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common rabbit illnesses

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

Bunnies can live long lives. A smaller rabbit might live 8-12 years, whereas a larger bun might live 6-8 years. You can do everything right, and your bunny may still pass. Rabbits are very stoic, and noticing something is wrong is no easy feat. Generally speaking, it is probably already an emergency by the time you see it.

What should I look for?

Always look to ensure your bunny is eating, drinking, and pooping as usual. Below is a list of common bunny health issues. This is not an all-inclusive list. If you are unsure about your Rabbit's health, please reach out to your bunny-savvy exotic vet.

Spay/ Neuter/ Cancer

Most Rabbit Rescues spay/neuter, typically included in the adoption fee. Most breeders do not. It is essential that you get your Rabbit spayed/neutered if it is safe for them to do so. Your vet should be able to help walk you through your options. Spaying/Neutering has many benefits, including reducing spraying and territorial behavior.

You also don't have to worry about hormonal cancers like uterine cancer when they are altered. Unaltered females have an 80% chance of developing uterine cancer by age 3. With age, a higher risk of cancer. We recommend you check your bunny at least weekly for any lumps or bumps that might be out of the ordinary. Some cancers can be treated with surgery, but speak with your vet about whether the risk of anesthetic is suitable for your bun.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Always bring water and hay when you take a rabbit to the vet for any surgery. The vet tech or receptionist may tell you not to feed food or water after midnight, which only applies to cats and dogs. If you restrict food or water, rabbits can go into GI Stasis.

Gastrointestinal Stasis (GI Stasis)

GI Statis is the most common emergency issue we see affecting rabbits. Just 12 hours without hay can upset the gentle digestive tract and put them into stasis. They have no vomit reflex and cannot make themselves throw up to feel better. The best way to reduce the chance of GI Stasis is to ensure your Rabbit is eating hay every day. Treats should be no bigger than the size of your thumb. GI Stasis can be caused by dehydration, intestinal blockage, or an underlying problem like dental pain, infection, or tract infections.


• Small and/or Malformed Fecal Pellets (Not Cecotropes)

• No Fecal Pellets

• Loss of Appetite

• Lethargy/ Hunched Posture

• Loud Gurgle sounds from stomach/ Pressing stomach on the floor.

• Core Temp Lowered


• Critical Care- Always have on hand for emergencies. Do not force feed until a blockage has been ruled out.

• Syringe mushed pellets & water

• Meloxicam- For Pain (Rabbits tend not to want to each when in pain)

• Warm water bottle or heating pad on low (make sure rabbit doesn't chew cord)

• Pediatric Simethicone/ Mylicon (1cc Gas Drops given every 3-8 hours)

IMPORTANT: If your bunny stops eating, it is already an emergency. If your bunny is still eating, you can use the above treatment, but call your vet to be seen as soon as possible. Some people recommend pineapple or papaya as treatment, but this can actually make things worse for an anoretic rabbit.

Bunny Poop & Cecotropes

Normal Rabbit fecal are round, hard, "cocoa puff" like poops. Depending on the size of the Rabbit will determine the typical size of poop. Keep an eye on whether your Rabbit is pooping as this is your first sign something is wrong for most issues. An average bunny should poop 200-300 times a day.

Another type of fecal is Cecotropes. These are small soft fecal pellets resembling a cluster of grapes. Rabbits will ingest the Cecotropes directly from the anus. These are usually produced 4-5 hours after a meal. The Cecotropes are softer than regular pellets with a more pungent odor and should not be confused with actual diarrhea. Cecotropes are a necessary part of your Rabbit's diet; they contain vitamins and proteins essential to your Rabbit's health.

E. Cuniculi (Encephalitozoon Cuniculi)

This parasite is the leading cause of neurological issues in rabbits. Fifty percent of rabbits have had e.cuniculi sometime in their life. In some countries, up to 80% are carriers. Once they are infected they will always have a positive titer result. For most rabbits, their natural immune system keeps it in check. Neurological conditions develop only in 12% of rabbits. Unfortunately, there isn't a test to determine if your bun is still contagious; however, they can test to see if the immune system shows high antibodies for it. It is also important to note that your bunny can be treated for all their symptoms, but once they have it, they will always be carriers.


• Head Tilt

• Incontinence

• Difficulty Moving Legs

• Corneal Ulcers on the side tilted down

• Ataxia

• Cataracts

• Uveitis

• Scanning/swaying

• Nystagmus

• Rolling/vestibular disease

• Circling

• Kidney disease

• Chronic stasis

• Seizures

• Tremors

• Polyuria/polydipsia

• Unexplained Weight loss

• EC can also affect the liver, lungs and heart


• Fenbendazole + meloxicam at least; often bunnies with vestibular disease need anti-dizziness meds as well.

NOTE: E.Cuniculi spores are shed in the urine and poop. Animals with an immune-compromised system are more likely not to keep it in check.


This is an intestinal parasite, and it is more common in younger rabbits who do not have the antibodies yet. This parasite can be deadly since they have a very delicate digestive system, and it is highly contagious not only to other rabbits but to dogs and people.

In some cases, it may cause liver (hepatic coccidiosis) and bile duct damage, whereas others damage the cells of the intestines. It is highly contagious when eaten even to other animals like cats and dogs. It also has a protective coating that makes it so that the parasite can live in an environment for years and still be contagious. They can be killed by a thorough cleaning with a disinfectant. We use 10% Ammonia-water solution as it is not harmful to rabbits. Make sure you clean all poop and urine daily during treatment. In the first 48 hours, the Rabbit will shed the parasite, passing it to other animals. It can also get re-infected if the area is not appropriately cleaned. They can develop immunity to it. The vet can analyze a fresh fecal or have a lab test. Fecals must be collected at different times 7-10 pellets to ensure a valid test.


• Weight Loss

• Diarrhea


• Ponazuril/toltraziril or Sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim as prescribed by your vet.

Head Tilt/ Neurological Problems

If your bunny develops head tilt or issues using any legs, take it to a Rabbit savvy vet, and they will conduct tests to narrow down the possibilities. The "down" eye may require eye ointment to keep the eye moist, and the Rabbit may need to be propped up to maintain balance. Some rabbits live 2-3 years after developing head tilt, whereas others do not. Speak with your coordinator if you have questions.

Possible causes of Head Tilt

• Middle/inner ear infection (otitis media /interna)

• Stroke (cerebrovascular accidents)

• Trauma

• Cancer (neoplasia)

• Cervical muscle contraction

• Encephalitozoonosis (see E. Cunicul above)

• Cerebral larva migraines (round worms)

• Intoxication (from lead paint or pottery)

For more information, go to (from HRS ):

Mites/ Ear Mites

You might see your bun scratching at their ears a lot or seeing flaky skin. This may be a sign of a mite issue, and a vet can help you determine this.


• Selamectin (Depending on the size of the Rabbit, your vet will give you proper doses. Avoid over-the-counter treatments as many are very toxic, which may cause paralysis or seizures.

For more information, please see your bunny-savvy veterinarian!

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