How To Tell If Rabbit Is Sick (or in Pain)?

Rabbits are adorable little furry creatures, and they are great to keep as pets in the house.

However, since rabbits are non-verbal, it is difficult to tell when they are in pain. For new rabbit owners, it is even more difficult to tell when they are falling sick or are in pain.

This article outlines some ways that we can tell if your rabbit is in pain.

How To Tell If A Rabbit Is Sick?

If you are a new rabbit owner, it might take some time to familiarize yourself with how rabbits typically behave, and what is considered normal or abnormal in bunnies.

New pet owners may panic easily as they don’t know what to expect. Sometimes they may be ignorant of certain behaviors and take them too lightly.

Some people who have owned cats and dogs in the past compare their past experiences to their current rabbit behavior.

This is a mistake because rabbits are very different compared to cats and dogs and have completely different dietary requirements and personalities.

This is why it is important to take your pet rabbit to the vet every six months to make sure it is doing okay and to discuss the correct way of taking care of rabbits.

You can discuss what signs to watch out for and how to care for your rabbit properly by reading up on it, or talking with other rabbit owners who are more experienced.

Here are some ways that you can tell if your rabbit is falling sick:


Rabbits are not overly active or excitable creatures. But when they are happy and healthy, they tend to hop and jump around with other rabbits and have a healthy appetite.

If your rabbit is not behaving normally and seems less active than usual, then you should observe them for other symptoms.

These include loss of appetite, signs of trauma or injury, changes in body posture, a limp, or discharge from the eyes or nose.

If your rabbit appears to have other symptoms along with lethargy, then there is a good chance that it might be falling ill.

Body Posture

Rabbits have very delicate spines; therefore, they must be handled with care.

Holding a rabbit incorrectly or forcefully holding them can make a rabbit panic so much that they might break their spines in trying to escape from your hold.

This can damage their spinal columns and can sometimes cause partial or complete paralysis.

If you notice a rabbit sitting hunched or in a floppy manner or lying in an odd position, they might be injured or dehydrated.

You must check them for other signs and symptoms to confirm a diagnosis so you can begin treating them.

Loss Of Appetite

Rabbits are grazers by nature, and most rabbits will keep eating if they are constantly fed without knowing when to stop.

Since they are primarily herbivorous, rabbits have a plant-based diet and consume mostly hay, green leaves, fruits, and vegetables.

They are most often seen nibbling and grazing on plants for most of their waking hours.

If you notice your rabbit being uninterested in its food and appearing to have lost its appetite, then this should be investigated and not ignored.

Rabbits have a specialized digestive system that requires them to continue eating.

It is not recommended to keep a rabbit starving for more than 12 hours as there is a risk of the rabbit undergoing GI Stasis, a very painful condition that can quickly become complicated.

Being Inactive

Healthy rabbits are playful, sociable, and they like the company of other rabbits. Ideally, you must always keep bunny rabbits in pairs.

When they are left outdoors, rabbits like to chase each other and nip at each other playfully.

Once they become comfortable and familiar with their owners, rabbits like to play with them as well, by touching their owners with their paws, playing with toys, and hopping and following them around.

Suppose you notice that your rabbit is hiding away more often and not coming out to play.

If it is hunched in a corner, refusing to eat, and sleeping more often, then there is a chance that it is unwell and is not feeling like its normal self.

You should wait and watch for more symptoms, or you may take your rabbit to the vet if you suspect that your rabbit might be very ill.


As rabbits age, they tend to suffer from dental problems. This is mostly caused as a result of the way their teeth are positioned.

Their front two upper and lower teeth are placed too far forward, creating an abnormal bite in rabbits. This can result in tooth problems, gum inflammation, and frequent infections.

This can cause excessive drooling in rabbits and a refusal to eat hard foods such as whole carrots due to pain. In some situations, teeth need to be taken out in rabbits if they are recurrently becoming infected.

Regardless, a vet who specializes in this field needs to treat dental problems with rabbits to help ease their pain.

Discharge Coming From The Eyes, Nose, Ears, Or Mouth

Any kind of discharge coming from the rabbit’s eyes or nose could mean that they are suffering from allergies, the flu, or an upper respiratory tract infection.

The rabbit’s chest and lungs should be examined to check for breathing and respiratory conditions to ensure they are doing okay.

Feels Hot To Touch

Since rabbits do not drink a lot of water, they quickly become dehydrated. If it is an exceptionally hot day, then there is a chance that your rabbit can overheat.

This is dangerous, and rabbits should be provided adequate shelter during the hot summer months and not be left outdoors when it is too hot.

If the rabbit is sick, it might be running a fever and may then also overheat.

Tooth Grinding

Anxious rabbits who are unwell tend to make grinding noises with their teeth. 

If you notice your rabbit sitting hunched in a corner making grinding tooth noises, then it is possible that they are unwell and need to be looked after.

Runny Nose, Sneezing, Or Having Breathing Difficulties

If your rabbit is sneezing or has a runny nose and looks like it is straining to breathe, then it might be suffering from the flu or an upper respiratory condition.

Trouble Keeping Their Balance Or Tilting Their Head

If you notice that your rabbit is tilting its head or walking in a way as though it is unable to keep its balance, then it is possible that your rabbit has an ear infection.

This neck position is also known as a wry neck and if treated quickly, then it can be cured; otherwise the treatment process can be very delayed and painful.

Absent Or Abnormal Feces

You can tell a lot by observing your rabbit’s poop. Large, round, smooth and shiny fecal pellets are signs that the digestive tract is functioning normally.

Whereas irregularly shaped, hard, dry or poop that contains fur can indicate a problem with the rabbit digestive system.

If your rabbit is suffering from diarrhea, it might have runny or watery poop and should be investigated further by a vet since rabbits can become dehydrated easily due to their small size.

Trauma Or Injury In Your Rabbit

If you notice a cut or signs of an injury in your rabbit, you must observe to see how bad the injury is. Some cuts can be dressed at home with antibiotic ointment and a bandage.

But if the injury is too deep, or the rabbit is in so much pain that it is unable to eat or move, then it must be taken to the vet for professional help.

Sore hocks is a common skin condition that can affect a rabbit’s paws. This can cause itchiness, redness, and inflammation of the rabbit’s paw and can cause it to become worse if not treated.

It can develop ulcers and scabs and is a very painful condition for rabbits. Rabbits may sometimes fracture their legs if they hop or jump from very high places, especially out of humans’ hands, to escape.

This can cause rabbits’ legs to break as they have very delicate bones. You can treat your rabbit at home or take them to the vet depending on how badly hurt your rabbit is.

Regardless of the type of injury, you must remember to keep a close eye on your rabbits.

The Bottom Line

When dogs get hurt, they can yelp in pain and gain the attention of their owners.

Rabbits are non-vocal and cannot communicate to their owners when something is wrong, which is why there is a lot of guesswork involved.

You must observe your rabbit closely to check for signs of injury or illness to make sure your bunny rabbits are healthy and doing okay.

Regular vet visits help keep everything in check to ensure your pet rabbits remain healthy and have a long life.

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