Seeing a bunny twitch can surely make any fur parent worry a lot.
It’s unusual, and it may look scary too.
So if yours also does this, you might have a lot of questions in your head, like…
“Is it normal for a rabbit to shake?”
Keep reading to learn:
- 19 alarming reasons that cause rabbits to shake.
- 13 useful tips to help your bunny in every situation.
- How to know if your rabbit is scared, stressed, or mad.
- When you should be worried about their sudden trembling.
- And many more…
Table of contents
- Why does my rabbit shake?
- 19 reasons why your rabbit shakes
- #1: Hiccups
- #2: Dreams
- #3: Happiness
- #4: Fright
- #5: Chronic stress
- #6: Displeasure
- #7: Ear infection
- #8: Ear canker
- #9: Fleas
- #10: Pinworms
- #11: GI stasis
- #12: Poisoning
- #13: Seizures
- #14: Encephalitozoonosis
- #15: Fracture or luxation
- #16: Cerebrospinal nematodiasis
- #17: Toxoplasmosis
- #18: Pregnancy toxemia
- #19: Heatstroke
- What should I do if my rabbit shakes? 13 tips
- #1: Wait for the hiccups to stop
- #2: Watch out for violent twitching while asleep
- #3: Let them shake out of joy
- #4: Help them calm down
- #5: Mellow their temper
- #6: Treat the infection asap
- #7: Eliminate pesky fleas
- #8: Get rid of intestinal worms
- #9: Return their stomach’s state back to normal
- #10: Take fast action
- #11: Supervise and seek help
- #12: Restrict their movements
- #13: Keep them cool and safe
- #BONUS: Get the right treatment plan for them
- People also ask:
Why does my rabbit shake?
Your rabbit shakes due to hiccups, dreams, joy, and fear. This is only normal. But, they can also do this when they’re mad or stressed. Other possible causes are ear infections, parasites, injury, toxicity, and heatstroke. As well as ailments on the nervous system. Say, seizures and toxoplasmosis.
19 reasons why your rabbit shakes
There are many reasons why rabbits shake.
But, let me tell you the less alarming ones first.
If you notice that your bunny has been trembling and bobbing their head for a few minutes…
It could be that they only got hiccups.
Yup. Like us, rabbits can get these too.
And usually, they’ll do this without any sounds. So this is why you won’t notice it at first.
Plus, bunnies hiccup faster than us. So you might also think that they have a seizure episode.
If you want to know how it looks like, watch this short clip:
“What are its causes in rabbits?”
They may get this by:
- Eating too fast.
- Irritated diaphragm.
- Swallowing a lot of air.
It’s also normal for rabbits to twitch while asleep.
Some may even sprint as if they’re chasing a ball. While others grunt or whine as well.
“Are they in dreamland?”
There’s no specific research about this on rabbits yet.
I found a study on rodents, which are said to be their cousins, according to scientists. (Along with squirrels!)
So, what are its findings?
In a 2001 research, scientists analyzed the brains of rats.
They did it as the rodents went through a maze. And also, while they were dozing off.
Scientists discovered that their brain patterns are similar during those 2 activities. Which means that rats ‘dreamt’ of the maze in their sleep
Amazing, isn’t it?
So if rats can do it, it’s also possible for bunnies to dream.
Why do rabbits shake when sleeping?
Like us and rats…
It’s believed that bunnies also dream about their previous experiences. Specifically, those that had a significant impact on them.
So, others may think that they’re following food in their dreams. Or they’re chasing another rabbit.
But did you know that twitching is also a sign of REM sleep along with snoring?
“What is that?”
It’s short for rapid eye movement. And it’s one of the 4 stages of sleep.
During this, our brain activity is heightened. So this is where dreams occur.
This is why it’s normal for rabbits to do some things while they’re dozing off.
Some bunnies were even reported to be dispensing some poop while asleep. And this can be both funny and stressful.
You might also like: 7 Reasons Why Your Rabbit Poops On You + 7 Tips To Stop It
But, if your bunny is awake as they tremble, it might be due to…
Bunnies can also shake their body suddenly as an expression of joy.
This might be accompanied by ‘binkies’ or those twisty jumps they do in the air.
As well as a few rounds of zoomies.
Also, when bunnies feel comfy in their surroundings, they may slightly shiver too. And their nose will keep twitching as well.
These are signs that they’re happy. So if they don’t seem bothered or in pain, I’d say don’t worry too much.
Check out also: Why do rabbits jump over each other?
If your bunny was spooked by something, their body might also tremble as a response.
And we also experience the same thing when we’re highly anxious.
“What’s the reason for this?”
So what happens is, when we’re scared, our bodies react to the stressor by releasing adrenaline.
It’s a hormone that comes from the adrenal gland. And it triggers our fight or flight reaction.
Now, a sudden boost of this can make our hearts beat faster.
And it’ll also cause our muscles to twitch or shake.
This is why a frightened bunny might tremble as well.
Continue reading: 13 Things Rabbits Do When They Are Scared (Behavior)
Aside from this, they may also have…
#5: Chronic stress
If your bunny’s stressor is still in the area, they might also suffer from chronic stress.
Rabbits who have this may not shake at first.
But if their stress persists for several days…
They can start to tremble. And this is a result of discomfort and too much tension.
Note: Bunnies who have this may display sudden aggression too. And they’ll also become withdrawn. Avoiding cuddles and interactions.
Have you seen an angry rabbit?
Well, if not, you may have also witnessed the rage of one yourself.
When bunnies are annoyed, they might twitch for a bit as well.
And they’ll likely thump their rear legs too. Like a child stomping their feet out of frustration.
Aside from these, you can also tell if a bunny is mad based on their appearance:
- Raised tail.
- Pointed ears.
- Dilated pupils.
- Exposed teeth.
- Tensed facial muscles.
Check out also: 11 Surprising Reasons Why Your Rabbit Headbutts You (2022)
#7: Ear infection
Does your bunny shake their head all the time?
If so, they might have discomfort in their ears. And this is a telltale sign of a bacterial infection.
When their middle ear is affected, it’s called otitis media. And this is often seen in lop-eared rabbits.
But if the infected area is their inner ear canal, the term will be otitis interna.
According to PetMD, this is common in rabbits. And it’s usually due to:
- Fungal yeast.
- Excessive ear flushing.
- Weakened immune system.
- Irritation due to harsh ear cleaners.
Besides head shaking, these are some other signs to watch out for, like:
- Head tilting.
- Teeth grinding.
- Being less active.
Note: The infection may spread to other parts of the body. Like their throat, nose, and eyes. So if you notice some of the signs on your bunny, bring them to the vet at once.
#8: Ear canker
Aside from bacteria, a rabbit’s ears might also be infected by mites.
This condition is known as ear canker. And the culprit for this is the ear mite called Psoroptes cuniculi.
Based on vets, this will be irritating.
This is why if your bunny has this, they’ll constantly shake their head and paw at their ears.
“How do they get this?”
This can be transmitted to rabbits via:
- Direct contact with an infected bunny.
- Exposure to objects with mite eggs (e.g., straw, wood chips, grass).
You’ll also notice these in your bunny’s ears if they’re infected:
- Hair loss.
- Beige to brown crusts.
- Skin scales (on the inner ear).
And these usually appear within 2 to 3 weeks after exposure.
Warning: Ear mites are highly contagious. So, inspect your rabbit’s ears asap. Then clean and disinfect your whole area.
Next, it might also look like your bunny is trembling all over.
But actually, they’re only scratching due to itch.
This can be caused by several annoying parasites.
But let’s talk about fleas first.
Yup. Sadly, rabbits can also be infested by them. And they could affect all genders and ages.
Bunnies may get this by being exposed to an animal who has fleas, say dogs or cats. As well as if they stayed in a contaminated area.
VCA Hospitals says that you can tell if your rabbit has fleas if they keep licking or biting themselves. So, observe them for a while.
Also, you’ll notice flea dirt or some tiny black debris in their fur. (This is a clear sign of infestation.)
And their skin will be red and have sores too.
Our furry friends can also have intestinal worms.
And like fleas, they cause extreme itchiness too. So this could be the reason for their shaking as well.
Now, what are pinworms?
These are small, white worms that live in the intestines.
There are many types of these. But, there’s one kind that only resides in rabbits.
It’s called Passalurus ambiguus. And research shows that 75% out of 20 bunnies were infected by this species.
“Are they fatal?”
Vets say that pinworms don’t lead to serious health issues on bunnies.
In fact, they may also go unnoticed in some cases.
However, they’ll still cause:
- Weight loss.
- Dull hair coat.
- Extreme itchiness.
- Inflammation in the skin (mostly around their private areas).
“How can a rabbit get these?”
Pinworms could be transmitted by:
- Eating infected stools.
- Drinking contaminated water.
- Staying in a place with pinworm eggs.
#11: GI stasis
First off, GI is short for gastrointestinal. Or the term referring to the intestines and stomach.
GI stasis happens when these areas slow down. And if it’s severe, rabbits who have this might shake a lot.
Which is due to the response of their body to the contractions. As well as discomfort.
“What may have caused this?”
You might think that this is due to physical obstruction. Say, eating a non-food item.
But, specialists say that it isn’t the cause.
Instead, a rabbit will have this as a result of:
- Less food intake.
- Lack of fiber in the diet.
- Excessive carbohydrate from pellets.
- Growth of bacteria (due to pH change after not eating).
“What are its other signs?”
- Loss of appetite.
- Bloated stomachs.
- Smaller and drier fecal pellets.
Warning: This condition can be fatal if left untreated. So this needs immediate medical attention.
Shaking is also a sign of possible toxicity.
Rabbits are curious, and they love to eat. So they might chew on things that are poisonous for them.
- Rodent poison.
- Poisonous plants.
- Lead (paints, metallic objects).
In other cases, rabbits may also react to certain medications. As well as topical products like soaps and flea treatments.
If you suspect your bunny of ingesting something they shouldn’t watch out for these signs:
- Loss of appetite.
Then, do the tips that I’ll discuss later on.
Does your bunny shake all over for a couple of minutes?
And do you also notice some head tilting and leg paddling?
If this is similar to your situation, it might be that your rabbit had a seizure episode.
“Why does this happen?”
Seizures occur when there’s an abnormal electrical activity in the brain. And this might be due to:
- Brain lesions.
- Head trauma.
- Bacterial infection.
- Low blood sugar levels.
This will then cause the body to move unwillingly.
And while rabbits are having their episodes, they’re also prone to brain damage.
Other signs that you’ll see are:
- Rolling their body.
- White creamy liquid in their ears.
To explain this simply, it’s a condition that affects a rabbit’s eyes and kidneys. As well as their nervous system.
In one study, they found that the commonly affected areas in the brain are:
|Cerebrum||The biggest part of the brain; regulates movement and temperature||97.5%|
|Cerebellum||Responsible for voluntary movements||55%|
|Vestibular cores||Aids the body in spatial orientation||37.5%|
This is why its typical signs are:
- Head tilting.
- Twitching of eyes.
- Reduced appetite.
- Walking with difficulty.
Although in most cases, rabbits might not show any symptoms at all.
And these will only appear when they’re stressed or older.
But if you take no action, this can also get worse.
Its name came from the organism that causes this.
It’s called Encephalitozoon cuniculi, a.k.a ‘E. cuniculi.’ And rabbits can get this from:
- Contaminated urine.
- Their mother – during conception.
Doctors say that this may also find a human host apart from bunnies. As well as other animals like dogs and rats.
So you also need to treat this fast and disinfect your area.
#15: Fracture or luxation
Sometimes, it could also be that your bunny is trembling due to pain. Say, from an injury or dislocation.
This is more likely if they have an unusual stance or posture. And also if they have difficulty sitting and standing up.
Rabbits have strong rear legs.
But, this doesn’t mean that they’re not prone to traumas.
“What may have caused this?”
- Improper handling.
- Trauma (e.g., falling).
- Moving all of a sudden.
And its other symptoms are:
- Dragging their legs.
- Urinary incontinence.
- Difficulty sitting or standing up.
According to vets, fractures are more observed in rabbits.
But sometimes, it may also progress to a luxation or dislocation. Which often occurs in their lower spine.
#16: Cerebrospinal nematodiasis
This is another disease that targets a rabbit’s nervous system.
“What’s the culprit for this?”
A roundworm causes it. And bunnies can get this by ingesting contaminated stools.
So, this is usually observed in rabbits who often go outside. This is because they have access to wastes produced by other animals.
“How does it affect their movements?”
Once a bunny ingested some roundworm eggs…
Experts say that these will go into their brains. As well as their spinal cords.
And from there, they’ll cause damage to the brain tissues. Which will then affect their movements.
“What are its signs?”
Bunnies with this condition will also have seizures. And they may often tilt their heads too.
But here are other symptoms:
- Eye twitching.
Note: Infected rabbits might not also show symptoms right after the ingestion. It may take several months or even years before these appear.
Compared to the reasons above, this disease is rarely seen in rabbits.
But, it also affects their nervous system. So this still belongs in the long list on why a rabbit shakes.
“How can they get this ailment?”
The cause of this disease is a parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii.
Doctors say that it’s the most common parasite all over the world.
And this can spread to humans by eating contaminated raw meat. As well as during conception.
But in rabbits…
They usually get this by eating an infected cat’s poop.
Then, they’ll show these typical signs:
- Muscle tremors.
- Paralysis of hind limbs.
- Ataxia (lack of muscle control).
- Tetraplegia (paralysis of all four legs).
Note: In one research, the rabbits also experienced:
- Skin ulcers.
- Weight loss.
#18: Pregnancy toxemia
This ailment is also called ketosis.
“What is it?”
If you have a pregnant or lactating doe, this could also be the reason for their shaking.
Based on vets, this happens due to a poor diet.
During this critical period, females need more nutrients than usual.
This is because it takes so much energy to prepare and care for the kittens.
So if their daily needs aren’t met, their body will resort to using excess fat instead.
Then what will happen next?
This might result in ketones in their blood. (Hence the other name – ketosis).
Warning: High amounts of this can worsen diabetes or poison the body. So this might lead to death in rabbits if left untreated.
“Are there rabbits who are more prone to this?”
Yes. And there are several risk factors, such as:
- Refusing to eat.
- Low in dietary fiber.
Other signs you may notice besides seizures are:
- Loss of appetite.
- Difficulty breathing.
Note: As per experts, this usually occurs during the last stage of pregnancy.
Lastly, bunnies won’t only shiver due to cold.
This is because they can also shake out of heat exhaustion.
Rabbits have thick fur. And they’re at risk of overheating. So they’ll do better in low temperatures than in hot weather.
“What is the ideal ambient temperature for bunnies?”
According to vets, it’s 50°F to 68°F (10°C to 20°C).
So higher than the said temperatures may result in these signs:
- Wet nose.
- Redness in the ears.
Warning: Seizures are an alarming sign of heatstroke. This often leads to fatality in rabbits. So if you see these signs in your bunny, take action asap. And make them feel comfortable and refreshed.
We’ll get to this shortly.
What should I do if my rabbit shakes? 13 tips
#1: Wait for the hiccups to stop
Does your bunny hiccup for only a couple of minutes occasionally?
If so, there’s nothing to worry about.
It’s normal. And young rabbits are said to be more prone to this than adults.
However, if your bunny gets persistent hiccups and they last for so long, they might need to be checked by a vet.
Note: During this, never try to hold their nose. As well as any methods used in humans. This is because you may only scare your rabbit in the end.
#2: Watch out for violent twitching while asleep
You can relax if your bunny only shakes subtly in their sleep.
Or if they started running while lying down.
But if their jerking became violent, consult your vet about this matter.
There might be an underlying reason for this. And it’s better safe than sorry.
Note: For better diagnosis, time and record your bunny’s episode as well.
#3: Let them shake out of joy
Now, if it seems like your bunny does this because they’re happy…
Just let them be and put your mind at ease.
They’re likely being playful at the moment. So, use this chance to spend more time with your rabbit.
Grab their favorite toys and invite them for some fun.
#4: Help them calm down
If your bunny looks anxious, scan their surroundings immediately.
Remove the things or noises that might be the cause of this behavior.
“How do you calm a shaking rabbit?”
- Reassure them first by talking to them in a low, soothing voice.
- If they allow, carefully pick them up. And bring them to their safe place.
- It could be their enclosure indoors. Or a separate room where they can settle down and relax.
- But if your bunny dislikes being held, don’t do it right away.
- Grab a towel, then wrap it around them. Or place it on your arms. So that they’ll feel safer and less stressed while being held.
If you want to know more tips, read this article: 21 Quick & Effective Ways To Reduce Stress In Rabbits
#5: Mellow their temper
If your bunny’s shaking comes with thumping, better stay away from them for a while.
This is because they might snap and bite. And also, beware, because they may spray some pee on you too.
The latter is typical behavior in unspayed and unneutered rabbits.
So if yours isn’t fixed, I’ve already warned you of the worst possible outcome.
Now, what to do?
It’ll be nice if you can rule out any medical conditions first. Especially if their aggressiveness is a new behavior.
This is because a rabbit in pain will be irritable. And they may also become overprotective of themselves.
Hence, the aggression.
Also, it’ll help if you avoid doing the things that cause stress for your bunny.
Like petting them too often or touching them in areas they dislike. As well as handling them roughly.
#6: Treat the infection asap
Since ear mites are contagious, clean their area at once. As well as the other parts of your house.
Bring your bunny to an exotic vet. To see whether the cause is bacteria or mites.
Then based on their findings, they’ll be given suitable medications. Like antibiotics or antifungal drugs.
“How can I take care of my bunny’s ears at home?”
Usually, experts might advise you to clean their ears with a warm saline solution.
But before doing this, ask your vet first.
This is because instead of curing it, you may only irritate their ears more.
#7: Eliminate pesky fleas
Check your bunny’s fur first.
Do you see some small black specks?
If so, vets recommend putting a water droplet on it.
Now, wait for a couple of minutes. And if it’s flea dirt, there would be a red ring around it.
“How can I get rid of my rabbit’s fleas?”
The same experts I mentioned above say that there’s no specific treatment made for them yet.
This being said, it’s important to be extra careful in buying the correct solution for them.
Remember, rabbits are small, sensitive animals.
If you put anything harmful on them, the effects might be stronger than them. Compared to other bigger animals like dogs and cats.
So for this, ask your vet about safe flea treatment for your bunny.
Note: If you have other pets in the house, treat them as well. And sanitize your place regularly.
#8: Get rid of intestinal worms
A visit to the clinic is also necessary for this.
Your vet can eliminate the worms around your bunny’s anus.
Then he or she will apply the right ointment to the affected areas.
As well as give your rabbit oral medications to flush out the worms inside of their body.
Note: Rabbits are coprophagic. Meaning, they eat their stools (only the soft ones). And since the worms’ eggs will be present in their poop, this might be a bit harder to cure.
So, always make sure that their place is clean and free from waste.
Further reading: Why do rabbits eat their poop?
#9: Return their stomach’s state back to normal
GI stasis can be deadly so this should be treated asap.
Get your bunny checked by a vet. So they can get the right treatment for their case.
While recovering, your rabbit will likely refuse to eat as well. And this won’t be good for them.
So, try your best to force-feed them. This is to keep their gut moving and healthy.
And also for them to receive the nutrients they need every day.
Note: Before feeding your bunny, ask your vet about the amount of food that should be administered. As well as their feeding schedule.
#10: Take fast action
If your bunny looks like they’re shaking due to poisoning, remove them right away from the area.
And make sure to do these things:
- Get rid of any remnants of the harmful item or plants. Keep them out of your rabbit’s reach.
- Call your vet asap. Tell them what happened. If they ask you to bring your bunny to the clinic, do so at once. And might as well, bring a sample of the product.
- Never give your rabbit medication or do anything that’s not instructed by your vet.
- If the poison is a topical product, quickly wash their body with cool water (not ice cold!) and mild shampoo. Then, dry them completely.
#11: Supervise and seek help
Does your bunny show signs of epileptic seizures?
If so, consult a vet as well.
They’ll be given the right medication to mellow down their episodes. Like benzodiazepine.
Also, if it’s severe, your rabbit will need to be hospitalized. As they’re at risk of brain damage.
Now, while taking care of your bunny, monitor them closely.
Record and take note of their seizures. And see if there are any changes in their behavior too.
#12: Restrict their movements
If your bunny shows weakness or pain in a part of their body, they’re likely injured.
If their case is mild, your vet may advise you to confine your bunny in their hutch.
This is to limit their movements and let them rest as much as they can until they recover.
During this, ensure that your bun always has clean, comfy bedding. As well as a suitable diet that won’t irritate their tummy.
(Force-feed them too if your vet tells you to do so.)
But if there are infections…
Specialists can give your rabbit antibiotics. As well as painkillers.
#13: Keep them cool and safe
Last but not least, if your rabbit starts displaying signs of heatstroke, move them to a cooler place.
Then contact your vet immediately. And do these tips to help your rabbit cool down:
- Offer them a tiny amount of cool water (not too cold).
- Soak a clean towel in cool water then slowly dab it on their ears.
- Get another towel drenched in cool water again and put it over their cage.
Note: Monitor your rabbit for a while. Then report to your vet about their current condition.
#BONUS: Get the right treatment plan for them
There are many other medical problems that can cause this shaking.
So for your bunny’s safety and comfort, don’t hesitate to ask for help. (Do this for your peace of mind as well.)
To give you an idea, here are some tips per condition:
Blood tests are needed to confirm if your rabbit has this.
If they’re positive, your vet can prescribe drugs to lessen the signs.
Although there’s said to be no exact cure to this condition yet.
To reduce the swelling of the affected parts, your bunny will be given:
- Anti-inflammatory medications.
- Anti-parasitic drugs (e.g. fenbendazole, albendazole).
And like in GI stasis, they should also be force-fed if they have reduced appetite.
Since bunnies get this through cat’s poop, ensure that they have no access to such.
This is usually cured with pyrimethamine. As well as sulfonamide.
But again, ask an expert if this suits your bunny’s needs or not.
Female rabbits who have this must be treated asap to avoid death.
Vets say that they’ll be given fluids to restore their health. And they should be syringe fed as well.
Then, to help you take care of a sick bunny at home…
Don’t forget to check out: 21 Effective Tips To Treat A Sick Rabbit At Home (How-To)
People also ask:
Why is my rabbit shaking and laying down?
Your rabbit is shaking and laying down because they’re relaxed or dreaming. And this is only natural in bunnies. But if their twitching is severe, they might have seizures.
Some bunnies that are content may shiver a bit.
While others can be in REM sleep. And twitching is a sign that they’re in this stage.
If your rabbit suddenly falls down and shakes, there could be something more to it. Like seizures or GI stasis.
And this should be taken care of asap.
Why does my rabbit shake when I hold him?
Your rabbit shakes when you hold him because they might be scared or stressed. Bunnies will be uncomfortable being held at first. So they may tremble out of fear.
But, they could also be mad at you.
You might have startled them as you picked them up all of a sudden. Or you’re handling them improperly. And they’re scared for their life.
However, it could also be that they just hate being held. And it stresses them out.
Why is my rabbit shaking his head?
Your rabbit shakes his head because of discomfort in their ear. This could be due to ear mites. But an infection due to bacteria is possible as well.
And they might be doing this to:
- Relieve the pain.
- Scratch the itch away.
- Take out the thing that’s causing them discomfort.
Why is my rabbit trembling?
Your rabbit is trembling because they might be scared or in pain. The first one is a natural response of their body to threats. While the latter can be due to injuries or stomach issues.
Aside from fear, they may also have chronic stress.
So, do your best to lessen their worries. And make their place comfy and quiet as possible.
Do you notice any lameness in your rabbit?
If so, it’s likely because of pain.
So, see if your bunny shows any of the signs I listed above. And consult your vet about this matter.