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Rabbits/Labored Breathing & Buldging Eyes


Hi Dr. Dana,
  I have been playing Fairy Bun-Mom to a bonded pair that live on my street. They are kept in a hutch outside and have experienced mostly neglect. I began going up there with hay for them, as the only hay they were given was alfalfa cubes. I also picked green stuff for them and made sure their water bottle was full.
  I noticed that the mini-rex's eyes were kind of bulging...and at first thought that I was maybe imagining that. But then I noticed a difference in the breathing as well. Rather than an even in-and-out pattern, her sides would pull in with each breath.

   I had a friend come and help me trim their nails, as they were so long that they were beginning to curve sideways. This was the first time I had ever touched them or held them, as the hutch was deep and opened from the top only. Immediately my friend and I could hear the problems ....ranging from squeaks to clicks to almost a honk.

   We took the bunny to a vet who willingly admits to her lack of rabbit experience. She said that she could hear a click in the breathing, but that there was not the evidence of a URI. She said that the next step would be radiology, but that even then, she might not be able to even read the ex-ray properly. So we decided to not do one.

   Since then, I have brought the bunnies to my house. They are still in an outdoor hutch( I have my own bonded pair inside), but at least it's covered at night and they're getting the care they need, i.e. food, water and nose rubs. At night when I would go to "tuck them in", the mini-rex sounded like a little kid with a very stuffy nose, so I asked the Vet for a course of Baytril.She agreed and dispensed some.

  I spoke with Kathy Finelli over at Gainesville Rabbit Rescue and she said that it sounded like a possible heart condition...the click that the Vet heard and the bulgy eyes. I was thinking of the possibility of a Thymoma as well. Do you have any thoughts on this? Other than the eyes and breathing, she is active, eating, producing fecals and out of the pair, is the most animated and even a bit feisty. The only other thing that caught my attention was the color of her urine....almost neon yellow!

  I know this is long....sorry about that!

    thanks Dr. Dana,

Dear Ellen,

This does have all the red flags for a thymoma.  Radiation therapy can help, if the owners are willing.  The condition just gets slowly worse until it takes the bunny's life if it is not treated.

I'm sure you've found this information already but:

If you just Google "rabbit thymoma" you'll get a LOT of information.

I hope the little one will be okay.



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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:

Find a rabbit vet at for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.

RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.


I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology

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