Keeping Your Rabbit Healthy

As a bunny owner, you should be aware of the potential threats and diseases that could harm the wellness of your rabbit. We’ve developed this Guide to Keeping Your Rabbit Healthy to help you become aware of problems to look out for, and what you need to do to keep your bunny in good health.

Just like human beings, you need to have knowledge on these diseases so that you can prevent them from happening in the first place. You will find tons of information on the most common problems that may affect your rabbit including their causes, signs and symptoms, remedies and prevention.

While you may not be able to prevent your rabbit from getting sick in certain situations, you can be responsible in educating yourself about the diseases that could affect your rabbit. The more you know about these potential health problems, the better you will be able to identify them and to seek immediate veterinary care when needed. 

Common Health Problems Affecting Rabbits

Pet rabbits can be affected by a number of different health problems and they are generally not specific to any particular breed. Feeding your rabbit a nutritious diet will go a long way in securing his total health and well-being, but sometimes rabbits get sick anyway. If you want to make sure that your rabbit gets the treatment he needs as quickly as possible you need to learn how to identify the symptoms of disease. These symptoms are not always obvious, either – your rabbit may not show any outward signs of illness except for a subtle change in behavior.

The more time you spend with your rabbit, the more you will come to understand his behavior – this is the key to catching health problems early.

At the first sign that something is wrong with your rabbit you should take inventory of his symptoms – both physical and behavioral – so you can relay them to your veterinarian who will then make a diagnosis and prescribe a course of treatment. The sooner you identify these symptoms, the sooner your vet can take action and the more likely your rabbit will be to make a full recovery.

Rabbits are prone to a wide variety of different diseases, though some are more common than others. For the benefit your rabbit’s long-term health, take the time to learn the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for some of the most common health problems.

Below are some of the most common health problems that can occur to lionhead rabbits. You will learn some guidelines on how these diseases can be prevented and treated as well as its signs and symptoms.


Urine Burn

Also known as urine scald, urine burn occurs when urine soaks into the rabbit’s fur and causes severe inflammation and hair loss.


This condition is common when strict sanitation practices are not followed. If you do not clean your rabbit’s cage often enough or if you fail to keep his litter box fresh, your rabbit may be forced to sit in his own urine which can lead to this painful condition.

This problem can also develop from a rabbit’s inability to control his bladder due to some underlying medical condition or a physical inability to assume the right stance for urination.

Signs and Symptoms

The most common sign of urine burn in rabbits is inflammation and redness around the private area.

Prevention and Treatment

The best treatment for this is to apply a soothing ointment. You should also take steps to improve the sanitation in your rabbit’s cage to prevent a recurrence of the problem. The key is to keep your rabbit’s cage clean and dry at all times.


In the U.S. this disease is most commonly seen along the Pacific coast, though there are different strains that occur in other parts of the country. This viral disease has also been introduced into Australia, Belgium, and other countries where it has become a major problem.


This is a viral infection known to affect rabbits and it is caused by a virus in the Poxvirus family. This disease is generally transmitted through insects and, in many cases, it is fatal. Myxomatosis is spread through blood-sucking insects like mosquitoes, ticks, and lice, though direct transmission is possible.

Signs and Symptoms

Clinical signs may vary depending on the strain but may include lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, swelling around the eyes, and swelling or drooping of the ears.  

Prevention and Treatment

The best way to prevent this disease from occurring is to protect your rabbit against external parasites.

Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for myxomatosis and it is usually fatal.

If your rabbit does catch the disease, you need to employ careful sanitation practices to prevent spread. This virus is extremely resistant to inactivation – it takes a lot to kill the virus. Rabbits exposed to myxomatosis must be quarantined for 14 days to confirm infection.


An abscess is a pocket of fluid and pus generally cause by a bacterial infection. These are fairly common in domestic rabbits and they can form anywhere on the rabbit?s body.


The cause of an abscess could be any number of things including a bite, a cut, or some other kind of wound – they may also be caused by foreign bodies becoming embedded in the rabbit’s skin or mouth. They can also be the result of wounds in the mouth caused by dental disease.

Signs and Symptoms

A mouth abscess can be very painful for your lionhead rabbit and it may cause him to stop eating – he may also drool and drop bits of food when he does eat. Abscesses on the skin usually appear as hard lumps.

Prevention and Treatment

The best treatment for an abscess is to drain the fluid and pus which is usually performed under general anesthesia. Following the drainage, the wound must be kept clean and the rabbit should take antibiotics to prevent infection. Painkillers may also be prescribed by veterinarian.


Also known as viral hemorrhagic disease (VHD), rabbit calcivirus disease is a viral disease that is highly infectious, particularly among wild rabbits.


This disease causes severe fever accompanied by inflammation of the intestines, damage to the lymph nodes, and even liver damage. It may be detected through medical check-up by your vet or through blood tests and other other medical examination.

If left untreated, calcivirus can lead to a condition affecting the blood which prevents it from coagulating. It can also lead to massive ruptures of blood vessels in various organs.  

Signs and Symptoms

Unfortunately, most rabbits affected by calcivirus do not show any outward signs and many die within 24 hours of the onset of fever.

Some of the symptoms that your rabbit may show include difficulty breathing, weight loss, lethargy, paralysis, and convulsions. This disease is spread through direct contact or through contact with contaminated food, water or bedding.

Prevention and Treatment

To prevent the spread of virus, it is highly recommended that you always keep your rabbit’s cage clean and sanitized. Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for this disease and it is usually fatal.


This disease is incredibly common in rabbits all over the world and it is caused by a protozoa, called Eimeria protozoa. This disease is transmitted through contaminated feed or water and, even if a rabbit recovers, he may remain a carrier of the disease and can pass it to others.

2 Types of Coccidiosis:

  • Hepatic Coccidiosis

Hepatic coccidiosis affects the liver and it is commonly seen in young rabbits

  • Intestinal Coccidiosis

This other type affects the intestines and can occur in any rabbit.

Signs and Symptoms

Rabbits with hepatic coccidiosis generally exhibit reduced appetite and poor coat condition. In most cases, the rabbit dies shortly after symptoms appear. Rabbits with intestinal coccidiosis usually have a mild case with few to no symptoms which can be dangerous, certain laboratory tests may be needed to make a diagnosis.

Prevention and Treatment

Improving sanitation in the rabbit’s cage is effective in eliminating hepatic coccidiosis, though it may not be as effective for intestinal coccidiosis. For proper treatment, consult your veterinarian.

Encephalitozoon Cuniculi

This disease is caused by a small protozoan parasite called Encephalitozoon Cuniculi. This parasite can be absorbed into the rabbit’s body through the intestines and it generally causes lesions on the kidneys, brain, and other organs. Researchers estimate that as many as 50% of domestic rabbits carry this parasite in their bodies but only a small percentage actually develops into problems. This parasite can even be passed down from mother to baby or through direct contact with an infected rabbit.

Signs and Symptoms

The most common symptoms of E. Cuniculi include loss of balance, head tilt, tremors, convulsions, blindness, partial paralysis, and coma or death.

Prevention and Treatment

The treatment most commonly prescribed for this disease is Panacur – it can be administered in a 28-day course to destroy the parasite, though some veterinarians recommend retreatment four times a year to prevent reinfection. It is important to note, however, that this treatment is only effective in killing the parasite before symptoms appear. Plus, even if your rabbit responds to treatment he may be left with a permanent disability such as head tilt.


Also known as sniffles, pasteurellosis is a common disease in rabbits. When caught early, pasteurella can be treated but, if left untreated, it can quickly become chronic or even fatal.


This disease is a respiratory infection caused by the bacteria Pasteurellamultocida and it is highly infectious. There are several different strains of the bacteria which can affect the rabbit’s eyes, ears, and various other organs.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs of pasteurella can vary depending on the strain and the progression of the disease but generally include a watery nasal discharge, sneezing, and a loud snuffling or snoring sound. This disease can also travel to the eyes, causing conjunctivitis, and to the ears, causing head shaking, head tilt, disorientation, and a loss of balance.

It is also possible for this disease to affect the rabbit’s reproductive tract and it may also result in the formation of abscesses (or pus-filled sores).

Prevention and Treatment

This disease is so contagious and dangerous, prevention through strict sanitation and quarantine procedures is a must.

The most common treatment for pasteurella is a 14 to 30-day course of antibiotics and supplementary probiotics.


Pneumonia is fairly common in domestic rabbits and it is generally caused by some kind of infection – bacterial or viral in most cases – which leads to inflammation in the lungs.


Pneumonia can result from four different types of infections. It can either be bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic.

It is also possible for environmental factors such as chemicals, smoke, or dental disease to cause inflammation which leads to pneumonia.

Signs and Symptoms

There are four main types of pneumonia all of which exhibit similar symptoms such as anorexia, weight loss, fever, sneezing, drooling, nasal discharge, eye discharge, abscesses, and difficulty breathing.

Prevention and Treatment

The type of infection will determine the severity of the disease as well as the proper course of treatment. Rabbits suffering from fever, anorexia, weight loss, or lethargy may require fluid and electrolyte therapy.

Your vet may also prescribe antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal, or antibiotic medications depending on the type of infection causing your rabbit’s pneumonia. During treatment, your rabbit’s movement should be restricted.


Though the name might suggest otherwise, ringworm is not a disease caused by a worm or any other parasite. It is a fungal infection common in rabbits and other small mammals.


There are several different types of fungus which can cause ringworm in rabbits and it can actually be transmitted to humans as well. In many cases, a rabbit is infected with the fungus by another rabbit or by another household pet who is a carrier but remains asymptomatic.

Poor sanitation, stress, high humidity, overcrowding, and malnutrition can all increase your lionhead rabbit’s risk for succumbing to this infection.

Signs and Symptoms

The first sign of ringworm in most cases is the development of patchy areas of hair loss that are dry and flaky. Rabbits generally development lesions on their head, legs and feet first which can then spread to other parts of the body.

Prevention and Treatment

Most rabbits recover from ringworm without treatment if sanitation in their cage improves. In some cases, however, treatment with anti-fungal medications may be necessary. During treatment you also need to thoroughly clean and disinfect everything in the cage to prevent reinfection.

Skin Mites

Skin mites are also sometimes called mange mites and they represent one of the most common skin problems in domestic rabbits. The most common mites to cause problems in rabbits are Cheyletiella mites which are invisible to the naked eye and can be easily spread through contaminated hay and bedding.


The cause of skin mite infestations is still unknown, but it is likely that some rabbits carry the mites unknowingly and problems only develop when the rabbit is weakened by stress, illness, or injury. Skin mites feed on keratin which leads to poor coat condition and quality.

Signs and Symptoms

The most common sign of skin mites in rabbits is patches of dandruff appearing on the coat, usually at the base of the tail and the nape of the neck. In cases of severe infection, the patch may actually look like it is moving because it is so heavily covered in mites.

Prevention and Treatment

Treatment for skin mites generally involves ivermectin injection as well as a thorough cleaning and disinfecting of the rabbit’s habitat. Regular grooming will also help prevent reinfection by removing dead hairs that mites could eat.

Preventing Illness

In addition to learning about the different diseases to which your lionhead rabbit may be prone, there are some other simple things you can do to keep your rabbit healthy.

For one thing, you need to keep your rabbit’s cage clean. Not only will cleaning your rabbit’s cage help to prevent the spread of parasites, bacteria, and other harmful pathogens but it will also help to keep your rabbit’s stress level low. If your rabbit becomes stressed, it could compromise his immune system and he may be more likely to get sick if he is exposed to some kind of illness.

It is important to note that you should also be mindful of making sure that your rabbit gets the right vaccinations and you should take steps to protect your lionhead rabbit against parasites.

In this section you will find guidelines on how you can prevent unwanted illnesses that could endanger your rabbit’s life.

Sanitize Your Rabbits Cage

When it comes to cleaning your lionhead rabbit’s cage, there are two main goals you want to accomplish; removing debris and disinfecting everything.

Start by emptying everything out of your rabbit’s cage – that includes bedding, food bowls, toys, and, of course, your rabbit. After cleaning out your rabbit’s cage, disinfect it with a rabbit-friendly cleaner. Distilled white vinegar is a natural disinfectant that won’t harm your rabbit or leave any residues.

If you want something stronger you can mix chlorine bleach at a ratio of 1 part bleach to 5 parts water – just be sure to thoroughly rinse everything after disinfecting it.

After cleaning and disinfecting your rabbit’s cage you need to do the same for his food and water equipment as well as any toys or cage accessories. Again, you can prepare a bleach solution by mixing 1 part bleach to 5 parts water and soak everything in it before rinsing well. Make sure everything is completely dry before putting it back in the cage.

When you are done cleaning and disinfecting, add some fresh bedding to the cage and put everything back. As long as you keep to a regular schedule, you shouldn’t have to clean your rabbit’s cage more than once a week.

Preventing Parasites

Just like your rabbit or cat needs to be protected against fleas and other parasites, so does your lionhead rabbit. Rabbit can attract the same kind of fleas that rabbits attract, so consider protecting your rabbit with a topical flea control preventive. You can ask your veterinarian for recommendations on which brand to use and follow the dosing instructions very carefully.

You should also be mindful of your rabbit’s risk for mites and lice. Fur mites can cause dry, flakey patches of irritation on your rabbit’s skin and ear mites can cause your rabbit’s ears to become itchy and covered with wax and debris. Talk to your veterinarian if you notice any of these problems happening to your rabbit.

Recommended Vaccinations

Rabbits are not like dogs and cats in that they need to be vaccinated against a half dozen different diseases.      

There is really only one that is commonly given to rabbits – calcivirus. Your rabbit should be vaccinated for calcivirus between 10 and 12 weeks of age and then every 12 years after to maintain your rabbit’s immunity.

Signs your Rabbit is sick

Look for any changes in your rabbits body or behavior. Things that may indicate illness include:

  • Eating Disorder- does your rabbit show signs of appetite loss or drooling and dropping of food?
  • Coat – does its coat and skin still feel soft, firm and rejuvenated? If your rabbit is sick sometimes, it appears physically on its body and can have a poor coat condition or hair loss.
  • Mobility – does your rabbit look like it is out of balance? It may be a sign of paralysis or convulsions.
  • Eyes – are there any discharge in the eyes? Are they swelling?
  • Ears – does the ear of your rabbit swell or droop?
  • Respiratory – does your rabbit have difficulty in breathing?
  • Nose – does your rabbit have a watery nasal discharge? Does it snore loudly?
  • Overall Physique – does your rabbit stays active or are there any signs of weakness and deterioration?

Need more?

Book - Lionhead Rabbits: The Ultimate Guide for Lionhead RabbitsIf you’re still looking for more detail on keeping your rabbit healthy, I’d recommend reading “Lionhead Rabbits: The Ultimate Guide for Lionhead Rabbits”. You can find it on Amazon in paperback or on Kindle.

We hope you’ve found this Guide to Keeping Your Rabbit Healthy educational and helpful. Good on you for being a responsible pet owner and learning what to look out for with your rabbits health, and what you need to do to keep your bunny in good health. Remember, that if your rabbit is showing signs of illness the best thing to do is to get it to a vet fast!