Has your rabbit been making odd squeaking, wheezing or snorting noises when breathing? It can be scary hearing these strange sounds come from your beloved bunny. Unfortunately, abnormal breathing noises in rabbits are usually a sign of an underlying health problem. Everything from respiratory infections to heart disease can cause audible changes in your rabbit’s normal breathing patterns. The good news is that many of these conditions are treatable if caught early. Read on to learn more about the common causes of noisy breathing in rabbits and when you need to take action. Knowing how to monitor your rabbit’s respiration can help you catch signs of trouble fast and get them the care they need.
Why Is My Rabbit Making Strange Breathing Sounds?
There are a few reasons why your rabbit may be making odd noises when breathing. The most common causes include respiratory infections, blockages, stress, allergies, heart problems or even normal snoring. Understanding the difference between normal and abnormal breathing noises in rabbits is key to getting them proper treatment when needed.
How Do Rabbits Normally Breathe?
Rabbits are obligate nasal breathers, meaning they only breathe through their nose and not their mouth. You should see the flanks (sides of the chest) moving in and out as they breathe. Rabbits take rapid, shallow breaths – around 30-60 per minute for an adult rabbit. Breathing may quicken during exercise or when excited. Otherwise, rabbit breathing is normally very quiet – you shouldn't hear any noises.
Signs of Abnormal Breathing in Rabbits
Some signs that your rabbit's breathing may be abnormal or labored include:
Audible wheezing, coughing or raspy breathing
Flared nostrils or exaggerated mouth breathing
Stretching the neck out to breathe
Rapid or open-mouthed breathing at rest
Blueness of the lips or skin (cyanosis)
Lethargy or loss of appetite
If you notice any of these signs, contact your vet right away, as respiratory distress in rabbits is considered an emergency.
Infections are a common cause of breathing issues in rabbits. These include:
Pasteurella or staphylococcus bacteria often cause pneumonia in rabbits. This leads to labored breathing, nasal discharge and fever. Antibiotics are needed for treatment.
Viral Infections (Myxomatosis)
The myxoma virus causes swollen sinuses and pneumonia in rabbits. A vaccine is available as prevention.
Inhaled fungal spores can cause respiratory infections in rabbits. Symptoms include nasal discharge and wheezing. Anti-fungal medication is used for treatment.
Mucus blockages or foreign objects stuck in the nasal passages can obstruct normal breathing. You may notice loud snorting or wheezing noises as the rabbit tries to dislodge the blockage. Treatment depends on identifying and removing the obstruction.
Excessive stress can also cause changes in rabbit breathing. Their fast respiratory rate may become even more rapid, and you may hear panting noises. Identifying and removing stressors in their environment is important.
Allergies and Irritants
Allergies to things like dust, hay, or litter materials can cause inflammation of the airways. This leads to wheezing, coughing, and nasal discharge. Removing the irritant and medical treatment helps resolve the allergic reaction.
Underlying heart issues will also affect respiration in rabbits. You may notice fatigue or noisy, labored breathing. Heart medications or other treatments may be needed.
Is Snoring Normal in Rabbits?
Some amount of snoring or purring noises while breathing is perfectly normal in rabbits. However, loud snoring or snorting that persists could indicate a respiratory infection or obstruction.
Normal Noises Rabbits Make
In addition to snoring, rabbits can also make very soft grunting or cooing sounds frequently. Tooth grinding or chattering known as bruxing is also common. These types of noises are normal and not associated with breathing issues. Monitoring your rabbit's breathing patterns and noticing any changes is the key to determining if respiratory sounds are problematic or not. Contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns.