Rabbit Is Limp But Still Breathing – What Should I Do?

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Rabbits are smaller animals that tend to hide their injuries and illnesses for as long as possible. 

Because of that, you may not have realized anything was wrong with your rabbit until they were lying on the ground limply. When it comes to this point, it is often an emergency. So what do you do?

There are many reasons your rabbit may be limp, but all of them are considered an emergency. 

If you notice your rabbit is limp, it is best to take it to the vet or an emergency vet as fast as possible. 

Keep reading to find out the best way to keep your rabbit comfortable during this time, and other symptoms to look out for. 


Why is my rabbit limp?

Physical injury

If your rabbit has been injured, it may grow limp, though they are still breathing. 

While there might not be any signs of injury, they may still have broken bones or other internal damage. This can occur from falling from too high of a place, an accident, or abuse. 

If your rabbit is injured, besides being limp, they may show other signs such as heavy breathing due to pain, or a body part twisted in the wrong way. 

Stress

Rabbits can grow stressed easily. Sounds, movements, and even smells can stress out a bunny. 

If they start to suffer from shock, they may grow limp. Stress can cause our rabbit’s heart to work faster than it should, which can be dangerous for a rabbit. 

There are other signs of stress, such as over-grooming, scratching, and other forms of self-mutilation. 

If bad enough, they will likely injure themselves enough to draw blood. 

Heat Stroke

Rabbits can easily get overheated on hot days. Anything over 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius), and your rabbit may start to show signs of heatstroke. 

They may start by growing sluggish and dehydrated. Your rabbit may also have symptoms such as red ears, heavy breathing, weakness, and seizures

If they get too hot and dehydrated, they may be too weak to move and grow limp and lethargic. 

Hypothermia

On the opposite side, rabbits can grow limp due to hypothermia. When a rabbit’s inner temperature falls below 96.8 F (36 C), your rabbit may be suffering from hypothermia. 

When too cold, a rabbit’s body is unable to continue working. They may collapse and feel limp. 

Their heart rate may also decrease, and they may have dry skin, cold ears, and be lethargic. 

Pathological Anorexia

Pathological Anorexia is due to illnesses such as enterotoxemia, coccidiosis, or dental malocclusion

Over time, your rabbit will lose a lot of weight, have a cough, a runny nose, and be very lethargic. 

If the anorexia gets severe enough, their body may no longer support them. In that case, they may grow too weak to move and lie limp on the ground. 

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Their body can no longer support the movement or expended energy, and they will likely not react even when lifted. 

Old Age

As a rabbit grows older, they expend less and less energy. When they start nearing the end of their life, they may grow too tired to keep moving. 

There may be times when they are limp as they have no energy to even respond to being moved or picked up. 

They may also have problems associated with old age that make it even harder to move than normal in an older rabbit, such as osteoarthritis

Paralysis

There are many reasons a rabbit can become paralyzed. However, they fall into three main types of paralysis: neurological, nutritional, and parasitic

Spinal injuries, lack of proper nutrition, worms, and more can lead to your rabbit becoming paralyzed. 

As they are unable to control any of their muscles, your rabbit will be limp and unable to move, but they still may breathe normally or a little faster than usual due to fear. 

Other symptoms of paralysis are stomach issues and a sore, bulging stomach.


What should I do for my rabbit?

Wrap them up

The first thing is to make sure your rabbit is comfortable. 

Unless they are suffering from heatstroke, covering them up and giving them a quiet, peaceful place to be is a great start. 

You want them to be as comfortable as possible, so try to aim for a temperature around 55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (13 to 21 degrees Celsius) and a dark, quiet area.

If your rabbit is comfortable around you, try to rub their ears gently. It is best to stay in the room with them if you can stay quiet and calm, as they are social creatures.

Take them to an emergency vet immediately

If possible, take your rabbit to your vet or an emergency vet as quickly as you can. 

Rabbits are prey species and do not show any weaknesses unless they are too weak to hide them

When your rabbit is to the point that they can no longer move, there is usually a serious issue that is very likely life-threatening. 

Your vet may be able to increase their quality of life or offer a cure. 

If no other option is available, and your rabbit is suffering, they may also be able to end their suffering and make their last moments peaceful. 

Give them food and water

While waiting on a vet, keeping your rabbit eating and drinking water is essential. 

If they have gone several hours without any food or water, try to give them some via a syringe or dropper. 

Rabbits can suffer severe GI stasis from not eating enough, and dehydration will only worsen your rabbit’s symptoms. 

Keep a close eye on your rabbit

If you had noticed any issues with your rabbit before they grew limp, it is best to mention them to your vet. 

Keep a close eye on your rabbit as you head to the vet to see if you notice any other symptoms that may make diagnosing your rabbit easier. 

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If you haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary, it isn’t something to feel like a bad pet owner about. 

Rabbits are prey species and hide most symptoms of injury or illness until too weak to keep pretending they are fine. 

However, in the future, it is always a good idea to keep a close eye on your rabbit and look for any minute symptoms they may reveal. 

Give your rabbit lots of love

Rabbits are very social creatures. 

If they have another rabbit they are bonded to or are close to you or another family member, it is best to keep them close. They will feel better and less scared if they have love and support. 

Plus, if your rabbit is used to attention, they may start to feel heartbroken and lonely on top of being injured if no one is around them. 

Try to stay calm and quiet around your rabbit, but give them lots of gentle love, such as rubbing their ears or soft petting. 

It is best not to pick them up if they are injured, as it can make the injury worse and frighten them. 


Other signs to look out for

Lack of appetite

Rabbits need to constantly eat or risk GI Stasis, which is often severe and life-threatening for your rabbit. 

If they haven’t eaten anything in 12 hours, it is considered an emergency. 

If they are already limp and aren’t eating food via syringe, it is time to go to a vet.

Seizures or erratic movements

Rabbits may also have seizures or erratic movements before falling and becoming limp. 

Your rabbit may run in a straight path before collapsing, collide with items, or topple uncontrollably. 

Seizures paired with limpness may be a sign of brain damage or worms and can help your vet narrow down what is affecting your rabbit. 

Breathing problems

Rabbits are obligate nose breathers. If they begin to breathe from their mouths, that can show your rabbit is severely injured or in pain. 

If they are wheezing or taking excessively shallow or deep breaths, this could be a sign of a respiratory infection, something blocking the airways, or your rabbit’s pain level.

Abnormal bodily waste

A lot of rabbit issues revolve around their gut. If they have malformed or runny poop, that could be a sign of stomach issues. 

They may also have much smaller pellets than usual if they struggle to process food. 

Bloody urine is also a sign that they are injured or sick.


Conclusion

It is never a good sign when a rabbit is limp, even if still breathing. 

It usually means they are experiencing extreme injury or illness and need to see a vet as soon as possible. 

Try to keep your rabbit as calm and comfortable as possible during this time to allow them to relax and not worsen their symptoms, and make sure they are eating and drinking, even if it is via syringe.