Emergency care for your rabbit

3rd September 2016

If you have a pet, it’s always wise to have a plan of action in case of an emergency. Try to stay calm and call us for help.

If you have an emergency in the day, call us on our normal daytime phone number, which is 01625 573375 .

Out of hours, you’ll be able to speak to or arrange to see a vet by calling 01625 573375 .


11 common rabbit emergencies

  1. Breathing problems – respiratory distress needs to be dealt with urgently. If you notice your rabbit is making an unusual sound, breathing faster than normal or is breathing with its mouth open, call us for help and advice.
  2. Loss of appetite – rabbits are hindgut fermenters, and need to be eating grass or hay for much of the day. We would normally be concerned if a rabbit doesn’t eat for more than 6 hours. Look for lots of normal droppings, as an absence of them may suggest slow gut movements and lack of appetite.
  3. Grinding teeth – pain in a rabbit can be difficult to identify. Rather than crying or making a squeaking noise, they’ll grind their teeth. Pain may be associated with colic, which needs attention. Gut stasis and acute diarrhoea can be very painful.
  4. Swellings – look for unusual swellings under the skin, particularly around the jaw line and head region. These may indicate an abscess associated with an infected tooth.
  5. Flystrike - at this time of year, flies will lay eggs on areas of dirty hair and skin. Uneaten caecotrophs, diarrhoea and urine produce smells that the flies adore. The eggs then hatch into maggots which then begin eating the skin and tissues. It's a terrible condition and needs immediate attention. Always call us if you suspect your rabbit has been affected.
  6. Head tilt – there are several conditions that can affect the balance and head position in a rabbit. Look for signs of loss of balance, circling and uncontrolled flipping.
  7. Paralysis – call us immediately if you notice your rabbit weak or floppy in one or both legs. There may be a fracture, nerve damage or dislocation.
  8. Swollen eyes and lips – Myxomatosis occurs from time to time, and if your rabbit isn’t fully protected by regular vaccinations, it may be at risk. If you notice swelling around the eyes, nose, lips and bottom, call us for help.
  9. Diarrhoea – a potentially life threatening problem in rabbits, which may be linked to dietary disturbance or severe viral infections. The new strain of Viral Haemorrhagic Disease, VHD2, poses a serious risk to our pet rabbits. If your pet hasn't been recently vaccinated, call us on 01625 573375 for more information.
  10. Poisonings – at Bollington Veterinary Centre we occasionally come across pet rabbits that have eaten house or garden plants that are toxic. Ivy for example can cause diarrhoea, abdominal pain, muscle twitching and convulsions, so needs urgent attention.
  11. Electrocution – keep those electric cables around the house well out of the way. Rabbits are very inquisitive, and could chew through the wires with devastating results.