How to Deal with a Sick Rabbit

Five Parts:Recognizing IllnessTreating Tooth DiseaseTreating Gas PainTreating Head TiltTreating Injuries

Rabbits are naturally inclined to hide illness.[1] The most important factor in keeping your rabbit healthy is to know and be attentive to clues that your rabbit is sick. If you observe such clues, you should take your rabbit to the vet, but veterinarians qualified to treat rabbits are not always available. There are some ways, however, to help your rabbit in the meantime.

Part 1
Recognizing Illness

  1. Image titled Deal with a Sick Rabbit Step 1
    Watch for changes in behavior. Not all rabbits are friendly. But if your rabbit usually leaps around and greets, but suddenly ceases to do so, this is an indication that something might be wrong. Watch for signs that your rabbit is less mobile than usual, such as hunching over or limping. [2]
  2. Image titled Deal with a Sick Rabbit Step 2
    Observe eating habits. If your rabbit is not eating normally, it might be ill. Watch for leftover food from the last feeding. Also, monitor its droppings. If there are no droppings in the litterbox this indicates that the rabbit is not eating. Be attentive to the size and shape of the droppings. Ideally the droppings should be large and round. If they are are small, irregular, or liquid, it is possible that your rabbit is sick. [3]
  3. Image titled Deal with a Sick Rabbit Step 3
    Listen for tooth grinding. Your rabbit will often make a soft, grinding sound with its teeth when it is happy. However, if the sound is louder than normal it could be a bad sign. Often this is an indication that your rabbit is in pain.[4]
  4. Image titled Deal with a Sick Rabbit Step 4
    Test for signs of illness. Begin by offering your rabbit its favorite treat. If it refuses to eat the treat, it might be sick. Move on to testing the rabbit’s temperature. If it is well, the temperature should be between 101⁰F-103⁰F.
    • You should ask your veterinarian to demonstrate how to take your rabbit’s temperature. If you do this in advance of any signs of illness, you will be prepared in case of emergency.
    • To take your bunny’s temperature you will want to place it on its back, either on a padded surface or your lap. Hold your rabbit’s head and shoulder against your stomach, so that its back curls into a “C” shape. Secure the rabbit’s back legs so that it does not kick. Once it is calm insert a lubricated plastic thermometer no more than one inch into its rectum. Be sure that the rabbit is well restrained and is not able to move while you take its temperature.[5]
    • Do your best to cool your rabbit off if it has a high fever by putting cold objects up against its ears until the temperature drops to less than 104 degrees.[6]

Part 2
Treating Tooth Disease

  1. Image titled Deal with a Sick Rabbit Step 5
    Recognize tooth disease. Dental disease can be caused by a misalignment of the teeth or the wearing down of a tooth. This can be a dangerous situation. It can cause your bunny to stop eating, endangering its health.[7]
    • Signs of tooth disease include loss of appetite, hair loss on chin and neck, slobbering, and drooling.[8] Your rabbit might still show signs that it has an appetite, but is unable to eat. Perhaps it will approach food, even pick it up, before backing off and dropping it.
    • If you believe that your rabbit might have tooth disease rub its cheeks. Any evidence of discomfort would suggest that it has a dental problem.[9]
  2. Image titled Deal with a Sick Rabbit Step 6
    Feed your rabbit soft food. Until you can reach a veterinarian, try to force-feed your rabbit canned pumpkin, baby-food, or veggies. You can purchase a feeding syringe from a pet store. These can be used to insert fluid directly into the rabbit’s mouth.
    • To prepare for syringe feeding, wrap your rabbit in a towel and secure its head with an index finger under the head, and the thumb on the opposite end of the head, under the base of the skull.[10]
    • Insert the syringe into the gap between the incisors and cheek teeth. Begin by inserting no more than .2 to .5 ml of food and never feed more than 1 ml. Too much food at one time creates the risk that the rabbit will choke. Go slowly. Then repeat with 5 to 10 ml of water.[11]
  3. Image titled Deal with a Sick Rabbit Step 7
    Take your rabbit to a veterinarian. Ultimately your rabbit will need professional assistance. Because of the variety of possible dental issues, treatment varies. If you do not do so already, you should begin yearly dental examinations to ensure that there are no future complications.[12]

Part 3
Treating Gas Pain

  1. Image titled Deal with a Sick Rabbit Step 8
    Watch for signs of gas pain. As with many other disorders, gas pain will cause lack of appetite. What will distinguish gas pain, however, is a loud gurgling sound in the gut. Your rabbit might also stretch out, as if it is pressing its belly against the floor.[13]
    • Gastrointestinal problems are usually accompanied by a drastic, sometimes complete decrease in fecal production. Keep your rabbit comfortable and hydrated until you get to the vet.
    • Gas pain will typically cause below average body temperature. If your rabbit’s temperature is below 101⁰F, it is might suffer from gas pain
  2. Image titled Deal with a Sick Rabbit Step 9
    Warm your rabbit. You should try to counteract the rabbit’s drop in temperature. Try putting the rabbit on a warm (not hot) heating pad or a hot-water bottle wrapped in in a towel. You can also warm the rabbit with your body heat, holding it close to you for an hour or longer.[14]
  3. Image titled Deal with a Sick Rabbit Step 10
    Massage your rabbit. A gentle belly message can help relieve the pressure of the gas. Massage frequently for periods of ten or fifteen minutes. For at least part of this period you should have hindquarters elevated.[15]

Part 4
Treating Head Tilt

  1. Image titled Deal with a Sick Rabbit Step 11
    Recognize head tilt. Head tilt is a frightening disorder, also known as wry neck, typically caused by an inner ear infection. Your rabbit will lose its sense of balance. It will look dizzy and uncoordinated. Its head will twist and its eyes might dart quickly from one direction to the other.[16]
  2. Image titled Deal with a Sick Rabbit Step 12
    Protect your bunny. There is nothing you can do to reduce the effects of head tilt at home. But you should do your best to prevent your rabbit from hurting itself. Make a box well-padded with towels or another soft object. You want to make sure that if your rabbit falls over or jumps into a wall, it does as little damage as possible.[17]
    • If your bunny seems to be physically unable to eat, feed with a syringe as described above.
  3. Image titled Deal with a Sick Rabbit Step 13
    Take your bunny to a veterinarian who regularly treats rabbits. Head tilt can be a persistent condition, often lasting for several months. Some veterinarians without experience with it will recommend that you euthanize your bunny. However, if you are persist, the condition can often be treated.[18]

Part 5
Treating Injuries

  1. Image titled Deal with a Sick Rabbit Step 14
    Treat a broken or bleeding nail. Wrap the paw in a clean towel and apply pressure. Stop applying pressure when the bleeding stops. Afterwards, keep the broken nail clean. Clean the litter box and cage bottom repeatedly so that bacteria doesn't enter the wound.
    • You can also rub styptic powder, plain flour, or a bar of soap on the end of the nail to help stop the bleeding.[19]
  2. Image titled Deal with a Sick Rabbit Step 15
    Treat a broken bone. There is little you can do to fix a broken bone. Take your rabbit to the vet immediately if it has broken a bone. If your vet is not available, take the rabbit to an emergency clinic. Until the injury is attended to by a professional vet, try to keep your rabbit from moving around.
    • Place food and water close to the rabbit in an enclosed space. This way it will not need to move to take care of itself.[20]
  3. Image titled Deal with a Sick Rabbit Step 16
    Take your rabbit to the veterinarian if it sustains an eye injury. It is tempting to give your bunny an eye drop, but this can cause considerable damage.[21] All that you can do before going to a veterinarian is wet a cotton ball with warm water and gently wipe your rabbit's eyes to remove build-up.
  4. Image titled Deal with a Sick Rabbit Step 17
    Treat bite wounds. Rabbits often bite each other. While the wounds themselves might not appear bad, they often carry bacteria that can make for a dangerous situation. You should see a veterinarian after any bite wound. In the interim period, try to stop the bleeding and prevent infection.
    • Apply pressure with a towel or gauze to stop bleeding.
    • Once bleeding has stopped, wash the area with Nolvasan. Then apply Neosporin, triple antibiotic ointment. Do not use Neosporin Plus.


  • Keep electric wires away from rabbit pens since some rabbits like to chew on things and if they chew on one they will get electrocuted.
  • Verify that your veterinarian is familiar with rabbits.
  • If your bunny chews on electrical cords, furniture or other things that are not good for their safety rub some vapor rub on it. They won't like the smell or taste. Also, if they pull on carpet or rugs with their teeth, try sprinkling pepper or, if that doesn't work, even a bit of cayenne pepper will turn them off.

Article Info

Categories: Rabbit Health