Rabbits show a great variety of emotions and senses. They can be happy, sad, angry, anxious, excited, or fearful. Like humans and other animals, they have a complete body plan that includes sensory organs, brain, and nerves. But unlike other pets, the body language of rabbits can be a bit difficult to interpret.
For example, if you have a rabbit in your house, you might have heard him crying sometimes. But do rabbits cry because they feel pain?? Do rabbits feel pain like us? To know the answer, read the information below:
Do Rabbits Feel Pain?
Yes! Rabbits are aware of hazards and can feel pain. They have the same neurophysiological systems in their bodies as other animals for producing pain. The way a rabbit feels pain is the same as it is for a human, although the intensity of the pain may differ.
Unlike humans, rabbits rarely yell or make sudden movements and gestures when painful areas are touched or pressed.
Rabbits experience pain by the coordination of their bodies with their nervous systems. Nerves run throughout the rabbit’s body. When a rabbit is physically or mentally traumatized, sensory nerves in the affected areas send messages that something is wrong to the rabbit’s brain.
It is interpreted as “pain” by his brain. This discomfort is a warning sign that he has been harmed. Pain is the body’s method of indicating that something isn’t quite right and that it needs to be tackled.
Do Sick Rabbits Feel Pain?
Sickness is the major cause of pain. Different diseases result in pain to a different extent. Some might result in mild to moderate pain, while some in severe pain. Many diseases result in chronic pain, which means that they last longer or recur after some time.
Rabbits commonly suffer gastrointestinal disorders. They might be due to overeating, eating something poisonous, or due to some infections altering gastrointestinal motility. All of these can result in a condition called gastrointestinal stasis, in which the digestive system stops working. As a result, the sick rabbit might feel sudden pain in its gut. This pain can get severe enough, accompanied by other complications, to cause death.
Besides a gastrointestinal disease, the rabbit might suffer from infections, the most common of which are ear infections. Ear mites are parasites that live in the rabbit’s ears and feed on its skin and ear wax. Its infestation can result in severe itching, pain, and small lesions. If left untreated, it can lead to deafness.
Do Injured Rabbits Feel Pain?
Yes! Injuries can be the cause of severe pain in your cute furry friend. Being the prey animals, rabbits are more prone to predator attacks resulting in injuries. A rabbit’s skin is very delicate, and a bite from a cat, a dog, or even another rabbit can easily result in wound injuries.
He may fracture his leg or back during a fall from a heightened place and thus experience bone pain or spinal pain. Broken bones often result in extreme pains; these are easily observable through the limping of the rabbit. It can also happen during mishandling your pet, or he may come in between the door when you slam the door suddenly.
Torn toenails, sore feet, or abdominal pains are also common in rabbits. The rabbit’s teeth keep on growing, so he may experience dental pain if his teeth are not worn down due to improper diet. The sharp wires or edges of a rabbit’s cage can also cause him injuries. The best approach is to avoid all these situations or any kind of injuries beforehand. Make your space rabbit-proof as much as possible.
Do Rabbits Feel Pain While Giving Birth to Babies?
When a mother rabbit gives birth to her litter, she normally feels no pain. According to her normal behavior, she delivers the babies and is fine in no time. She can be seen feeding her babies a short time after the birth process, just like a normal rabbit.
But there is always room for exceptions. A complication in the birth process can become the cause of pain in does. For example, birth trauma such as dystocia may occur. It is because the baby is stuck in the birth canal. It can result in pain along with other complications such as bloody vaginal discharge.
In this case, don’t try out your own home remedies; instead, visit a veterinary clinic for the safe delivery of the babies.
Do Rabbits Feel Pain When They Get Surgeries?
Rabbits need surgeries just like humans if there is some problem in the internal organs that can’t be treated through medication. It can include minor skin procedures such as IV catheter placement or skin biopsies. In addition, surgical intervention might be necessary for small tumor removals.
Besides these minor surgical procedures, a condition might require invasive surgery such as GI surgery. It becomes essential to cut through the skin of the rabbit and reach for the gastrointestinal tract, particularly if it is suffering from a condition like GI stasis.
This abdominal surgical procedure causes a lot of pain and is impossible without administrating a dose of anesthesia. However, local anesthesia is safe for rabbits and is a great pain control strategy. It is because anesthesia makes the rabbit’s pain receptors insensitive, aiding in pain management.
Rabbits might go through other surgical procedures as well, such as neutering or spaying, liver lobe torsion, removal of a kidney due to end-stage renal failure, or incision into the urinary bladder for the sake of removing bladder stones.
Can Rabbits Die From Pain?
Yes! It can be the case in some situations. For example, extreme pain can interfere in the recovery of your rabbit from an injury or an infection. The rabbit will quit eating and pooping if you do not alleviate his discomfort by providing some kind of pain relief.
As a result, his body will gradually stop working: his heart rate will decrease, gastrointestinal tract will halt, his body temperature will fall, and he will end up dying. Excessive pain can also lead to the death of your pet by causing a shock instead of some other stress responses, especially if the shock prolongs for 1 to 2 days.
In such a case, it will be the shock and not the actual injury or disorder that will cause the rabbit’s death.
Do Rabbits Feel Mental Pain?
Yes! Rabbits can feel mental pain as well. It can be in the form of anxiety, stress, depression, or extreme fear. For example, they are always afraid of loud noises like barking dogs, a screaming child, loud music, etc.
If rabbits are placed in such environments where they are constantly scared, they become extremely stressed. This will have a negative impact on their health and general well-being.
Too much stress and depression are also not good for your bunnies. Rabbits easily become depressed if you ignore them for a while or pay more attention to other pets, your housemates, and even other bunnies.
Being prey animals, they are extremely sensitive, and their minds are always full of insecurities. Anyone holding a bunny above the ground is a real test of his nerves.
Signs of Mental Pain in Rabbits
A rabbit can be depressed due to some loud noises, fear of predators, loneliness, a long car ride, and being held for a long time. Extreme anxiety in rabbits can lead to sudden death. Therefore, you must know the signs of your rabbit being mentally ill to avoid any hazards in the future.
- When a rabbit is scared, it runs and finds a quiet corner to soothe himself. For a wild rabbit, this is, of course, his burrow.
- Restlessness in your bunny is also the cause of depression.
- Lack of interest and apathy
- An unusual and aggressive behavior towards you or other rabbit fellows
- Bulging eyes
- Fast breathing rate and accelerated heartbeat
- Over-grooming or not grooming at all
- Changed eating and pooping habits
- Biting things unusually and showing this behavior repeatedly
Signs of Physical Pain in a Rabbit
Being prey animals, rabbits hide their pain. They usually neither cry nor make excessive noise like many other pets do. This is because they know these acts are not going to relieve pain. Instead, their sound will attract the wild predators who will eat them up mercilessly.
But when the rabbits suffer unbearable pain, they do show some signs. Moreover, pet rabbits show these signs because they know the owner will not harm them and will help in relieving pain.
Loud Tooth Grinding
While most owners perceive tooth grinding as the sign of the bunny being happy, that’s not always the case. First, they need to understand their situation. Quiet tooth grinding means the rabbit is happy and content, but if a person hearing a rabbit grinding its teeth feels that it’s louder than usual, it’s definitely the sign of pain.
A rabbit might bite or kick the owner when he was just trying to feed him or clean his hutch. The rabbit might not even allow the owner to put his hand in the cage. He might start thumping his feet. All these are the signs of aggression.
New pet owners take it as a sign of hatred, and some of them end up abandoning the bunny. They need to understand the body language of their pet and act accordingly. Majorly rabbits become aggressive when in pain. There are some other reasons too which make them aggressive. Run diagnostic tests or visit a vet to figure out the core problem.
A rabbit breathes 45 times per minute normally. An increased breathing rate indicates the rabbit is suffering from something. It might be because of respiratory tract infection or some other disease such as GI stasis. You might also notice that the rabbit’s mouth is open as if he is struggling to get some air, or you might hear a slight whistling sound, also called wheezing, when he breathes.
Though the breathing rate can also increase after a workout session, it normalizes within a few minutes of resting. The same is the case when he gets afraid, but it normalizes as soon as the cause of danger is out of the rabbit’s sight. But in case he is suffering from pain or illness, the breathing rate remains increased for some time. If the breathing rate remains the same for more than 5 to 10 minutes, take him to a veterinarian.
Rabbits show some obvious physical signs of pain, such as not moving and staying in a place for long hours. In addition, they sit in abnormal postures, mostly a hunched-up position with eyes half-closed. Surely, something is wrong affecting their normal mobility.
In addition to it, if he refuses to socialize or play and has a decreased appetite, he is injured or sick. Talking about illness, he is probably suffering from peritonitis (inflammation in the abdominal lining) or some related diseases that cause abdominal pain resulting in loss of appetite and motility.
Rabbits are quiet and gentle by nature. They are not that talkative. You must have heard that one rabbit signals the other of danger by thumping or by other body activities due to the lack of verbal communication among the members.
But when a rabbit is frightened, suffering a grave illness, or in severe pain, it starts screaming. This behavior is completely contrary to their normal behavior. You need to rush to the vet clinic as soon as possible.
How to Relieve Physical Pain in Rabbits?
Controlling pain in rabbits is very important otherwise, it can lead to serious consequences if it is because of illness. Don’t try to give the pain medications on your own. Some drugs apparently beneficial in managing pain can harm the pet. That’s the reason vets go for drug combinations in which usually one drug reduces the toxic side effect of the other.
Following are some of the pain medications safe for rabbits:
According to a study, the effect of ibuprofen was monitored in two rabbits groups. Those administered with ibuprofen have lower pain scores just after 2 hours of the administration.
Ibuprofen and the related drugs are known to cause side effects like stomach irritation and heartburn. So never give even a single dose without consulting a vet.
Aspirin is very effective in reducing inflammation, so vets do recommend it. However, long-term use of aspirin can make the body prone to strokes, ulcers, and damage to the kidneys.
Carprofen is a widely used pain relief available for both oral and subcutaneous administration. Administer the dosage as recommended by the vet.
Like aspirin, paracetamol reduces pain and fever, but it does not reduce inflammation, unlike aspirin. In addition, overdose can damage the liver.
The incision can cause unbearable pain that might not be alleviated by pain medication, so it is necessary for the vets to make the rabbit senseless before proceeding a surgery. For this purpose, local anesthetics are safe.
Acupuncture can release hormones like endorphin in the spinal fluid that reduce and control pain.
How to Relieve Mental Pain in Rabbits?
Giving a rabbit his favorite snack can help reduce anxiety quickly. You must not hold your bunny for longer. The rabbit should be given a large space where he can move freely; you can also give him some rabbit-friendly toys to play with. Don’t isolate your rabbit as a lonely rabbit is depressed easily. Loud noises should be avoided.
Rabbits feel physical and mental pain. Pain can be due to an injury, a disease, surgery, or sometimes due to birth complications. Mental pain can be due to fear of predators, loneliness, or lack of enough care and depression, and anxiety. Extreme pain can be the cause of death in rabbits. Therefore, you must observe your rabbit closely for any signs of pain and take him to the vet for inspection once in a while.