Why Is My Rabbit Shaking And Laying Down: 4 reasons (with proven solution)

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Last Updated on August 2, 2021 by Rei

Rabbits, being unable to make a sound when they are ill or unwell, makes us, rabbit owners, a little more worried something might be wrong when our rabbits are doing something out of the ordinary.

I remember one time when I’ve just come home and I found my rabbit, Freya, lying on the floor and shaking. I was so scared that something is wrong.

But after I came close to her, the little furball runs and binky towards me!

So if your rabbit is just shaking a little while laying down, then there’s nothing to worry about. Rabbits do shake a little when sleeping.

But it could also be a sign of something serious if accompanied by other symptoms, which I would discuss below.

In this article, I would be discussing the different reasons why your rabbit might be shaking while laying down. I would also discuss the different household solutions for the most common reason why a rabbit might be shaking.

So without further ado, let’s get started.

Heatstroke

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One of the reasons why your rabbit might be shaking is heatstroke. Rabbits don’t have any sweat glands except for a few on their lips, therefore, are more prone to heatstroke especially in the summer.

They also cannot pant like dogs and other animals to signal their owners that it’s too hot because rabbits primarily breathe thru their noses.

One of the most symptoms of heatstroke in rabbits is rapid breathing, which can be mistaken for shaking.

You can tell if the difference between heatstroke with normal shaking by watching for other symptoms. Here are the most common symptoms of heatstroke in rabbits:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Gasping for air
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bluish or grey lips
  • Exhaustion

Here are some things you can do to protect your rabbit from heatstroke and what can you do if they already have it:

  • Never place your rabbit in direct sunlight
  • Place a bottle of cold water near them during summertime.
  • Provide them shade when they are outside.
  • Wrap your rabbit body with a moistened towel. Don’t wrap their ears because it helps them regulate the temperature.
  • Don’t soak your rabbit in water if you suspect them of heatstroke because it could provoke shock.

Gastrointestinal stasis (GI Stasis)

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Gastrointestinal stasis or GI stasis is one of the most common reasons why rabbits die. It’s often hard to tell when a rabbit has this problem because they seem normal then all of a sudden they get dangerously ill.

There are many causes of GI stasis like high starch / low fiber diet, injuries, stress, and lack of exercise.

When a rabbit has GI stasis and is shaking, it’s important that you immediately bring your rabbit to a vet because at that point GI stasis has progressed to what’s called the “end of life stage” where the rabbit is shaking due to difficulty breathing.

Parasite

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Parasites could also be the reason why your rabbit might be shaking. A parasite called Encephalitozoon cuniculi or E. cuniculi can cause tremors or seizures when its spreads to the nervous system and brain.

Here are the symptoms of E. cuniculi:

Brain symptoms of E. cuniculi

  • Facial paralysis on one or both sides
  • Weakness or paralysis in one or more limbs
  • Stiffened hind leg gait
  • Head tilt
  • Walking in circles or rolling over
  • Jerky eye movements
  • Lack of appetite
  • Behavior changes and/or depression
  • Tremors or seizures
  • Collapse or coma
  • Death, sometimes sudden

Kidney Symptoms of E. cuniculi

  • Lack of appetite
  • Generalized weakness
  • Drinking a lot of water
  • Smell of ammonia on the breath

If you suspect your rabbit of having E. cuniculi, you should immediately bring your rabbit to a veterinarian.

Bacterial otitis media/interna

Another reason why your rabbit might be laying down and shaking is due to a condition called bacterial otitis media/interna. Bacterial otitis is an infection in the middle ear from the upper respiratory tract.

The main symptoms of bacterial otitis are head tilt and scratching of the ear. In severe cases, it could cause seizures and encephalitis.

If your suspect that your rabbit has this condition, you should immediately bring them to a vet to be treated.

Summary

Rabbits shaking a little when laying down is normal.

What’s not normal is when there are other symptoms accompanied by the shaking, which is called the “End of life stage”.

There are a few medical reasons why a rabbit might be shaking while laying down. It could be a heatstroke, which can be solved by placing a water bottle wrapped in a towel near your rabbit.

But it could also be a parasite or a bacteria that affects the nervous system of the brain which could induce shaking or seizures. If this is the case, immediately bring your rabbit to a veterinarian.

Cite this article:

Bunny Horde (November 15, 2021) Why Is My Rabbit Shaking And Laying Down: 4 reasons (with proven solution). Retrieved from https://bunnyhorde.com/why-is-my-rabbit-shaking-and-laying-down/.
"Why Is My Rabbit Shaking And Laying Down: 4 reasons (with proven solution)." Bunny Horde - November 15, 2021, https://bunnyhorde.com/why-is-my-rabbit-shaking-and-laying-down/

Sources and Further reading

  • Patry, Karen, et al. The Rabbit-Raising Problem Solver: Your Questions Answered about Housing, Feeding, Behavior, Health Care, Breeding, and Kindling. Storey Publishing, 2014.
  • Otitis Media and Interna in Animals
  • Meredith, Anna, et al. BSAVA Manual of Rabbit Medicine. British Small Animal Veterinary Association, 2014.