Why is my bunny shaking? Several factors can cause rabbits to shake or ripple their fur, from strong emotions, to the temperature, to health problems. It’s important to understand your rabbit’s body language to learn what’s causing your bunny to shake, and know when to take them to the veterinarian. In most cases, rabbits are scared or may have a harmless issue like hiccups. But, occasionally the cause can be more serious, such as eating something toxic, or suffering from heatstroke.
Let’s take a closer look at why your bunny is shaking, and how to identify the cause.
Why is my Bunny Shaking?
Shaking can be a sign of our rabbit’s emotional state. But, it can also be a symptom of several serious health issues. So, it’s something to take seriously when you observe it. There are a number of different types of shaking that owners may observe, and each one can be caused by different things. But, here are some of the most common causes of rabbit shaking that owners may observe:
- Extreme fear
- Extreme happiness
- Parasites or lice
- Ear infections
- Being too cold
- Eating something poisonous
- Gastrointestinal stasis
As you can see from the above list, some of these problems are much more serious than others. So, it’s important to learn what types of shaking can signify more urgent action.
Types of Bunny Shaking
The answer to the question “why is my bunny shaking” will depend on the sort of shaking you’re observing. Here are some of the most common types of rabbit shaking and what they look like:
|Skin Rippling/Fur Rippling||Wave-like motion to the fur, can cause your bunny to jolt.|
|Trembling||All over shaking, gentle and even vibration.|
|Convulsing||Also known as fits. These are violent and irregular contractions, often with a stiff body.|
|Twitching||Jerky movement, short compared to other types of shaking. Often repetitive. Twitching can apply to your entire rabbit’s body or to one specific part.|
Should I Worry About My Rabbit Shaking?
These different types of shaking often have different causes, and some are more serious than others. Your reaction to the shaking should depend on the type you observe. Trembling is often an emotional response, as is fur rippling. If you notice either of these, it could be a sign of your rabbit’s discomfort, but often is nothing you need to immediately be very worried about.
Twitching can be a sign of something more serious. For instance, if your rabbit’s fur is twitching repeatedly in one area, they may be suffering from an infestation. Although, twitching can also happen as an after-effect of convulsions. Convulsions are the most serious type of rabbit shaking. You should take your rabbit straight to the emergency veterinarian if you witness this, as it is a sign something is very wrong.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons that your bunny might be shaking.
Shaking Caused by Strong Emotions
Rabbits may tremble or roll their fur when they are experiencing strong emotions. This won’t necessarily be a bad thing, either! Some rabbits will roll their fur when they are feeling happy, or enjoying something. This will often be accompanied by other signs of your rabbit’s pleasure, such as purring and an overall relaxed position.
In contrast, trembling can occur when rabbits are feeling very angry or very scared. For instance, if a rabbit is not used to handling and you have just picked him up. Or, if you have stopped your rabbit from doing something that they want to do. Observing their other behavior is the best way to learn how your rabbit is feeling. For instance, if their eyes are wide and their body is tense, they are likely feeling frightened. But, if they are stomping their foot, or even trying to bite you, they are likely feeling angry about something.
Emotional causes of trembling don’t require the same urgent help as certain other causes. But, it’s a good idea to learn what’s causing your rabbit to feel that way, so you can help them feel more comfortable.
Shaking Caused by Hiccups
Another cause of shaking, or another thing that can look like shaking and twitching, is hiccups! This can be quite amusing to watch, but can also be frustrating and uncomfortable for your rabbit. Compared to some other causes of shaking though, hiccups are relatively harmless. So, observe your rabbit to make sure it definitely is only hiccups causing them to twitch or shake. Once you’ve determined that it is, you can keep an eye on them to make sure the hiccups stop, but other than that there’s no need to be concerned.
Health Issues That Can Cause Shaking
Shaking is a symptom of a number of different health issues and diseases in rabbits. So, if your rabbit is shaking violently, convulsing, or twitching in a way that is not just an emotional response or something like hiccups, you should take it very seriously. Here are some of the most common health-related causes of shaking in rabbits.
Mites and Parasites
One common cause of shaking and fur twitching in rabbits is mites and parasites. If your rabbit has lice, they may shake their heads and twitch their fur. It could signify the presence of ear mites, fur mites, fleas, lice and more. So, if you notice this behavior in your rabbit, particularly if it happens increasingly often, you should check your bunny’s fur.
Alternatively, take them to the veterinarian for a check up. They will be able to help to eliminate the problem and help your bunny feel more comfortable again.
Another cause of shaking, particularly head shaking and ear twitching, in bunnies is ear infections. Ear infections are a particular risk in rabbits with lop ears. You may also notice that your rabbit is tilting their head a lot, and scratching at the affected ear. If you notice these symptoms, take your rabbit to the veterinarian for a check up.
Rabbits are prone to heatstroke, which can be very serious. This is why it is so important for them to have constant access to fresh water and plenty of shade, especially if housed outside. Signs that your rabbit is too hot include rapid breathing, moisture droplets around the nose, and shaking. Because heatstroke is a medical emergency, you should call your veterinarian immediately. They may instruct you on how to help from home, or may instruct you to bring your rabbit into an emergency clinic.
Eating Something Poisonous
Another common cause of shaking in rabbits is when they have eaten something toxic. This is a concern if your rabbit has unrestricted access to your yard if you haven’t checked that all plants present are safe. Houseplants can also pose a real concern. Poisonous plants include ivy, foxglove, and rhubarb.
Alongside shaking, other symptoms that your rabbit has been poisoned are: lethargy, lost appetite, breathing issues, and signs of abdominal pain. If you think your rabbit has eaten something toxic, contact an emergency veterinarian immediately.
Shaking is a common symptom of gastrointestinal stasis. This is a syndrome that affects gastrointestinal motility, which can be caused by inappropriate diets, stress, and other illnesses. Gastrointestinal stasis can be life threatening, so it’s important to get your rabbit straight to an emergency veterinarian if you think they are experiencing it. Other symptoms can include trouble toileting, decreased appetite, lethargy, and abdominal discomfort.
How to Stop My Bunny Shaking
Knowing how to stop your rabbit from shaking will depend on the cause of the reaction. If your rabbit is suffering from an illness, or from intoxication, it’s important to get veterinary assistance, potentially as soon as possible.
Alternatively, if your rabbit is shaking as an emotional response to something, you might not need to do anything at all. If your rabbit is rolling their fur because they’re feeling happy about something, you can relax! But, if you’ve noticed other behaviors that suggest your rabbit is frightened or angry, you should take steps to help your rabbit feel more comfortable. It’s important to learn about other rabbit behaviors to understand what your bunny is feeling. Here are some guides that may help:
- Why Do Rabbits Spray Urine?
- Rabbit Scream – What It Means If You Hear Your Bunny Scream
- Why Do Rabbits Keep Turning Their Ears?
Why Is My Bunny Shaking? A Summary
There are a number of reasons why a rabbit might be shaking, but some of those are much more serious than others. If it is just as an emotional response, you might not need to do much at all. But, if your rabbit is convulsing, or shaking as a symptom of a larger health issue, you may need to seek immediate veterinary help.
Have you seen your rabbit shaking before? We would love to hear about your experiences in the comments.
References and Resources
- Howes, D. ‘Hiccups: A New Explanation for the Mysterious Reflex’, BioEssays (2012)
- Ulutas, B. (et al), ‘Efficacy of Topical Administration of Eprinomectin for Treatment of Ear Mite Infestation in Six Rabbits’, Veterinary Dermatology (2005)
- Jenkins, J. ‘Skin Disorders of the Rabbit’, Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice (2001)
- Johnson, J. & Burn, C. ‘Lop-Eared Rabbits Have More Aural and Dental Problems Than Erect Eared Rabbits: A Rescue Population Study’, Vet Record (2019)
- Vennen, K. & Mitchell, M. ‘Rabbits’, Manual of Exotic Pet Practice (2009)
- Gruaz, M. ‘Heatstroke in Rabbits’, Medi Rabbit (2015)
- Johnston, M. ‘Clinical Toxicoses of Domestic Rabbits’, Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice (2008)
- Bourne, D. ‘Physical and Psychological Needs of Rabbits: A Rabbit is Not a Cat’, The Veterinary Nurse (2013)
- ‘What is Poisonous to Rabbits?’, RSPCA
- Huynh, M. (et al), ‘Retrospective Cohort Study of Gastrointestinal Stasis in Pet Rabbits’, Short Communication (2014)
- Oglesbee, B. & Lord, B. ‘Gastrointestinal Diseases of Rabbits’, Ferrets, Rabbits & Rodents (2020)