Shortness of breath (dyspnea) in rabbits is a serious symptom. Swallowing air can subsequently lead to serious gas build-up in the gastrointestinal tract.
Increased respiratory rate and depth as well as increased flank breathing are the first signs of dyspnea in rabbits. If a rabbit shows any of these symptoms, you should contact a veterinarian immediately.
In addition to the increased respiratory rate and increased flank breathing, rabbits with shortness of breath usually also have swollen nostrils, breathing noises and an overstretched neck. As obligatory “nose breathers”, rabbits only open their mouths when they are in severe shortness of breath.
Dyspnea can have many causes. Most often, dyspnea is associated with respiratory infections (eg, rabbit cold). However, oronasal fistulas (in dental disease), nasal foreign bodies, neoplastic disease (eg, lung tumors, thymomas), and traumatic injuries (eg, pulmonary hemorrhage, rib fractures) can also cause dyspnea.
Secondary causes of shortness of breath include cardiac diseases (e.g. pleural effusion, pulmonary oedema), gastrointestinal diseases (e.g. overloaded stomach, intestinal tympania), septicemia (blood poisoning), hyperthermia, anemia (anemia) and pain.
Therapy depends on the underlying cause, which is why a visit to the vet is essential.
What can I do as a pet owner?
Remain calm and do not subject the rabbit to any further stress. If there is a strong nasal discharge, you can remove it with a handkerchief and thus secure the airways. Transport the rabbit to the vet in a darkened transport box. Pay attention to the inside temperature of the transport box.