How Do I Know That a Rabbit is Sick?

Health status is a fundamental indicator that primarily affects other (reproductive, production, exhibition, sports) indicators in rabbits. The primary endeavor of each breeder should always be to maintain good health, be it breeding for meat production or just breeding - for exhibition and competition purposes. All rabbit care in the short and long term should aim for this.

Examination of animal health, including any specialized examinations, is the responsibility of the veterinarian. From the breeder's position, it is appropriate to know the basic general characteristics of the state of health in order to be able to identify, whether a rabbit is healthy or whether it is better to visit a veterinarian.

Primary diagnostics of health condition

In particular, the following are considered clinically relevant indicators used in the initial diagnosis of general health:


Triassic examination is the basic diagnostic method. This includes heart rate, respiratory rate and body temperature. Normal (reference) values of these indicators differ depending on the literary source used, it is also necessary to take into account the individual's condition (e.g. age, pregnancy, ambient temperature, stress, etc.). Offspring, intensively growing individuals naturally tend to have higher values.

Nutritional status and condition

The nutritional status is a long-term reflection of the breeder's nutritional management. In descending order we know obesity, very good, good, less good, bad and cachectic nutritional status. The optimal condition is closely related to the purpose of breeding, the current physiological condition and the burden on the individual. The optimum is good to very good nutritional status, which is required in animals in breeding, respectively exhibition condition. In contrast, extreme conditions are linked to health disorders and increased susceptibility to disease.

Evaluation of attitude and walking

You also evaluate the attitude and walking of the individual. Abnormal manifestations (e.g. head twisting, inability to walk, limp, etc.) are indicative of a certain spectrum of diseases.

The condition of natural body openings

The condition of natural body openings is most often evaluated as a part of respiratory and digestive disorders. Pathological changes in the area of the nostrils, often with discharge, may indicate mainly rhinitis in rabbits, with a need for further specialized examination. Discharge from the eyes may be associated with, for example, respiratory, lacrimal or dental diseases. Diarrhea is a common cause of death in young rabbits in particular.

The condition of natural body openings

Condition of skin and skin derivatives

The skin should be intact, of adequate structure, unchanged. The fur should be dense, balanced, elastic with a slight shine. In rabbits, we must not forget to check the ears and external ear canal. The nails should not extend beyond the coat, should be smooth and intact.

Condition of mucous membranes

The mucous membranes communicating with the external environment (conjunctiva, nasal and oral mucosa, foreskin, vulva) should be light pink in color and moist. The coloration of the vulva of rabbits varies from pale pink to dark violet due to heat. The eyes should have a "spark" of interest in the surroundings.


A change in interest in the surroundings is one of the first signs that the owner notices. A sick animal shuns groups and breeders, shows reduced physical activity, often anorexia and reduces its water intake. All this adversely affects the further deterioration of health in the rabbit.


Symptoms of inflammatory reaction

The general clinical signs of an inflammatory reaction are enlargement, redness, elevated temperature, pain and functional disorders in the affected area. These features may vary in intensity according to the particular disease and their evaluation and diagnosis is the responsibility of the veterinarian.