One of the many responsibilities rabbit owners have is understanding the behavior of their pet rabbits.
One of the most common behaviors owners encounter is a rabbit shaking or trembling, which makes many people uneasy.
As a bunny owner, you may be wondering why your bunny shakes and when does it become a cause for alarm?
In this article, we’ll go over the many causes of shaking as well as the symptoms you should be aware of.
You’ll know whether your rabbit’s shaking is normal or whether there’s an underlying medical concern that requires veterinary attention after this article.
The Different Types of Shaking
Because of their status as prey animals, bunnies can be very nervous creatures.
To determine whether your rabbit’s shaking is normal or a sign of an impending problem, look for the following types of shaking:
- Twitching Short, jerky movements are typical rabbit behavior. Flicking their feet, shaking their heads, and suddenly flopping on the floor are all normal.
- Trembling Look closely enough, and you may see that your rabbit subtly vibrates. When this is a gentle vibration, it’s normal rabbit behavior. More signs of stress.
- Rippling Many rabbits’ fur and skin will wave or ripple in response to small air currents. Like getting a shiver up your spine, it can cause them to suddenly jolt upright. This is no cause for alarm.
- Convulsing Sudden and violent shaking is not normal rabbit behavior and means something is terribly wrong. Get your rabbit to a vet immediately.
11 Reasons for Shaking
Here are some of the many reasons that a rabbit may shake, each with a verdict on whether it is a good or bad sign:
1. Happy and Content
Some bunnies will tremble and vibrate when they are particularly comfortable in your presence.
Their relaxed demeanor is a sure sign of their shaking being out of happiness rather than any negative cause.
Many rabbits will twitch and shake in their sleep.
Subtle shaking and jerking movements are okay, but violent jerking can be a sign of serious distress.
3. Eaten a Toxic Plant
Many wild plants and herbs are toxic to rabbits and can cause swift and permanent damage if not treated quickly.
Signs of poisoning are intense and worrying, most often involving your rabbit lying on its side and convulsing.
Act immediately and rush your rabbit to a vet, as eating toxic plants can easily prove fatal.
4. GI Stasis
Gastrointestinal (GI) stasis is a common cause of rabbit harm and death resulting from improper nutrition and food choices.
In several cases, it can cause shaking and twitching as the muscular contractions of your rabbit’s digestive system attempt to fix the problem.
Any signs of GI stasis should be taken seriously and need to be examined and treated by a veterinarian.
5. Chronic Stress
Prolonged periods of stress caused by discomfort, danger, and loud noises can cause your rabbit to shake or jitter.
This is usually accompanied by other signs of stress, such as avoidance of being touched and unwarranted aggression.
Make sure that your rabbit has abundant access to food and water, as well as a safe place to retreat to if they are feeling overstimulated.
Remove any potential stressors such as bright lights and loud noises and give them plenty of space to process their stress.
All bunnies are particularly prone to parasitic infections, with fleas and worms being common problems.
Some especially problematic parasites will affect your rabbit’s nervous system, making them clumsy and disoriented.
If your rabbit’s shaking is accompanied by these behaviors, consult your vet as soon as possible.
7. Heat Stroke
Most breeds of rabbits are much more able to deal with cold weather than extremes of heat.
Because rabbits are more susceptible to overheating than other house pets, you’ll need to go out of your way to make sure they stay cool in the summertime.
If your rabbit is shaking during a hot day, look for other signs to confirm the possibility of heat stroke: a significantly raised heart rate, drooling, lethargy, or convulsions.
Any of these signs mean that you need to take your rabbit to the vet immediately!
8. Ear Mites
Pronounced and frequent head shaking is a sure sign of ear mites or a bacterial infection in the ear.
Rabbits with longer ears, like those in the Lop family of breeds, are particularly susceptible to ear infections.
You’ll need to speak with your vet about treatments for either issue.
Many things can frighten a rabbit. Bright lights, loud noises, and fast movements are three of the most common causes of their fear.
Anytime a rabbit is nervous or frightened, it is natural for them to shake until they’ve calmed down.
Baby bunnies are most susceptible to hiccups, but this is not anything to be worried about.
Occasional hiccups are a perfectly normal occurrence for rabbits of all ages.
If your rabbit is hiccupping on multiple days in a row though, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your vet to have them examined.
11. Upset and Angry
Angry rabbits will twitch, shake their heads, and nudge or nibble at whatever has incited their anger.
This is normal behavior and will often be accompanied by thumping of their hind feet as well.
What’s Normal And Abnormal Shaking in Rabbits?
|Normal Shaking||Abnormal Shaking|
|Trembling after a stressful encounter. This should only last a couple of minutes.||Shaking for long periods of time for no reason|
|If the respiration rate stays within a normal range while the rabbit is trembling, this is a good sign (30 – 60 breaths per minute).||Shaking with a raised respiration rate (more than 60 breaths per minute).|
|Rocking or trembling during sleep, perhaps accompanied by a light clucking sound.||Trembling while awake and for long periods.|
|Skin rippling after a positive experience (i.e. going outdoors).||Convulsing/fits|
|Flopping out and trembling gently. This can be a sign of deep contentment, as long as there are no additional symptoms.||Clumsiness, loss of balance, swishing side to side, falling over, etc.|
|If your rabbit lets you touch it while shaking, this is a positive sign.||Avoids being touched before, during, and after shaking.|
|Shaking the head and stamping the back feet (a sign of annoyance). It should only be temporary.||Shaking the head violently or trying to scratch the head.|
|Hiccupping can make a rabbit tremble. This is normal, especially in young rabbits.||Rabbit lying on its side and shaking with a bloated stomach.|
|Sleeping with eyes open (seemingly staring into space).||Sitting still for very long periods with cold ears or flattened ears.|
If your rabbit is shaking and has other symptoms, see a vet immediately. Convulsions are a medical emergency and shouldn’t be ignored.