How to Tell if Your Rabbit is Sick or in Pain

Most rabbits hide their symptoms well and by the time you realize your rabbit is sick, it may be almost to late – DO NOT WAIT, take immediate action!

Symptoms often include one or more of the following:

  • not pooping,
  • loud teeth grinding,
  • sitting hunched up,
  • laying with tummy pressed against the floor,
  • bloating,
  • unsocial behaviour – hiding in a corner refusing to come out,
  • refusing treats or favourite foods,
  • not eating,
  • not drinking,
  • acting lethargic,
  • aggression (towards you or his bonded mate),
  • runny nose and or runny eyes,
  • any odd behavior that seems “off”

Home Emergency Kit

Warm water bottles / blankets / electric pad: A sick rabbit’s temperature drops quickly, keep him warm and comfy. Just make sure that it’s not too hot as he may not feel up to moving away from the heat while he is ill.

Treats: Tempt your bun with his favourite treats to encourage eating. This is also how most owners pick up that their rabbit is ill – refusing a favourite treat is very uncommon for a healthy rabbit and this is normally the first sign to look out for.

1ml / 3ml / 5ml Syringes: (without the needles). Have a look at some YouTube videos on how to syringe feed – ALWAYS insert the syringe from the side of the mouth (behind the front teeth), to prevent accidentally squirting food/liquid into your rabbit’s airway (choking hazard!)

Apple / carrot / banana purity: Syringe feed 3-5ml every hour if your bunny is not eating to keep the gut from shutting down.

Chamomile tea: Keep your rabbit hydrated with water/chamomile or rooibos tea/apple juice. Chamomile is a good choice as it also manages pain (a little) and has calming effects.

Rescue remedy drops: Keep your rabbit calm by dripping 3 drops on each ear. (Also works well for travelling, bonding and or any other stressful activities)


Devils claw herbal drops (assists with pain management): Available at most health shops, or Dis-chem. Most prescription pain killers can only be given once every 24 hours. These drops can be given much more frequently and will help the bun pull through until his next prescribed medication dose. Safe to give along with prescribed painkillers. Syringe feed 4 drops (0.1ml) every hour for 3 hours, and then 3 hourly.

Prescription Drugs

Get these from your vet to keep at home in case of emergency. Most dosages depend on your rabbit’s weight. Ask your vet to write down the dosage for each of your rabbits on the bottle. If you have the meds, but not the dosage and cannot contact your vet, at least contact one of our admins or knowledgeable members to assist, rather than guessing. Overdosing could be fatal.

Clopomon aka Metoclopromide (a gut motility drug): Keeps the gut working to prevent GI stasis. Very important for rabbits that have stopped eating/pooping. Dosage is normally repeated every 12 hours.


– Cisapride: This is clopomon’s big brother. More effective and normally used in more serious cases.


Petcam aka Metacam (painkiller): In many cases providing a rabbit with pain relief is the first step towards recovery. Make sure that you know how to read your rabbit’s body language – how to tell when your rabbit is in pain. Dosage is normally repeated every 24 hours.


Baytril or Enrovet (anti biotic): Rabbits are prone to infections which are normally treated with a course of anti biotics. Some rabbit owners give anti biotics straight away (preventatively) when they suspect a sick rabbit.



Always remember to tell your vet which meds you have already given and when.


Bunny Savvy Vets

Bunnies are an exotic pet.  As such, vets require specialized training to treat them effectively.  Vets who have trained and only worked in South Africa are unlikely to have had extensive training in the treatment of bunnies.

Our vet list is still under construction – if no specific vet is named, you need to request the clinic’s exotic/small animal veterinarian. If you have a bad experience with one of the listed vets, please let us know.


Cape Town

Dr. Bernice van Huyssteen @ Panorama Vet – 021 930 6632


Runs the exotic clinic, with a special interest in rabbits.

1 Uys Krige Drive, Panorama

Mon – Fri 07:00 – 19:00 / Sat 08:00 – 17:00.

Open 24-hour for emergencies


Dr. Cathy Wahl – 021 434 5475

Specializes in Small Animal/Exotic Surgery

86 High Level Road, Sea Point


Dr. Kim Tutt @ Cape Animal Medical Center (24 hours) – 021 674 0034

Eye Specialist & Small Exotics

Rosemead Avenue, Kenilworth, Southern Suburbs


Dr. Vanessa Persson @ Observatory Animal Clinic – 021 447 1331

Has worked with rabbits in the UK

156 Lower Main Road, Observatory

Mon – Fri 09:00-17:30 / Sat 09:00-12:00



Dr. Ingrid Lester @ Somerstrand Vet Clinic – 021 853 8963

Recommended rabbit savvy vet in Helderberg area.

Shop 8, Little Greece, George Street, Strand.

Mon, Tues, Thurs & Fri: 08:30 -10:30 & 16:00 – 18:00

Wed: 16:00 – 18:00 only / Sat: 09:00 – 12:00

Cost: Check-up ±R170,

Special rate on bunny sterilizations: Neuter ±R600 / Spay ±R750



Dr. Jaco Jacob @ Val De Grace Animal Clinic – 012 804 8901

Not listed as an exotic vet, but brilliant with rabbits.

75 Watermeyer Street, Val De Grace, Pretoria

Tel: 083 251 8484 (Emergency)


Dr. Amy Newham @ Elarduspark Animal Clinic – 012 345 2161

838 Barnard Street, Elarduspark, Pretoria


Pierre van Ryneveld Animal Clinic – 012 662 2502 / 0279 / 1845

888 Van Ryneveld Ave, Pierre van Ryneveld, Pretoria / Centurion /



Dr. King @ Parkmore Vet Clinic – 011 883 4746 / 2107

124, 11th Street, Parkmore, 2196




Kloof Village Veterinary Clinic – 031 764 0588

2 St. Mary’s Road, Kloof, Durban

Also stocks rabbit food. Not available after hours


Riverside Veterinary Clinic – 031 563 6565/6

62 Soofie Saheb Drive, Durban North, Durban /

Also stocks rabbit food and hay. Not available after hours


Westville Veterinary Hospital – 031 267 8000

31 Jan Hofmeyr Road, Westville

Also stocks rabbit products.