Heart disease is becoming much more common in rabbits as they start to live longer. Find out more about what you can do to keep them healthy.
Heart rate ranges of rabbits
Heart disease can be very difficult to diagnose due to their high heart rate. A rabbit’s resting heart rate ranges between 140 and 180 beats per minute, and stress caused by a visit to the vet can raise this to well over 300 beats per minute (more than five beats a second). This can make it nearly impossible for a vet to monitor heart sounds and spot irregular rhythms without specialist equipment.
If left untreated, heart disease can lead to heart failure which is often fatal.
Symptoms of heart disease in rabbits
While symptoms may not occur in all cases of heart disease, they can include:
- tiredness and decreased activity
- reduced appetite
- sudden weight loss or gain
- increased breathing rate.
It’s important to remember that these signs can indicate a number of underlying issues, so it’s essential that you speak to your vet as soon as possible for diagnosis.
Preventing heart disease in rabbits
Unfortunately, heart disease in rabbits can’t be prevented. Early diagnosis and treatment is the best way to avoid further issues and improve your rabbit’s quality of life.
Regular health checks with your vet are the best way to catch any early signs of heart disease. During the appointment, your vet will perform a full nose-to-tail check of your rabbit’s overall health, including their heart. If they suspect your pet may be having issues, they can also organise further diagnostic tests to ensure any underlying heart conditions are detected as soon as possible.
Treatment and care for rabbits with heart disease
Unfortunately, heart disease in rabbits can’t be cured; however, it can be controlled with the right medication and lifestyle changes. The primary goal of medication is to lower blood pressure and put less strain on the heart, increasing your rabbit’s quality of life. Your vet will assess the individual needs and overall health of your rabbit to decide the best medication and dosage.
Providing a low-stress environment for rabbits with heart disease is essential to keep their heart rate at a normal, healthy level. Maintaining a healthy weight is also important to prevent excess strain on the heart. Providing plenty of space and opportunities to exercise, along with a healthy, balanced diet, can work wonders on their quality of life.
In many cases, rabbits with early or less severe heart disease can live normal, happy lives.
Any changes in your rabbit’s behaviour should be taken seriously. If you notice your rabbit is more lethargic than usual, is having difficulty breathing, or is losing weight, or has a swollen stomach, you should seek advice from a vet immediately.
Give your rabbit a healthy diet, with plenty of hay, vegetables, fruit and pellets. Always ensure clean, fresh water and ensure they have a safe space to get regular exercise and play.