Emergencies: When Your Rabbit Needs A Vet NOW

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Emergencies: When Your Rabbit Needs A Vet NOW

Post by Happy Hoppers on Sun Jun 22, 2008 11:32 am

Signs of a Rabbit Emergency
As prey animals rabbits are very good at hiding when they are ill or injured because this would make them easy targets for predators. Even the most relaxed, friendly pet rabbit would try to disguise any sign of weakness from it's owner as it is such a deeply ingrained instinct. This makes spotting a sick bunny very difficult indeed, let alone deciphering what is an emergency. If you reach the stage where your rabbit is making no attempt to hide it's illness or pain then you have an urgent situation and it is vital you seek the care of a vet immediately.

The list of symptoms below indicate signs you should get your rabbit to a vet as soon as possible:
  • Coma, unconsciousness, stupor or lack of responsiveness to touch & sound
  • Unexplained, continuous and profuse bleeding/hemorrhage
  • Rapid or laboured breathing, panting or gasping for air orally
  • Lack of co-ordination, falling over, crashing into objects, walking in repeated circles
  • Paralysis or floppiness either partial or total, loss of reflexes
  • Not eating or appearing disinterested in even their favourite treats
  • No feaces passed for 8 or more hours or profuse watery stools
  • Struggling or straining to urinate, wetting the back legs or lying in own urine
  • Inability to put weight on a limb, favouring a limb or holding a limb off the floor
  • Intense, audible tooth grinding
  • Hunched posture or lying flat out and persistantly changing position
  • Hypothermia or Hyperthermia (heat stroke)
  • Flystrike
  • A swollen, bloated stomach
  • Screaming or crying out, this is a sign of extreme discomfort

It is important that owners be prepared for an unplanned visit to the emergency vets as rabbits have an uncanny habit of falling drastically ill out of normal surgery hours. Be aware of your vets normal schedule and opening hours and keep their address and contact numbers to hand, mine are stuck to my refridgerator.

If your vet uses an external out of hours service make sure you also have these details alongside your vets and that you know how to get there. Nothing can be worse than being stuck in the car with a critically ill bunny and having no idea where you are going. If you don't drive I would suggest sourcing a pet friendly taxi service and again, keep the number to hand.

Seeking out of hours assistance for your rabbit often leaves you with little say over who will see your rabbit as there is a good chance it wont be your usual rabbit savvy veterinarian. Do not be put off by this, an emergency cannot wait and any help will be better than none at all. Many emergencies are treated in the same way across species and emergency vets are used to a whole range of animals and their afflictions coming through the doors without notice. Do not be afraid to tell the vet what you want or expect or to question them if you are unsure of their suggestions. You both want to do the best by your rabbit.

Home Assesment
There are a few very simple techniques you can carry out at home to establish the condition of your rabbit before deciding to call the vet and these are outlined below:
  • Pulse: can be checked in the neck or groin by placing two fingers gently across it. If it appears slow or weak this may be a sign that the rabbit is in shock and is an emergency.
  • Gum Colour: can be checked by lifting up the lip, pink is a healthy colour. If the gum appears blue or grey this can indicate a circualtion issue.
  • Temperature: can be checked by inserting a lubricated rectal thermometer for 1 minute. 101-103F is the normal temperature for a rabbit.
  • Reflexes: can be used to check responsiveness. Try gently pinching the paws and see if the rabbit retracts it's legs. In a rabbit that appears comatose attempt to touch the cornea to see if the rabbit attempts to shut it's eye.


Coupled with your rabbits symptoms you should by now have a good idea of if the situation is urgent or not. There is also some basic first aid which can be attempted before leaving for the vets to stabilise the rabbit for the journey.
  • Temperature can be lowered by giving the rabbit a bath in cold water (just below room temperature) or in an alcohol bath.
  • Temperature can be raised by wrapping the rabbit in a warm towel and placing it on a heat pad in a carrier, do not put the rabbit in direct contact with the heat pad.
  • Bleeding can be stemmed by applying pressure and a bandage to the wound, do not attempt to use a torniquet as it may cause further damage.
  • Breathing can be eased by propping up the rabbit's front end, if it is in respiratory distress
  • Comatose or uncoordinated rabbits need to be stabilised so make sure the carrier is well padded to prevent the rabbit moving about and hurting themselves in transit.


When arriving at the vets be sure to inform them immediately if your rabbits condition is critical, they do not work on a first come first served basis. Generally they will see the most urgent cases straight away.

This Document is Copyright HappyHoppers Forums Uk . June 2008.UK. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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