What Happens When a Rabbit Has a Heart Attack?

Rabbits are highly sensitive creatures. So much so that even a fright might cause their heart to fail.

Since more people are interested in keeping rabbits as pets, this has opened a way for them to live healthier lives. This, ultimately, increased their life expectancy.

On the downside, it also made cardiovascular diseases more common in rabbits.

Let’s look at what happens when a rabbit has a heart attack, the treatments your vet might recommend, and what can cause a rabbit to have a heart attack.

Heart Attack in Rabbits

Rabbits can be asymptomatic, which means it is difficult to detect heart disease or heart attacks in rabbits because they might not show any symptoms until the condition has escalated.

That said, rabbits four years or older are more likely to have heart attacks. In case your rabbit has had a heart attack, and it went undetected, you may see the following symptoms in your rabbit:

  • Lethargy
  • Uninterested in play
  • Mild loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

These symptoms are related to the early stages of a heart attack. However, they may not always mean that the rabbit is going through a heart attack.

Heart disease progresses if treatment is not sought during the initial stages. Now your rabbit might start having trouble breathing.

As the disease further progresses, you will begin noticing signs, such as fainting, loss of appetite, and labored breathing.  

The heart pumps and circulates blood in the entire body. When there is a blockage, and the body is not receiving the blood it needs, it will start showing severe signs. 

The rabbit’s body fluids will back up in either the abdomen, lungs, or both places. In the current stage, your rabbit is suffering from congestive heart failure.

Treatment for a Heart Attack in Rabbits

These signs may appear together or independently in every rabbit. However, it is essential to treat breathing issues as an emergency and take your rabbit immediately to a vet in such a case.

A vet will run a few scans and let you know if your rabbit is having a heart attack or is suffering from heart disease.

Your vet may ask to conduct or all of the following to run diagnostics:

  • ECG
  • Ultrasound
  • Radiographs
  • Blood tests

There is no cure for cardiovascular diseases in rabbits.

Still, your vet will recommend one of the following treatments if your rabbit has had a heart attack or is diagnosed to be suffering from heart disease.

These treatments might prolong the rabbit’s life and provide a few more years to live a better lifestyle.

Treating the Root Cause

First, your vet will try to understand the cause of the rabbit’s heart attack. Once they find the reason for the heart attack, they will suggest treatments accordingly.

There are multiple causes of a rabbit’s heart attack, which we have explored further in the article.

The vet will recommend treatments if your rabbit has had a heart attack due to an underlying disease. Pneumonia and lung diseases are common causes of heart attacks in rabbits.

A Change in Lifestyle

A rabbit is under a lot of stress after having a heart attack. It is essential to look after it intently during its time of recovery.

Once your vet shares the cause of a heart attack in your rabbit, such as lack of exercise or nutrients, it will need a lifestyle change to recover fully.

You will have to make dietary changes for your rabbit to ensure they start living a better life and reduce their chances of having a heart attack.

You must also keep your rabbit indoors and in a stress-free environment that is suitable for it. It is essential to make their living conditions comfortable to return to their healthy self.

This is also an excellent way to prevent or slow down your rabbit’s heart disease from progressing.

You must also monitor their recovery to ensure they are getting better and not having more problems.


Depending on your rabbit’s condition, the vet may prescribe medicines to stabilize its heart. The medication will help reduce pulmonary edema and also improve the heart’s functionality.

When giving medication, it is essential to record your rabbit’s progress to be sure they are getting better.

If you feel the rabbit is not feeling any better or their condition is worse, you must immediately take them back to the vet to ensure it’s not a side effect and follow an alternate treatment.

Causes of a Heart Attack in Rabbits

There are different reasons why rabbits could end up having a heart attack. As mentioned in the beginning, rabbits are sensitive creatures, which makes them prone to stress.

Any changes in the environment or diet can cause them to be under continuous stress for a long time. Hence, they might develop cardiovascular diseases, ultimately leading to a heart attack.

Here are some causes of a heart attack in a rabbit:

Unbalanced Diet

A rabbit’s diet is crucial to its well-being. Many pet parents are not careful about what they feed their rabbits.

In fact, most pet parents do not realize that they must be vigilant about not feeding their rabbits too many pellets.

This may surprise many of you, but pellets that are not entirely hay-based are known to slow down the digestive tract of bunnies.

Adult rabbits require almost 80 to 90% of their diet to be comprised of high-quality grass-hay to keep them healthy and provide a balanced diet.

Besides grass-hay, you should also add some leafy greens to your pet rabbit’s diet, such as lettuce, carrot tops, kale, and spinach.

Food items containing high fat, starch, or sugar, should also be avoided or given in small quantities.

Also, contrary to popular belief, carrots aren’t a great food choice for rabbits because they are also high in sugar.

A balanced diet is important for rabbits, just as much as it is for humans.

Deficiency in Nutrients

Of course, an unbalanced diet means your rabbit isn’t getting enough nutrients and minerals. A lack of necessary minerals like calcium and phosphorus can cause heart disease.

Vitamin D or E deficiency can lead to abnormal blood vessel mineralization. It may also weaken the muscles, and these issues can lead to a rabbit having a heart attack.

Hence, this further emphasizes the need for a balanced diet for rabbits.

Lack of Exercise

An active rabbit is a healthy rabbit. Often rabbits avoid running around their hutch or cage because of obesity, some other disease, or lack of space.

Daily exercise is an excellent way of preventing heart diseases in the future. This stands true for all living beings.

Furthermore, rabbits release a lot of energy by hopping, jumping, and running around. This keeps them happy and healthy.

If your rabbit is not engaged in such play, it will eventually start gaining weight and become obese. This increases the risk of a heart attack.

Of course, ensuring that the rabbit plays in a safe environment and does not wear itself out by exercising too much is essential. This may cause strain on the heart.


Rabbits require a specific environment where they live stress-free without any distress. When any living being is constantly under stress, they are more likely to suffer from a heart attack.

Rabbits need special care since they are so sensitive. It is essential to keep them away from loud noises, small children, and predatory animals (even pets). 

Rabbits are known to have heart attacks because of being frightened.

If you live where fireworks, gunshots, or thunder often happens, it is better to keep them indoors in a safer environment.

You must also ensure that children under ten do not come near or hold the rabbit. Little kids are impulsive and scare a rabbit easily.

In addition to this, seeing predatory animals close by can make a rabbit’s heart race. Even if the animal is a pet, keeping it away from the area of the rabbit’s cage or hutch is better.


Lastly, a rabbit may also have a heart attack if infected. Bacteria, protozoa, and viruses can attack a rabbit’s heart. They might cause diseases such as myopathy, cardiomyopathy, or endocarditis.

All these diseases are related to the heart. If left undetected, they might cause a heart attack as they progress.

The Bottom Line

Better care may have prolonged rabbits’ life, but it has also increased the likelihood of rabbits getting cardiovascular diseases.

You may prevent your rabbit from having a heart attack if you pay attention to their behavior and notice the signs.

You must take the signs seriously and not disregard them as regular distress in a rabbit. Knowing the symptoms and causes will help you identify whether your rabbit is having a heart attack or not.

A rabbit is under a lot of distress when it has a heart attack. The best you can do for your pet rabbit is to provide the ideal environment for them to live stress-free.

Additionally, you must give them a balanced diet and monitor their progress to ensure they live a healthy life.

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