Rabbits love activity – hopping around and playing with you bring them a lot of joy!
Their lively nature can often cause them to overexert themselves, breathing and panting harshly.
But how can you tell when their breathing rate is not normal?
Rabbits often breath faster after exercising, staying outside in the sun, or when they’re sensing danger. These are all normal displays of behavior.
However, at times, the cause of their rapid breathing can be quite worrying.
Watch out for signs of injuries, respiratory issues, ear mites, and other painful infestations that might be troubling your bunny.
What is the Normal Breathing Pattern for Rabbits?
In general, a rabbit’s breathing pattern is way faster than a human’s.
While we usually take 12 to 16 breaths per minute, a healthy rabbit will breathe about 30 to 60 times each minute. And this is just while they are resting!
Therefore, most of the time, a rabbit’s faster breathing rate is a common occurrence. The only time you should be alarmed by a rabbit’s breathing and shaking stature is when it’s accompanied by other symptoms.
So, let’s discuss both common and medical reasons that may cause your rabbit to breathe faster than usual.
Common Reasons for Your Rabbit’s Fast Breathing
New rabbit pet owners may feel a bit panicky and worried when they notice their bunny’s unusual breathing pattern.
Before making any hasty judgments, try to pay attention to your rabbit’s behavior and surrounding environment.
Prolonged Activities or Exercise
Frankly speaking, who doesn’t get a bit out of breath after exercising or doing a strenuous activity?
Rabbits are easily excitable and love taking any opportunity to play.
This is especially for young rabbits who are unable to control their excitement and continuously jump around the area.
Naturally, their breathing will also spike with a higher level of activity.
It can take rabbits a couple of minutes before they wind down and calm their breathing.
In this case, you should wait out a few minutes and see if their breathing returns to normal or not.
Extreme weather conditions can also affect your rabbit’s breathing. In particular, hot and humid weather can cause rabbits to take short and quick breaths.
Rabbits control their body temperature through breathing. When a rabbit is overheated, it will fasten its breathing to try and get rid of excess body heat.
Therefore, it’s important that you take measures to avoid letting your rabbit experience a heat stroke.
Ensure that your rabbit is not staying too long under the glaring rays of the sun.
Instead, let your rabbit relax in cool areas with plenty of water so they can stay hydrated during brutal summer seasons.
Feeling Alert or Frantic
Sometimes, rabbits start panting and hyperventilating when they feel a sense of looming danger.
This is usually for a short time, and their breathing will return to normal once they calm down.
However, a continuous state of alert is not good for your rabbit’s heart.
Try to find and remove the source of threat that’s making your rabbit feel cautious and distrustful.
Similarly, stress and anxiety can also make your rabbit feel frantic and restless.
If your rabbit is showing long-term symptoms of stress, you might want to consult a vet before their health worsens.
Medical Causes for Your Rabbit’s Fast Breathing
In most cases, your rabbit’s rapid breathing is not due to any serious condition. However, that does not mean that you should be lax about this situation.
If your rabbit’s quick breathing doesn’t slow down to a normal level after a few minutes, it may hint at another medical issue.
Keep track of any other symptom that may give you an idea of what’s wrong with your rabbit.
Below are some of the medical conditions that are often associated with fast breathing in rabbits.
A stressed-out rabbit is more likely to develop heart problems. This may lead to fast, harsh breathing and fainting spells.
Unwell rabbits will show subtle signs and symptoms like loss of appetite and low activity levels.
Consequently, their weight will also change drastically to reflect their changed lifestyle.
Heart diseases require immediate medication attention and treatment. In later stages, the rabbit will be at risk of a heart attack.
Gastrointestinal Stasis (GI Stasis)
Another consequence of stress and anxiety in rabbits is GI stasis.
When your rabbit’s digestive system is affected by gut bacteria, it may develop a condition known as GI stasis.
This ailment causes your rabbit constipation and uncomfortable bloating. GI stasis leads to your rabbit becoming dehydrated and weak due to loss of appetite.
As a result, their breathing pattern will get affected. They won’t be able to breathe normally and will often take short, quick breaths.
Injured rabbits tend to breathe fast and rough due to the immediate spark of pain.
If your rabbit has recently been injured, attacked, or fell from somewhere high, it may be unable to control its breathing due to the scare it got.
Usually, the panting is short-lived, and their breathing should return to normal. Prolonged or continuous harsh breathing may be due to internal injuries like a spinal or skeletal fracture.
In this case, you should get your rabbit checked before the injuries worsen and cause limb paralysis.
Respiratory Issues (Snuffles)
Rabbits are totally dependent on their nose for breathing, and a blocked nose can often affect their breathing pattern.
Snuffles refer to a condition where bacterial infection causes blockage in the rabbit’s nasal passages and tear ducts.
The symptoms vary, but usually, this is followed by a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, and discharge from the eyes and nose.
A discolored discharge is often a confirmation of infection.
Snuffles can cause labored breathing and fever symptoms in your rabbit, like unstable body temperature and warm ears.
If your rabbit is facing this situation, you should consult a vet and try to get some antibiotics to help get rid of the infection.
Painful Ear Mites
Ear mites are extremely painful and can affect a rabbit’s breathing level.
If you notice crusty, black residue, hair loss, or an unpleasant odor near your rabbit’s ears, there’s a chance that it has ear mites.
Your rabbit might also display some behavioral symptoms caused by irritation with ear mites, such as excessive head shaking and rapid breathing.
If gone unnoticed for too long, the ear mites can cause permanent loss of hearing by rupturing the rabbit’s eardrum.
So, if you suspect that your rabbit may be facing this problem, contact a specialist vet immediately.
Also read: Should My Rabbit's Ears Be Warm?
Rabbits can contract parasites through contaminated food, water, or poop droppings in their surroundings.
Rapid breathing may be one of the earliest signs of parasite infestation.
Parasite infestation is terrible for your rabbit’s overall health, and the treatments options are very limited.
For instance, there’s no cure for tapeworm infestation in rabbits.
Therefore, it’s important to prevent parasite infestation by keeping your rabbit’s surroundings clean.
Maggots Infestation (Flystrike)
Always ensure that your rabbit’s cage is at a well-ventilated, clean, and dry place.
Apart from parasite infestations, a dirty or muggy cage can also cause flystrike. In this condition, a fly’s egg on another animal causes them to hatch into maggots that consume their host’s flesh.
This is a very serious situation as your rabbit will be slowly but surely be eaten by the maggots infesting its body.
To avoid causing your bunny to go into shock, you should immediately take it to a vet hospital.
Rabbits are known for being plant-loving, herbivore animals. They can often be found munching on hay, grass, and green vegetable throughout the day.
However, some owners take this information for granted and feed whatever plant they can find. This lack of research can lead to you possibly feeding it a poisonous plant.
If your rabbit has digested a poisonous plant like mistletoe or ivy, they may become out of breath and start breathing rapidly.
Convulsions, paralysis, and diarrhea are some other symptoms associated with possible plant poisoning.
As the name implies, poisoning can be fatal for your rabbit. So, avoid giving your rabbit any usual food that isn’t part of its usual diet.
While it may be scary to see that rapid breathing is a common symptom in many medical issues, it’s usually an early warning sign of an underlying condition.
And the quicker you find out about the illness, the less risk it carries.
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