If your rabbit is sick, you may not even know it. In the rabbit world, a rabbit showing it is sick or weak is a recipe for disaster. Rabbits are prey animals, and any sign of weakness means they are an easy and quick catch for a predator lurking around.
While you aren’t a predator, your rabbit will still instinctively hide their pain as this is simply a survival tactic.
So your pet rabbit may try to conceal that it is sick, but it may not successfully hide the fact that it is breathing fast.
You may know that a rabbit breathes faster than people do – people breathe at a rate of 12-16 breaths per minute while a rabbit breathes at a rate of 30-60 breaths per minute at rest. If a fast breathing rate is then “normal” for a rabbit, should you be worried?
There are various reasons why a rabbit may be laying down and panting. You do not need to be concerned with some of these, but there are other reasons that constitute a medical emergency and a trip to the vet. Let’s find out more.
Why Is My Rabbit Lying Down And Breathing Fast?
Even though a rabbit breathes fast in comparison to humans, these small animals can breathe even faster and lay down for various reasons.
The first reason your pet rabbit may be lying down and panting is if it has just exercised, played, or zoomed quickly around the room, garden, or rabbit run. It usually takes a few minutes for your rabbit’s heart rate to return to normal after the excitement of exercising.
The second reason your rabbit may be lying down and breathing fast is because of stress, anxiety, or fear. Yes, your rabbit could be so scared that they start hyperventilating.
If your rabbit is laying down and stressed, you will see other signs like wide eyes, flattening its body against the ground to make itself smaller, an alert body posture with rigid ears, thumping, and making small droppings.
A third reason your rabbit is breathing fast is when it feels hot and breathing helps it regulate its body temperature.
A fourth reason your rabbit may be panting and lying down in its hutch or rabbit cage is if it isn’t feeling well. Your rabbit could be panting because it is in pain, feeling discomfort because of gastrointestinal status, or suffering from respiratory illnesses.
Schedule a video call with a veterinarian to get affordable advice if you are not sure whether or not to be worried when your rabbit is breathing too fast. The vet will assist you and let you know what you can do to help your rabbit.
What Do I Do If My Rabbit Is Breathing Fast And Laying Down?
There are few things you can do if your rabbit is panting and laying down. This will help you decide whether it is a medical emergency or whether you should just keep an eye on your pet rabbit but not worry too much (yet).
The first thing you can do is wait 5-10 minutes and see if your rabbit’s breathing slows down by itself. If it does, then you don’t have anything to worry about.
The second thing you should do is check your rabbit’s pulse. Find the long vein in one of the rabbit’s ears and pinch it between your fingers. Count the beats per minute.
A healthy rabbit has a heart rate of 120-150 beats per minute, so if your rabbit has a high heart rate, it will be much faster than 150 beats per minute.
Next, take your rabbit’s temperature with a rectal thermometer. A healthy rabbit has a temperature of between 101°F and 104℉. The last step is checking if there are any other symptoms accompanying the panting and the lying down.
Your rabbit may look as if they have uncoordinated limbs, display loss of balance, or hind limb weakness, which can point to a viral infection.
Should I Be Worried If My Rabbit Is Breathing Fast And Laying Down?
If your rabbit’s breathing doesn’t improve within 5-10 minutes, then you should treat it as a medical emergency. Generally, if your rabbit is ill, there will be other visible symptoms with the heavy breathing and lying down.
These could be a lack of appetite, no bowel movement, lethargy, lying in an usual position, very hot or cold ears, a snotty nose, wheezing, sneezing, breathing through the mouth, drooling, or unusually quiet or aggressive behavior.
Your rabbit’s lips or tongue may also be tinted blue, and this is a sign that your rabbit isn’t getting enough oxygen. Your rabbit will also tilt its head upward to try to breathe better, but this is a sign that it is struggling to breathe.
Another sign could be grunting, so listen out for this. If your rabbit gasps when you lift them, it could indicate internal injuries sustained by playing with other rabbits.
Don’t wait long if you can see your rabbit is ill or struggling to breathe. Treat this as an urgent medical emergency by calling the vet immediately or rush over to your rabbit’s vet as soon as you can.
If not treated timeously, then a rabbit having difficulty breathing could prove to be fatal. And with a rabbit’s small body, it is very easy for their health to worsen when they are ill and don’t receive treatment soon.
When your rabbit is panting and suddenly lies down, you need to be hands on and decide whether it is a medical emergency or if your rabbit is simply winded by playing and hopping around. Consider whether your rabbit has any other signs that could point to illness, and if necessary, decide to call the vet for an emergency booking.