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Health Emergency: How to Help a Choking Rabbit

How to: Heimlich maneuver for rabbits

The Small Pet Select Comm/Marketing Team is always looking for blog suggestions. We hopped on this topic immediately after our Graphic Designer, Julia, told us she saved her house rabbit, Patrick, from choking. Patrick is the handsome bun in the photo at the top of the blog. Julia is a certified House Rabbit Society Educator and teaches rabbit health classes for the San Diego House Rabbit Society. While it was several years since she was trained to help a choking rabbit, she sprang into action after noticing Patrick choking on his pelleted rabbit food. Bunny pawrents need to know how the signs of rabbit choking and how to help. Of course, your rabbit requires vet care after the choking resolves, too; you’ll want to read on to get all the deets.

Rabbit Choking Signs

How do you know your bun is choking? If your rabbit is in obvious distress and having trouble breathing, she might be choking. While you quickly assess her, Special Bunny Rescue outlined what to look for:

  • Frantic behavior.
  • Head up and back.
  • Loud, rattley, or open-mouth breathing.
  • Lips and nose turning blue.
  • Running from you when you try to assist.
  • Your bunny might scream.
  • Fluid or mucus will be coming out of the mouth and nose.
Pet first aid

Hop into Action

You won’t have time to get your choking rabbit to the emergency room; YOU MUST ACT NOW. To execute the Heimlich Maneuver properly, it's best to get training from your trusted exotic vet or the medical team at a rabbit rescue. However, thanks to Special Bunny Rescue and House Rabbit Society, we’ve got two videos that show you what to look for, what to do, and stories from other bunny pawrents. Just click the bolded font, and it will take you to the videos on YouTube.

Also, MediRabbit shared a presentation from the Georgia House Rabbit Society outlining the Heimlich Maneuver steps. We’re sharing those along with more advice from Special Bunny Rescue:

1. Get control of your rabbit. This will probably be difficult because the bun will be frantic. However, you MUST be brave and bold and catch your rabbit.

2. Check the mouth if you can see if there is an obvious obstruction. You may get bitten. Often, the blockage can't be seen or felt (it's usually food)

3. Perform a bunny Heimlich Maneuver–see videos. The three critical things to remember:

  • Protect the spine and hold the rabbit tightly.
  • Wipe any fluid as it comes out of the mouth or nose to avoid aspiration.
  • You are using gravity and any air in the lungs to try to force the blockage out.
  • OR, depending on where the blockage is, stroke the throat upward toward the mouth (Clear the nasal passage and mouth by wiping away mucous)

4. Once the rabbit is calmer, you can syringe out mucous or other foreign matter with a bulb syringe (If you don't have one, clear as much mucous out as you can, with a damp cloth or paper towel).

Next Step: Visit The Vet

Whew, you were able to get the blockage dislodged. Good job! The next step is to contact your trusted exotic vet or take the bun to the closest emergency animal hospital. Why you ask? Even though your rabbit choking episode is over, if they inhaled any mucous or fluid in his lungs, it could cause pneumonia or a respiratory infection. Therefore, it is likely the vet will prescribe antibiotics.

We're all ears graphic

Choking for any living being is scary. Our loveable lagomorphs are so fragile, but we can’t imagine life without them. They deserve to have a safe forever family skilled at caring for them in health emergencies. As stated before, your trusted exotic vet or rabbit rescue can teach you everything you need to know.

If you’ve had a rabbit health emergency, we’d love to hear about it. Email your story to hoomans@smallpetselect.com or post on our socials. Thanks for reading and supporting our small, family-owned company.

DISCLAIMER: The links and information are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by Small Pet Select of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation or organization or individual.


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