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Is My Rabbit In Pain? 13 Signs Of Pain In Rabbits (2023)

Signs Of Pain In Rabbits

Everything was going well with your rabbit…

Not until they started to act differently.

Which led you to think:

“Something’s not right…

Are they in pain?”

Worry no more. I’m here to help you get to the bottom of that.

Keep reading to learn:

  • If a rabbit can die from feeling pain alone.
  • What sound your bunny makes when they’re hurting.
  • 13 concerning signs of pain in rabbits (and how to confirm the subtle ones).
  • And that’s just the beginning….

Is my rabbit in pain?

Your rabbit is in pain if you notice they’re not acting like their usual self. That includes changes in their appetite or energy levels. Pain can also affect how much water your rabbit drinks and how often they go to the bathroom.

In most rabbits, pain could be hard to spot.

That’s because they’re prey animals…

So they have to hide any signs of weakness. 

Otherwise, a predator will easily target them.

And they won’t be able to fight as they normally would.

At the same time, bunnies are sensitive to pain… 

That’s why the slightest ache can alter their normal behaviors and appearance… 

No matter how hard they try to hide it.

That said, keep this in mind as you proceed to the signs of pain in rabbits:

Warning: Dr. Paul-Murphy says rabbits can go into shock within 24 to 48 hours of feeling excessive pain. It won’t matter whether the illness or injury that’s causing it is life-threatening or not. 

13 signs of pain in rabbits

#1: Loss of appetite

Loss of Appetite Is a Sign Of Pain In Rabbits

Pain causes your rabbit to stop eating.

You’ll notice that they haven’t touched their food at all.

That when you came to check their cage…

The hay, pellets, or veggies are still the same amount. 

Moreover, they’ll also refuse the treat you’re giving them. 

And according to PDSA, loss of appetite is a serious concern in rabbits.

Not just because your bunny is in pain…

But also, since rabbits can’t miss a meal.

Warning: They need a steady food intake every 8 to 12 hours to keep their guts moving. If not, your bunny’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract will shut down. And that could lead to death. 

What’s more, most of the causes of appetite loss in rabbits are already life-threatening in itself. Some of those are:

  • Stress.
  • Stomach ulcers.
  • Urine infections.
  • Ileus or gut stasis.
  • Respiratory infections.

#2: Rapid breathing

The PDSA reveals that a healthy bunny takes 30 to 60 breaths per minute.

And if your rabbit is in pain…

Their breathing cycle would be higher than 60.

Now, it depends on your bunny on how well they hide this sign.

As I mentioned, they do that to avoid predation.

So, here’s something to help you figure this out:

Pro tip: 1 inhalation and 1 exhalation equal 1 breathing cycle. With that, count the number of breaths your bunny takes within 15 seconds. Then, multiply what you get by 4. That’s their breath cycle per minute.

On the other hand, some rabbits can’t cover this up. 

So you won’t have to check their breathing cycle at all…

One look at your bunny, and it seems like they’re hyperventilating.

Or they can’t help it anymore, their cage is rattling due to breathing too fast.

#3: Limping 

Your bunny will start to limp when their legs hurt. 

Now, PetMD says limping in rabbits is due to a severe leg injury

According to specialists, some examples of that are:

  • A tear.
  • Cramp.
  • Fracture.
  • Torn nail.
  • Muscle bruise.
  • Bone dislocation. 

“How did my bunny get injured?”

It can be from any of these:

  • Wrong handling.
  • Accidents (ex. falling).
  • Attack from a predator.
  • Getting their limbs trapped (ex. between their cage’s bars or corners).

And if it’s not because of an injury…

Limping could be your bunny’s response to a painful illness like:

  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Abscess and swelling (in the limbs) caused by an infection.

#4: Reluctance to move

As I mentioned, a painful injury can get your rabbit limping…

But sometimes, instead of showing predators how easy it is to catch them…

Your bunny would rather stay still all day.

If not that, a painful illness can make them so lethargic…

They can’t move at all.

That’s the point where this becomes a sign that your rabbit is close to dying

Unfortunately, the pain might be too much for them to handle. With that, their body begins to shut down.

Continue reading: 17 Best & Proven Ways To Comfort A Dying Rabbit

#5: Restlessness

The National Geographic’s July 2011 issue says:

Your bunny should get at least 8.4 hours of sleep daily. 

But since they’re in pain…

They’d struggle to get rest and complete that minimum. 

Plus, it’s more challenging for them to face pain at night. 

That’s because distractions are rarely present in the evening. And tasks like digging and foraging make them forget their aches. 

In the long run, this can become an endless cycle…

Where they’ll feel more hurt since they’re restless. 

Lastly, your bun will also show other signs of lack of rest:

  • Lethargy.
  • Weakness.
  • Getting easily agitated.

Reading tip: 23 Proven Ways To Make Your Rabbit Sleep At Night

#6: Loss of interest

This catches most bunny parents’ attention:

The rabbit suddenly loses interest in their surroundings, activity, or food.

For example…

One moment your little bun loves to play with you…

The next thing you know, they’re no longer excited to do anything.

So, if it seems like your rabbit’s been ignoring you and the treats you’re handing them…

Don’t take it personally.

Your bond with your rabbit will be alright.

But right now, they’re in so much pain…

They can’t bother to be excited about anything or anyone at the moment.

Warning: Don’t force them to normally interact with you during this. Rabbits in pain are under anxiety. And research says an anxious bunny can be aggressive. With that, you might risk getting bit by your fur baby. 

#7: Screaming 

What sound does a rabbit make?

That question makes some people think hard.

It’s because it’s unusual for rabbits to vocalize. 

Instead, they stay quiet most of the time.

Now, when they do make some noise…

It can be either of the following:

  • Purring.
  • Honking.
  • Whining.
  • Squeaking.
  • Screaming.

Each of those sounds has a meaning. Which depends on your rabbit’s mood or well-being.

And if we’re talking about their cries of pain…

As prey animals, some of them won’t make a sound at all. 

But when the pain becomes too much for them to handle…

They’ll start screaming.

Note: A rabbit’s yelling is similar to a child’s squeals. Only it’s more high-pitched from your bunny. 

Watch this video to know what I mean:

For further reading: 11 Weird Reasons Why Rabbit Scream + Video Example

#8: Changes in water intake

When in pain, your rabbit’s water-drinking habits will either increase or decrease.

They might be too weak from the ache to get up and drink…

So, they don’t bother doing so anymore. 

On the other hand, some painful illnesses might drive them to drink more water. 

Regardless, both are dangerous for rabbits.

When they don’t drink enough water, they can get dehydrated.

But when their intake becomes too much…

Specialists say that could flush out the needed calcium in the bunny’s body. 

With that, their bones and teeth will get weak. 

And that’ll cause more discomfort to your fur baby.

#9: Decreased bathroom frequency 

Since pain changed their water-drinking habits…

Their urinating frequency will be affected as well.

But this isn’t just a result of sign #8…

Changes in bathroom frequency can be caused by pain from an illness too.

A good example of one that makes your rabbit pee less is a urinary tract infection (UTI).

According to PetMD, that’s due to bacteria multiplying in the bladder or urinary tract.

Moreover, a symptom of UTI is urinary incontinence.

That means it’s torturing for your bunny to pee. So they do it less.

As for one that makes your rabbit drink and pee too much…

There are kidney and liver failures.

Both of which dehydrate your rabbit and make them drink more.

Although peeing more isn’t exactly hurtful…

The illnesses that cause it are painful for your bunny to experience.

#10: Scratching an area

A healthy and worry-free bunny has a smooth and silky coat. 

While a sick and aching rabbit would scratch their dry and dull fur.

If the latter happens, your bun has parasites in their hair and skin. Some examples of that are:

  • Fleas.
  • Ear mites.
  • Fur mites (or walking dandruff).

Now, when those parasites bite into your bunny’s skin…

They cause soreness in the area. Which is a hot and swelling feeling.

So, your bunny would scratch themself to relieve the pain from the bites. 

#11: Loud teeth-grinding

Rabbits are known to make teeth-purring noises. 

They make that soft sound by grinding their teeth together. 

And when they do that, it means they’re a happy bunny.

However, when they grind their teeth too hard…

The purr gets louder and more disturbing. Which means your rabbit is in so much pain. 

#12: Hunched posture

According to research, sitting in a hunched position is part of a rabbit’s quiet behavior.

But in some cases, a hunched posture means your rabbit is in pain.

Moreover, this is often accompanied by signs #11 and #13. 

#13: Half-closed or squinting eyes

While their posture is off and they’re grinding their teeth…

A rabbit in pain has their eyes half-closed.

It’ll look like they’re squinting their eyes at you. Or they’re half-asleep. 

Now, if it were up to your aching rabbit…

They’d rather have their eyes fully closed.

But as prey animals, they keep them open as much as possible. 

Because not only are predators less likely to attack them when they look awake…

Your bunny would also know if there are any stalkers nearby. And if there is, they’ll save themself immediately.