention is key to keeping your rabbit healthy and safe from potential dangers.

Pododermatitis (Sore Hocks)

Pododermatitis, or sore hocks, is a painful condition affecting rabbits’ feet, often caused by improper flooring or obesity. Symptoms of pododermatitis may include:

  • Fur loss on the bottoms of feet and hocks
  • Reddened skin on the bottoms of feet and hocks
  • Swelling of the feet
  • Discomfort

Pododermatitis is primarily caused by disruption of the normal stance or locomotion over time, resulting in pressure sores on the base of the feet. Contributing factors can include:

  • trauma from running on rough or abrasive floors
  • excess weight
  • inadequate diet
  • lack of activity
  • inadequate cage flooring
  • moisture
  • lack of hygiene

Addressing the issue of sore hocks in rabbits necessitates a consultation with a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Treatment may involve addressing the underlying cause and providing pain relief for the rabbit.

Maintaining your pet rabbits’ overall health and well-being hinges on prevention and early intervention.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most serious health problem facing the rabbit?

Intestinal disease is the most serious health problem facing rabbits, as it can be a major cause of death in young rabbits. This can be caused by diet, antibiotics, or other factors that disrupt the gut bacteria and can cause long-term diarrhea.

What are the 10 common rabbit diseases?

Rabbits can suffer from various ailments, including overgrown teeth, myxomatosis, flystrike, RVHD, head tilt, ear mites, skin conditions, and poisoning. These are the 10 most common rabbit diseases.

What is the most common cause of death in rabbits?

The most common cause of death in pet rabbits is fly strike, followed by anorexia and myiasis, according to a study by the RVC’s VetCompass programme. Myxomatosis, bite injuries, and other preventable issues can also contribute to the mortality rate in pet rabbits.

What are some common dental disorders in rabbits?

Common dental disorders in rabbits include overgrown teeth and malocclusion, which can lead to pain and difficulty eating.

How can I prevent flea infestations in my rabbit?

To prevent flea infestations in your rabbit, use flea treatments specifically designed for rabbits. Do not use flea medications meant for dogs or cats as they can be toxic to rabbits.

Common Health Problems in Rabbit Summary

Rabbits can suffer from various common health problems. As a responsible rabbit owner, it’s essential to be aware of these issues, their symptoms, and the treatments available.

Prevention is key in maintaining your rabbit’s health, so provide proper care, a balanced diet, and regular veterinary check-ups. Together, we can ensure our furry friends lead happy and healthy lives.

Caitlyn Hill

Caitlyn Hill is the dedicated Chief Editor behind, a passion project born from her love for animals, particularly her cherished pet rabbit, Brownie. Caitlyn's deep bond with these furry companions has cultivated a wealth of knowledge and an unwavering affection for them. With her extensive experience and heartfelt devotion, she is determined to channel her expertise and passion into creating a vibrant and informative blog site that will undoubtedly become a go-to resource for all things related to cuddly pets.

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