Rabbits are one of the most popular pets in America. They make for adorable fur companions in both small and multi-pet families.
If you own a rabbit or two, you’ve probably wondered why they sometimes breathe fast.
Rabbits breathe fast for a wide range of reasons. Although some causes are normal, others are indications of underlying medical conditions.
In this post, we’re going to look at the causes of rapid breathing in rabbits and when you should seek medical attention.
Let’s dive in!
Usually, rabbits take 30 to 60 breaths per minute. There are instances when your pet rabbit can breathe at a faster rate, though.
Here are the most common causes of rapid breathing in rabbits, including more serious culprits that you should watch out for:
Like humans, a rabbit’s breathing rate increases when it engages in physical activities. That’s why you may have observed that your rabbit breathes rapidly after it zooms around the room.
After several minutes of rest, though, a rabbit can slow its breathing until it becomes normal again.
It’s worth noting that a younger rabbit tends to zoom again after recovering from rapid breathing. It may look like it’s breathing quickly, but the truth is your little pet is just maintaining a high level of activity.
Another reason for rapid breathing could be fear, anxiety, or stress.
A rabbit might appear like it’s breathing rapidly every time it’s scared. In fact, a pet rabbit can become so afraid that it might look like it’s hyperventilating.
You should know that moments of fear and anxiety are unavoidable. So, it’s normal to see a bunny breathing quickly as a result of fear.
You can deal with the situation by changing your rabbit’s environment if it constantly causes it fear and anxiety.
Keep in mind as well that a scared rabbit will show other symptoms, such as thumping its hind legs on the ground, ears perking up, and wide eyes.
Other than that, a scared rabbit will huddle itself against the ground—known as ‘flattening.’ You might also hear it grunting while breathing.
A rabbit breathes to regulate body temperature. The faster a bunny breathes, the more excess body heat it can eliminate. This way, the rabbit will be less likely to overheat.
It’s common for your bunny to breathe fast during the hottest days of the year. Note also that a rabbit is more vulnerable to heat strokes during the summer months.
In this case, you’ll need to keep a pet rabbit out of the sun. Better yet, find a part in your house with a cooler temperature.
Besides that, using a spritz of water to mist the rabbit’s ears is a great way to help it cool down. Just be careful when you’re spraying as water might get inside its ears.
A rabbit breathing rapidly can also mean a blockage in its nostrils. Since a rabbit can’t breathe through its mouth, it might attempt to breathe faster to get enough oxygen.
Sometimes, a blockage in the nose results from grass or hay getting stuck in the nose. Other than that, bacterial infections can also be the culprit of a bunny’s fast breathing rate.
Luckily, you can use a damp cotton bud to clear its nostrils.
In addition, a rabbit may show other symptoms like nasal discharge, constant opening of the mouth, and blue-tinted lips.
Rapid breathing can also result from physical pain or injuries.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t leave a rabbit with bigger pets, such as cats and dogs. Big pets might attack the rabbit and it can end up with an injury.
The injury will cause discomfort and trauma to the rabbit, resulting in breathing issues.
Some rabbits are more sensitive than others. Hence, allergies could be another reason why a rabbit is breathing fast.
Most allergies often occur when a rabbit comes in contact with dust. Other causes include but aren’t limited to air fresheners, cleaning products, and wood shavings.
Rabbits love green plants and fruits. There are plants that can be quite toxic for a rabbit, though. Ingesting poisonous plants can cause a rabbit to have difficulty in breathing.
This is why you need to be very careful with what your rabbit eats if you let it roam around your garden.
The most notable plants that are poisonous to bunnies include deadly nightshades, ivies, irises, daffodils, lilies, primroses, and buttercups.
Respiratory illnesses can cause a rabbit to breathe faster than usual. Sometimes, you’ll also hear a wheezing sound as the rabbit breathes.
Other than that, a rabbit may show other signs that it’s struggling to breathe enough air. Some indicators include labored breathing. You may also notice a rabbit breathing with its mouth open.
In this case, the rabbit needs veterinary care right away.
Aside from respiratory illnesses, other medical conditions can also result in rapid breathing. Some medical conditions include heart disease, tumors, and viral infection.
Heart disease and nose, lung, or thymus glands tumors affect the rabbit’s respiratory tissues. Besides that, a progressing heart disease causes a rabbit to breathe more rapidly during the early stages.
Additionally, viral infections like Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease can cause internal bleeding. A rabbit will breathe more rapidly in response to pain.
Another example is Myxomatosis. The Myxoma virus spreads through mosquito bites. The virus infection is more rampant during the fall and summer months.
What’s more, the virus targets the rabbit’s lungs and results in breathing issues.
Typically, rapid breathing in rabbits resolves itself as soon as rabbits rest for a few minutes. After they’ve calmed down, their breathing rate returns to normal.
However, rabbits might also breathe fast for a long period. In this case, you should take them to the vet.
Seeking medical attention is the best option if you notice other indications of illness. Here are a host of symptoms that you should look out for:
- Snotty nose
- Lack of appetite
- Changes in eating, urinating, and pooping habits
- Aggressive behavior
- Withdrawn or distant behavior
- Breathing through the mouth
- Lack of balance
- Too hot or too cold ears
- Hunched posture
So, why is my rabbit breathing fast? Generally, a rabbit’s fast breathing rate is normal. You’ll often notice a bunny breathing fast when it’s indulging in physical activities and experiencing fear or anxiety.
Plus, a rabbit breathes rapidly when it’s exposed to high temperatures or has a clogged nose. Luckily, you may spritz the bunny to help it cool down. For clogged nostrils, you can clean its nose with a damp cotton bud.
A rabbit may also have a fast breathing rate because it’s in pain. This can happen when the bunny gets injuries and allergies.
Other culprits are respiratory illnesses and underlying medical conditions. This includes heart disease, tumors, and viral infection.
It’s better to take the rabbit to the vet for a checkup, even more so if it shows other symptoms, such as lack of appetite, lethargy, and changes in behavior.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.