Question I found a domestic rabbit 5 weeks ago. My vet examined her and told us that she is less than 1 year old and seemed very healthy. She was malnourished however has been eating well. To our surprise she gave birth to 7 bunnies 1 week ago. Since we've had her I've noticed that her respiratory rate has been quit rapid (110-120 per minute) at rest. Other than that she seems fine. There is no wheezing or coughing. She eats and drinks well. She runs and plays when she is out of her cage. She is nursing the babies. She is not using accessory muscle to breath nor is she panting, she is just breathing fast. Should I be concerned? As she has 7 bunnies in her nest I do not want to separate her from them to take her to the vet for an exam.
Answer Dear Susan,
A young bunny who's feeding babies has her metabolism set on HIGH, and she's probably burning calories like crazy to keep up. This could explain her rapid respiration rate. Please be sure to give her plenty of alfalfa-based pellets right now. She needs the calories and protein. You can also give her small bits of treat food (e.g., banana bits, a 1/2 tsp of whole oats, a few carrot chunks, etc.) just for the extra calories. If you can get Calf Manna at a feed store, that would be a good calorie supplement for her: about a teaspoon a day, mixed with her regular pellets.
Also be sure she has constant access to a big *bowl* (not a sipper bottle) of clean water in a ceramic crock that can't easily be spilled. Her water needs are high now. This can also be provided with lots of fresh, wet greens (dark green lettuces, cilantro, parsley, mint, dill, kale, etc.).
I hope mama and babies do well, and that you find them all safe, loving homes. (Be sure to adopt them in pairs, and it's best if you have them spayed/neutered before adoption to avoid any more "surprises".)
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: THE INTERNET IS NOT THE PLACE TO SEEK HELP IN AN EMERGENCY.
If your rabbits is LETHARGIC
If your rabbit is NOT EATING
If your rabbit is PHYSICALLY INJURED (including broken bones)
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.
Organizations Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president
National House Rabbit Society (Board member)
Publications Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide
Education/Credentials Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English
Awards and Honors Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology