While rabbits do “flop” when they are sick, that’s not the only reason for flopping. There are many reasons rabbits flop, including them just being downright dramatic.
You might be wondering what the heck flopping even is. Is that an actual term for rabbits? Yes, yes it is.
Flopping is an expression performed by a rabbit in which it suddenly drops to its side and lays on its side for a period of time.
Flopping is often noted to indicate that a rabbit is severely ill or actively dying. However, this is not always the case.
Let’s explore the reasoning behind a rabbit’s version of stop, drop, and roll. Well, partially roll.
What You'll Learn
Why Exactly Does a Rabbit Flop?
As mentioned above, when it comes to flopping, it does not always mean your rabbit is sick or dying. It can mean they are expressing their positive emotions, and it’s the best way that they can demonstrate these feelings.
It’s thought that rabbits use it to communicate with each other (and even with their owners. How sweet!).
By a rabbit flopping and laying on its side, they place themselves in a vulnerable position to potential predators.
If your pet rabbit is flopping in your home, it usually indicates that you’ve made a comfortable, safe home for them. Congratulations! Happy bunny, happy home.
When it comes to a rabbit flopping because they are severely ill or nearing death, the environment shifts completely.
The reason rabbits flop is not fully understood by experts. However, most of the time, flopping refers to Floppy Rabbit Syndrome.
Yep, it’s a real thing. Look it up.
Researchers suspect this is caused by electrolyte imbalances that impact a rabbit’s nervous system.
Another potential cause for Floppy Rabbit Syndrome is a bacterial or fungal infection.
Without proper intervention, an infection can progress rapidly in a rabbit’s tiny body, causing it to invade a rabbit’s organs or even bloodstream if not treated immediately.
As a rabbit nears death, it is too weak to support its own body and “flops” over. This is often accompanied with grunting, heavy breathing, limpness, or your rabbit unsuccessfully trying to stand back up. Typically, you will see signs before your rabbit gets to this point.
Later in the article, we will review what to do if you suspect your sweet rabbit is ill.
How to Know If Your Rabbit is Sick
Rabbits don’t randomly wake up one day and flop over dead. There is always an underlying cause and multiple signs leading up to this terrifying moment.
By being able to spot these signs, you may be able to get your companion to the vet and get the appropriate treatment.
One of the first indications a rabbit will demonstrate is a lack of eating and drinking water.
When rabbits are feeling sick, they have a loss of appetite and don’t want to perform any activity they usually love.
Another indication that you may need to take your rabbit to the vet is they aren’t bouncing around the house like they usually would.
They lack energy and may feel weak from whatever infection or imbalance is going on in their small body.
If your rabbit demonstrates new onset weakness or the inability to get back up off the ground, you need to head to the vet ASAP.
Changes in breathing, bowel habits, and behavior are all signs that your bunny may have something going on, indicating that medical treatment should be sought out.
What to do if Your Rabbit Flops
It’s a normal, happy Saturday morning. You just let Bean out of his cage, but he seems to be acting weird today.
Something doesn’t feel or seem right. About 10 minutes after you let Bean out of his cage, he suddenly flops on his left side and starts having difficulty breathing. What do you do?
As any normal, rational pet owner would do, your first reaction is to freak out. Your mind goes blank, and you don’t know what to do. However, you remember reading this educational article a couple nights ago, and you remember the very first step: Don’t panic.
You will have to fight every urge in your body to freak out over your loving companion suddenly appearing in distress. However, not panicking is the best thing (well, second to getting them to the vet ASAP) you can do for your rabbit because they will not only feel your sense of calmness, you will be able to think clearly and make rational decisions.
Assess the Situation & Your Rabbits Symptoms
As you approach Bean, you notice that he is not only breathing heavier than normal but also shivering.
You remember that he hasn’t eaten anything since breakfast yesterday, which is entirely abnormal.
His water dish also appeared to still be full from last night. All these signs push the alarm button in your head, and you know you need to do something.
By assessing the situation and symptoms, you can think clearly about what events led you to this point in time and paint a thorough picture for the veterinarian upon arrival.
This information will help to navigate their chosen course of treatment.
Go to the Vet ASAP
Time is of the essence, and the sooner you can get your rabbit to the vet, the better the outcome is likely to be. By implementing timely medical treatment, there is a strong chance your loved pet will survive (Spoiler alert: Bean was treated and lived a happy life with his hero).
How to Treat a Sick Rabbit
There are important treatments you can implement at home if your rabbit does not appear severely ill.
Offer plenty of water and foods you know they love. Nutrition and hydration are vital to keeping your bunny hopping and healthy.
Keeping them warm will also help with temperature regulation. Keep a clean environment for your rabbit. Cleaning their cage daily or every other day helps keep them clean and out of having to live in their own filth, which no one wants.
Finally, call your veterinarian if you have ANY doubts about what to do. They went to school for 8+ years. They are experts and happy to help a pet owner out.
Flopping Doesn’t Mean Your Rabbit is Sick
Rest assured, if your rabbit starts “flopping,” and they do not appear to be sick, you’re doing something right.
This is an evident expression that your fluffy friend feels content and safe with you. However, if you notice your rabbit has been acting ill over a couple days and then suddenly flops, the best thing you can do is remain calm and seek veterinarian expertise immediately.
Knowing the warning signs could save your little furry friend’s life.