Do Rabbits Get Hiccups?

Do Rabbits Get Hiccups?

Rabbits are adorable little animals, and when you adopt them for the first time, you find yourself watching them very closely as they almost resemble breathing and moving stuffed toys. Just too cute!

Sometimes they make funny sounds and strange movements which might concern you because you aren’t sure what they mean. Hiccups are one of those instances.

When a rabbit has hiccups, some people worry that their rabbit might be having seizures or fits. Here is an explanation of why rabbits have hiccups and when you should worry.

Why Do Rabbits Get Hiccups?

Hiccups occur every time there is a diaphragm muscle spasm due to the ingestion of extra air into the body via the mouth. Hiccups are the body’s way of expelling the excess air to relieve itself.

This happens to all mammals and is a normal part of digestion. Since rabbits tend to graze all day long, they often quickly chomp down on their food.

In doing so, they tend to swallow a lot of air along with food. This is one of the leading causes of hiccups. This also causes them to suffer from indigestion.

Since rabbits cannot belch or vomit, they end up having hiccups. Humans generally hold their breath to allow the diaphragm to settle, which helps the hiccups stop.

Bunnies are unaware of the holding their breath technique, so they will continue to have hiccups until their diaphragm settles down.

How To Tell If Your Rabbit Is Hiccupping?

Rabbits hiccup much the same way humans do, and they sound pretty much the same, except they are much quieter.

If you notice your rabbit bobbing up and down and there is no hiccupping sound, it may confuse you. But this is normal as most rabbits do not make a loud noise while hiccupping.

Hiccups in rabbits last for a few minutes, after which they stop. If they persist and do not go away for a long time, there might be a gastrointestinal or respiratory issue.

You might want to have your rabbit checked out by a vet. But this is rare. Hiccups usually go away on their own in a rabbit.

What Causes Hiccups In Rabbits?

Hiccups are caused by irritation in the diaphragm, causing it to spasm. This happens when too much air is swallowed in by the rabbit.

Rabbits swallow too much air due to the following reasons:

Eating Too Much Too Fast

Rabbits are grazers and munchers. They can eat all day long if they have the chance. This is good and bad. Too much food is not good for anyone as it can lead to digestive issues as well as obesity.

Obesity can cause other health conditions. While obese rabbits look cute and cuddly, they aren’t necessarily healthy.

Rabbits have a specialized digestive system that is designed to process their food quickly. It needs food, particularly cellulose-based foods, to function optimally.

Too much time in between meals can cause the slowing down of the digestive tract or even cause it to come to a complete halt. This is a dangerous condition for rabbits called GI Stasis.

GI Stasis can be avoided in rabbits by giving them frequent meals and keeping them hydrated.

Due to their habit of eating constantly, rabbits may sometimes eat too much too fast, especially if they are eating pellets. This causes them to ingest air along with their food.

When they are swallowing food faster than they can digest, rabbits end up having hiccups. Humans may belch or even throw up, but since rabbits don’t have that ability, they keep having hiccups until they feel better.

Younger Aged Rabbits

Younger rabbits tend to eat faster than older rabbits. This is because younger rabbits have trust issues and are afraid their food might be taken away from them quickly, so they eat faster.

Younger rabbits have more fear and anxiety, which may cause them to eat too fast and ingest air. As rabbits begin to trust their owners and their environment, they slow down their eating pace.

It is best not to stand around a rabbit when they are feeding and looking uncomfortable and frightened. It is also not recommended to forcefully hold a rabbit if they don’t want to be held.

Out Of Fear

Rabbits are generally frightened and meek animals. This is because they are prey animals. They have an innate fear and survival instinct to run and hide.

When they are afraid or frightened, they tend to eat really fast out of anxiety.

When Hiccups Don’t Stop

Rabbits usually hiccup when they wake up after a nap or just after a meal. Their hiccups are usually muted and are characterized by the rabbit shaking up and down, or like a gentle fluttering movement.

Normally hiccups stop after a few minutes when the diaphragm calms down. This doesn’t take too long normally. Rarely do hiccups persist.

If that happens, then you must also watch out for other unusual signs and behaviors in your rabbit. These include:

  • Disinterest in food
  • Inability to eat food
  • Inability to pass stool
  • Straining or hunching over due to pain
  • Lethargy
  • Distended belly
  • Dull coat
  • Inactivity
  • Hiding more than usual
  • Looking unwell  
  • Grinding their teeth
  • Looking distressed and uncomfortable

How To Relieve A Hiccupping Rabbit?

If you notice that your rabbit’s hiccups are not going away, then there are some methods that you can try to help your rabbit.

  • Palpate and feel for the rabbit’s diaphragm and gently massage it. It might help expel the air out and relieve the spasm.
  • Place their meals in an elevated location rather than too low where they bend their heads in completely.
  • Eating from a place that is a bit higher will prevent bunnies from eating too fast and ingesting too much air.
  • Ensure that your rabbit is not dehydrated and has access to clean and fresh water at all times
  • Try not to hover around your rabbit or make it uncomfortable while it is eating. If your rabbit frightens easily and is not comfortable eating with other rabbits around, separate them from the others.
  • Give food to the frightened rabbit separately to allow him to feel comfortable and not anxious while eating.

Could It Mean Something Else?

If your rabbit’s hiccups are not going away, you should also watch out for other symptoms. Your rabbit could be suffering from a respiratory problem or a gastrointestinal problem.

Respiratory Problems

If you suspect that your rabbit could be suffering from a respiratory problem, watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Runny nose
  • Persistent cough
  • Discharge from the eyes, ears, or nose
  • High fever
  • Sneezing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Inactivity
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Tilting their head back in an attempt to take in more air
  • Scratching their ears

Gastrointestinal Problems

If you suspect that your rabbit could be suffering from a GI problem, watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Refusal or inability to eat
  • Inability to pass stool
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody stool
  • Hard stools
  • Tender or sensitive abdomen
  • Distended abdomen
  • High fever
  • Lethargy and weakness

GI problems in rabbits can escalate quickly and cause blockages in the GI tract. This is very dangerous for rabbits and is also known as a silent killer.

It must not be ignored, and a rabbit who is refusing to eat along with nonstop hiccups should be taken to the vet for further evaluation.

What You Should Not Do

While it is okay to do these practices in humans to relieve hiccups, they are not recommended in rabbits:

Frightening Them To Make The Hiccups Go Away

Rabbits scare very easily. sometimes they get such a fright that it can cause them to have a heart attack and instant death.

Other times, frightening them can cause them to make jerky movements or jump from an elevated place and break their spine.

While this method is successful in humans in getting rid of hiccups, it should not be tried with rabbits.

Covering Their Nose And Mouth To Make Them Hold Their Breath

Everyone has tried this method. When you are getting the hiccups, and they just won’t go away, you might have tried holding your breath to make them stop.

While this is okay for humans to try, it should not be attempted in rabbits. Rabbits are extremely tiny and fragile animals that can injure easily.

It is best to leave them be and wait for the hiccups to go away in their time.

The Final Word

Hiccups are not something to worry about usually. They are fairly normal, and it is very rare that they signal anything serious in the rabbit.

Hiccups go away after a few minutes on their own, but sometimes they may go on for longer.

If you notice that your rabbit’s hiccups are lasting longer than usual and there are no other unusual or alarming signs and symptoms, then you could take your rabbit for a visit to the vet.

They might do an X-Ray on the rabbit to check for any blockages. The vet may also gently press the rabbit’s diaphragm and release the trapped air to relieve the rabbit.

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