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Rabbits/rapid heart rate


My 9 year old Florida White has a heart rate that seems to be about 400 beats per minute. I first noticed this mid June. I also thought that I detected some raspiness in his breathing. My  veterinarian has been down many rabbit journeys with me in the past 18 years with rabbits but she does not claim to be a rabbit expert.

The course of actions was a 2 week dose of Baytril.

The Baytril seemed to help very little but I no longer detect a raspiness in his breathing.

His chest pumps harder and his nose is constantly working in and out however, it does not seem that he is struggling for breath.

Eddie is the rabbits name and he has had the healthiest history of any rabbit that I have ever had. Urine sludge has been an issue for him. The symptoms have much improved since I no longer feed him alfalfa and greens high in calcium. I also added to his diet raw pumpkin seeds. In addition I was adding 4 drops of of 400mg Magnesium into his 13 ounce water bottle. I suspended this addition to his diet 2 weeks ago.

Eddie's diet , water consumption and activity are all normal for his age. As a matter of fact I would say that he is spryer than any 9 year old rabbit that I have ever had.

The next course of action my veterinarian would like to take is a chest X-ray. This may result in additional medications for the heart rate issue.

Eddie is the most difficult  animal I have ever attempted to give medicines to. I had the Baytril made in a banana flavored suspension. The only way I could get him to take the medicine was to inject the liquid into 1"slices of banana pieces twice a day. This is way more sugar than I am comfortable with him consuming. With this said, I dread the thought of future medication applications.

Thank you for your time.


Dear Kimberly,

I think the chest x ray is a good next step, as it will tell you and the vet whether there is still lung congestion.  If he's not getting enough oxygen, his heart will beat faster, and that's not a good thing.  It is possible he has a thymoma, which could be compressing his lungs and reducing his breathing capacity.  A radiograph will tell that, too.

I'd suggest attaching a pulse-oximeter to a big, obvious blood vessel (e.g., ears) and checking his blood oxygenation levels, just to be sure he's oxygenating adequately, even if he is working too hard to do so.

Tachycardia (abnormally rapid heart rate) can be caused by a number of different problems, including

   damage to heart tissues from heart disease
   congenital heart problems
   electrolyte imbalance

So you can see a lot of detective work might be necessary to get to the bottom of this.  Older rabbits can suffer from congestive heart failure; as the heart fails to pump sufficient volume, it compensates by beating faster.  Not a good thing, if left untreated.  Fortunately, CHF can be treated in rabbits with the same types of drugs used for other mammals.

I hope your vet can find the source of the problem and provide appropriate treatment.



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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.

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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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