11 Common Rabbit Illnesses and Their Symptoms

Rabbits make delightful pets, but they are prone to certain health conditions. As prey animals, rabbits are masters at hiding illness until a problem becomes severe. Therefore, rabbit owners need to stay vigilant for any subtle signs of disease. Some rabbit health issues can strike suddenly and progress rapidly, leading to death if left untreated. By learning the common symptoms of rabbit illnesses, you can seek prompt veterinary care and intervention for your bunny. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical with many rabbit diseases. This article will cover the key symptoms, causes, and preventive measures for 11 prevalent illnesses that affect pet rabbits. Being aware of these common conditions will help you keep your rabbit healthy and active for many years.

GI stasis


GI stasis, also known as gastrointestinal stasis, is a dangerous condition that occurs when the normal motility of the gastrointestinal tract slows down or stops completely. The main symptoms of GI stasis include:

  • Decreased or absent defecation – Rabbits normally pass a significant amount of feces daily, so a reduction in fecal output is a major warning sign.

  • Small, unformed fecal pellets – The feces may be smaller or misshapen compared to normal rabbit droppings.

  • Lack of appetite – The rabbit may completely refuse food and treats or eat much less than usual.

  • Bloating or distension of the stomach – The stomach may appear enlarged or swollen.

  • Grinding of the teeth – Tooth grinding can indicate abdominal pain.

  • Lethargy – The rabbit may show little interest in normal activities and appear lifeless.

  • Hunched posture – The rabbit sits hunched over rather than upright.


There are several potential causes of GI stasis in rabbits:

  • Dietary issues – An improper diet high in carbohydrates, low in fiber, or sudden changes in food can disrupt gut motility.

  • Dehydration – Insufficient water intake can cause the gut contents to become drier and slower moving.

  • Dental disease – Pain from tooth roots or mouth abscesses can prevent proper chewing and food intake.

  • Infections – Bacterial or protozoal intestinal infections may impair normal peristalsis.

  • Foreign material – Ingested hair, carpet fibers, or other objects can obstruct the intestines.

  • Motility drugs – Medications that slow gut motility like opioids can trigger stasis.

  • Stress – Anxiety, fear, and other emotional states can inhibit gut function.

  • Lack of exercise – Insufficient physical activity can predispose to sluggish intestinal contractions.


Some tips to help prevent GI stasis in rabbits include:

  • Feed a high-fiber diet – Grass hay should make up the bulk of a rabbit's diet to keep the gut moving.

  • Provide plenty of clean water – Hydration is key for maintaining soft stools and motility.

  • Limit carbohydrates and sugars – Starchy foods and treats should be fed sparingly.

  • Introduce new foods slowly – Make any dietary changes gradually over 1-2 weeks.

  • Groom regularly – Brush and comb to minimize ingestion of hair.

  • Give toys and exercise – Allow rabbits opportunities for play and physical activity daily.

  • Reduce stress – Avoid loud noises, sudden changes, and unfamiliar situations.

  • Schedule annual vet checkups – Early diagnosis and treatment of dental issues helps prevent stasis.



The symptoms of a hairball obstruction in rabbits include:

  • Decrease in appetite – The rabbit may eat less food due to discomfort.

  • Small, irregular fecal droppings – Stool size and shape may be abnormal.

  • Straining to defecate – The rabbit may strain, grunt, or adopt a hunched posture while trying to pass stool.

  • Lack of stool production – No feces may be produced if the obstruction is complete.

  • Gagging or coughing – The rabbit may gag or cough as the hairball passes through the esophagus.

  • Vomiting – Rabbits may vomit up the hairball or vomit undigested food due to the obstruction.

  • Lethargy – The rabbit may become increasingly inactive due to illness.

  • Abdominal distension – The stomach may become enlarged if the obstruction is in the intestines.


Hairballs in rabbits are caused by:

  • Grooming and ingesting hair – Rabbits constantly groom themselves and end up swallowing loose hair.

  • Shedding excessively – Heavy shedding seasons increase the amount of loose hair that can be ingested.

  • Not passing hair in the feces – Under normal conditions, swallowed hair should pass through the digestive tract and be excreted.

  • Slowed gut motility – Conditions like GI stasis prevent the normal passage of hair through the intestines.

  • Dehydration – Inadequate fluid intake can make gut contents drier and slower moving.

  • Concurrent illness – Diseases causing nausea, loss of appetite, or lethargy may predispose to hairballs.


To help prevent rabbit hairballs:

  • Groom regularly – Frequent brushing removes loose hair from the coat.

  • Provide fibrous hay – A high fiber diet maintains intestinal motility to pass hair.

  • Give hairball remedy treats – Products with papaya or pineapple help break down hair.

  • Ensure adequate hydration – Plenty of clean drinking water keeps the GI tract lubricated.

  • Schedule annual exams – Checking for early signs of dental disease or shedding problems.

  • Limit molt-inducing foods – Reduce pellets and vegetables during heavy shedding periods.

  • Monitor appetite and stools – Changes can indicate excessive hair ingestion.

  • Switch cage lining frequently – Removes shed hair before it can be ingested.

Ear mites


Rabbits infested with ear mites may exhibit:

  • Head shaking and ear scratching – The rabbit shakes its head and scratches at its ears in an attempt to relieve irritation. This is often the first notable symptom.

  • Crusty buildup in ears – A dark brown crusty discharge caused by the mites builds up inside the outer ear canal.

  • Hair loss around ears – Constant scratching can cause patches of hair loss and abrasions around the base of the ears.

  • Decreased hearing – Severe mite infestation can reduce hearing if the eardrum is damaged.

  • Loss of balance or tilt of the head – Inner ear problems from severe infestations can disrupt the rabbit's equilibrium and coordination.

  • Favoring one ear – Tilting, shaking, or scratching one ear more than the other may indicate that side is more affected.

  • Agitation and anxiety – The constant irritation can cause the rabbit to be restless and stressed.


  • Ear mites are caused by the parasitic mite Psoroptes cuniculi, which feeds on the skin oils and earwax inside a rabbit's ears.

  • Mites are highly contagious and easily transmitted between rabbits through direct contact. They can also survive in the environment.

  • Warm, moist, and dirty conditions allow mites to thrive.

  • Older or immunocompromised rabbits are more susceptible.

  • Recent arrival from a shelter or pet store increases risk due to exposure.


  • Quarantine new rabbits before introducing them to others.

  • Keep housing clean, dry, and well-ventilated.

  • Avoid overcrowding rabbits.

  • Use vet-approved parasiticides to treat infestations promptly.

  • Apply monthly topical mite prevention medications.

  • Schedule regular vet exams to identify early infections.

  • Provide good nutrition to optimize the immune response.



The symptoms of heatstroke in rabbits include:

  • Panting or rapid breathing – The rabbit breathes rapidly to try to cool itself.

  • Salivation or drooling – Heavy drooling is a sign of heat stress.

  • Red or pale mucous membranes – The gums and tongue may appear bright red early on, then turn pale or blue as shock sets in.

  • Increased heart rate – The heart beats faster in an attempt to compensate.

  • Muscle weakness – The rabbit may have difficulty moving due to poor muscle function.

  • Lethargy – As body temperature rises, the rabbit becomes increasingly unresponsive.

  • Loss of coordination – The rabbit may stagger, have seizures, or lose consciousness.

  • Diarrhea – Hyperthermia can cause intestinal inflammation.

  • Rectal bleeding – Extremely high body temperatures lead to circulatory failure.

  • Vomiting – The elevated temperature triggers nausea and vomiting.


Heatstroke occurs when a rabbit cannot adequately dissipate heat and its core body temperature rises to dangerous levels above 104°F (40°C). Causes include:

  • Ambient temperature over 90°F (32°C).

  • Being confined in direct sunlight or closed vehicle.

  • Lack of air flow and ventilation.

  • High humidity impedes heat loss.

  • Obesity makes it harder for the rabbit to stay cool.

  • Blocked nasolacrimal ducts prevent tear production for evaporative cooling.

  • Heart or respiratory disease impairs circulation and panting.

  • Certain medications may interfere with temperature regulation.


To prevent rabbit heatstroke:

  • Always provide shade, a cool hideaway, and ample ventilation.

  • Use fans and frozen water bottles to enhance cooling.

  • Limit exercise on hot days.

  • Provide constant access to fresh, cool water.

  • Avoid temperature extremes inside housing.

  • Never leave rabbits confined in vehicles.

  • Get obese rabbits down to a healthy weight.

  • Have vet check tear duct function.

  • Reduce risk factors for heart and lung disease.

  • Monitor for signs of heat stress.



The symptoms of snuffles, or pasteurella infection, include:

  • Nasal discharge – Thick mucus or pus dripping from the nose is the classic sign. Discharge may be white, yellow, or green.

  • Sneezing – Forceful sneezing is common as the rabbit tries to clear nasal passages.

  • Congestion – The nose often sounds congested, especially in early morning or at night.

  • Impaired breathing – Severe congestion can lead to mouth breathing, wheezing, and labored respiration.

  • Red or watery eyes – Infection may spread to conjunctiva.

  • Ear infection – Inner or middle ear infections manifest as head tilt, lack of balance, and disorientation.

  • Loss of appetite – Sick rabbits tend to eat less due to impaired smell and taste.

  • Fever – Pasteurella infection often causes a fever over 104°F (40°C).

  • Weight loss – Appetite and activity decline as the rabbit feels unwell.

  • Lethargy – Rabbits become increasingly inactive as illness progresses.


  • Snuffles is caused by the bacteria Pasteurella multocida, which is carried in the nasal passages of most healthy rabbits.

  • Stress, other illness, or a weakened immune system allow overgrowth of pasteurella.

  • Pasteurella spreads readily between rabbits through respiratory droplets.

  • Chronic snuffles develops when infections are not fully cured.

  • Biofilm formation makes pasteurella harder to eradicate.


  • Avoid introducing new rabbits without quarantine period.

  • Eliminate drafts, ammonia, dust, and other airway irritants.

  • Feed balanced diet with plenty of hay to optimize immune function.

  • Address causes of stress like overcrowding or loud noises.

  • Neuter rabbits to decrease territorial behaviors and fighting.

  • Have vet evaluate any nasal discharge promptly.

  • Follow up with complete course of prescribed antibiotics.

  • Use proper hygiene when managing sick rabbits to avoid transmission.

Bladder Sludge


The symptoms of bladder sludge in rabbits include:

  • Frequent urination – The rabbit strains and dribbles urine frequently.

  • Discomfort or crying when urinating – Passing sludge is painful.

  • Blood in the urine – Sludge tears the bladder lining, causing hematuria.

  • Straining to urinate – The rabbit may vocalize, bite at its genitals, or sit in a hunched posture while trying to pass urine.

  • Small, frequent urine volumes – Urine is passed a few drops at a time.

  • Incomplete bladder emptying – Sludge prevents the bladder from fully voiding.

  • Dribbling urine – Leakage occurs due to incomplete emptying.

  • Lack of fecal production – Severe obstruction can lead to GI stasis.

  • Anorexia – The rabbit stops eating due to discomfort.

  • Lethargy – As sludge accumulation increases, the rabbit becomes weak.


  • Excess calcium in the diet leads to precipitation of minerals in the urine.

  • Dehydration or inadequate water intake concentrates the urine.

  • Urinary tract infections change the urine pH, promoting stone formation.

  • Kidney dysfunction allows excretion of calculi-forming minerals.

  • Foreign material like hair or sediments act as nidi for crystal formation.

  • Obesity predisposes to metabolic disorders.

  • Lack of exercise slows metabolism and alters urine composition.

  • Steroid medications increase calcium excretion.


  • Provide unlimited fresh water.

  • Feed grass hay based diet low in calcium and oxalates.

  • Limit treats and pelleted feeds.

  • Maintain ideal body condition.

  • Ensure adequate exercise.

  • Exclude drafts and wetness.

  • Promptly treat urinary tract infections.

  • Perform annual vet exams to assess kidney function.

  • Monitor urine character and take samples if needed.

Overgrown teeth


Signs that a rabbit has overgrown teeth include:

  • Drooling – Excess salivation is caused by tooth pain.

  • Molar spurs – Visible protruding points on the cheek teeth.

  • Misaligned incisors – The front teeth do not meet properly.

  • Weight loss – Eating becomes difficult due to dental abnormalities.

  • Selective or reduced food intake – The rabbit shows preference for soft foods or eats less.

  • Fecal changes – Irregularly shaped, smaller, or fewer droppings.

  • Wet or stained face – Saliva and food debris collect on chin and cheeks.

  • Runny eyes – Tear staining results from dental pain and reduced grooming.

  • Abnormal chewing motions – The jaw shifts to one side when chewing.

  • Head tilt – Uneven tooth length alters chewing and causes jaw misalignment.

  • Loss of appetite – Oral discomfort leads to inappetence.


  • Congenital malocclusion – Inherited tooth and jaw abnormalities.

  • Injury – Trauma to the mouth damages or displaces teeth.

  • Nutritional imbalances – Diets deficient in hay and vitamins.

  • Lack of abrasive grinding – Insufficient fiber or opportunity to chew.

  • Age – Progressive misalignment and overgrowth in older rabbits.

  • Respiratory blockage – Blocked nasal passages alter chewing motion.

  • Infection – Abscesses and cysts disrupt normal dentition.


  • Select rabbits from lines free of malocclusion.

  • Feed plenty of abrasive hay to promote normal wear.

  • Limit high-calorie foods that reduce chewing activity.

  • Provide safe chew toys.

  • Have veterinarian evaluate occlusion and anatomy at annual visits.

  • Address any respiratory issues early.

  • Extract retained deciduous teeth in juvenile rabbits.

  • Pursue prompt treatment of dental disease.



Rabbits with myxomatosis typically exhibit:

  • Swollen, closed eyes – The conjunctivae become severely swollen, giving the eyes a characteristic droopy appearance.

  • Nasal discharge – Thick mucus or pus comes from the nostrils.

  • Skin tumors – Multiple raised nodules develop on the face, ears, and genitals. These may ulcerate.

  • Swollen genitals – The vulva and scrotum become enlarged and congested.

  • Lethargy – As illness progresses, rabbits become unwilling to move.

  • Loss of appetite – Eating and drinking decline due to sickness.

  • Conjunctivitis – Inflamed, weepy eyes may develop a distinctly blue tinge.

  • Difficulty breathing – Swelling of the throat obstructs airways in some cases.

  • Neurologic signs – Some rabbits have seizures or become partially paralyzed.

  • Secondary infections – Pneumonia, fly strike, and other issues may arise.


  • Myxomatosis is caused by the Myxoma virus, which is transmitted by biting insects like fleas or mosquitoes.

  • The virus only infects rabbits, having evolved to exploit rabbit-specific immune responses.

  • Outbreaks occur when infected wild or pet rabbits introduce the virus.

  • Flea infestations greatly facilitate spread between rabbits.

  • Immunosuppression from stress or other illness increases susceptibility.


  • Vaccinate susceptible pet rabbits. An annual booster is recommended.

  • Use fly screens to keep out insects.

  • Control fleas and ticks on rabbits and in their environment.

  • Isolate infected rabbits to avoid transmission.

  • Disinfect hutches and equipment to eliminate viral particles.

  • Avoid contact between pet rabbits and wild rabbits.

  • Spay/neuter rabbits to prevent territorial aggressions that lead to biting.

  • Support overall health to maintain immunity.

Uterine tumors


The symptoms of uterine tumors in rabbits include:

  • Bloody vaginal discharge – Bleeding from the vagina is the most common early clinical sign. Discharge may be fresh or dark dried blood.

  • Enlarged abdomen – The uterus expands with tumor growth, causing abdominal distension.

  • Lethargy – Rabbits become inactive as tumor effects and anemia from blood loss develop.

  • Loss of appetite – Inappetence results from abdominal pain and malaise.

  • Weight loss – Despite the enlarged

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