Why Does my Rabbit Lay on His Side? (Don’t Ignore the Signs!)

I would imagine that if you ever came home to your bunnies acting strangely, you would be very concerned. Owning a pet rabbit can be both a blessing and very stressful at the same time.

So why does your rabbit lay on its side?

If your rabbit is laying on its side, it could be sprawling, feeling relaxed and safe, or just tired. However, don’t brush off these assumptions prematurely. This can also be a serious situation resulting from an injury or an illness. There are many ways to assess what’s going on and procedures to follow to avoid and prevent a tragedy.

Before a situation like this could ever occur, you want to be properly trained on what to do and how to do it. Let’s start with the basics.

Why does your rabbit lay on his side?

The fact of the matter is, the reason why your rabbit lays on its side is due to it being tired, sleepy, or bored. And this is the reasoning most of the time.

If you’ve taken your rabbit out for a walk or played throughout the yard, there’s a good chance he’ll be exhausted.

But in case you’re wondering, I’ve compiled every benign reason why your rabbit might be lying on its side.

Your rabbit might be feeling relaxed and safe

Have you ever just finished a wonderful meal and all you want to do is lay down on the floor, stretch out all your arms and legs, and lay there for a bit?

This is kind of how a rabbit can feel sometimes when it has had a full meal of delicious hay and veggies.

There’s a term for this and it’s called ‘sprawling’ or it is also called ‘flopping.’ Sprawling or flopping is when a rabbit lies down on its side or stomach with its arms and legs all extended. His head might press comfortably down on the floor or even float up above the ground. Sometimes it will even wiggle on the ground.

This is a sign of comfort and relaxation. There’s no reason to be concerned here. Just like if you were to come home from a busy day at work and simply lay on your bed.

Rabbits are very much like humans. The thought of relaxing, stretching, and lying flat out on a flat surface is always a welcoming feeling. Your rabbit could also tuck its legs underneath its body and lay down with both its legs and paws pointing forward.

Sprawling is a sign of a healthy and happy rabbit. You might even coincidentally see your bunny’s eye rollback.

If your rabbit happens to sprawl right in front of you, you’re in luck. It means that you have earned your rabbit’s trust. Your rabbit is at ease and it doesn’t perceive any dangers in the area.

A rabbit that happens to lay flat on its back would be considered at the maximum comfort mentality.

Now imagine the alternative. In the wild, a rabbit normally is sprawling because it has to always be on alert for predators. That means that its hands and feet would be firmly placed on the floor and ready to spring at any moment. Its ears would be pointing straight up listening to any peculiar sounds to avoid.

Pet rabbits are now natively trusting and have learned to relax and stay comfortable in many otherwise subtle situations due to being domesticated.

There might be some sort of health condition or injury

Another thing you’re going to have to ask yourself is if this is something serious. It’s understandable to ignore the fact that a rabbit may be lying down due to being tired and relaxing.

But it’s another thing to not have the thought in mind that there may be something medically wrong with your pet.

If you’ve come across your rabbit lying down on its side for a longer period than 10 or 15 minutes, then I would recommend checking and seeing if your rabbit can get up.

Certain physical injuries can unknowingly happen to you, and severely disable your pet rabbit’s ability to move.

It is also a good idea to check your rabbit’s breathing. One of the most common and dangerous health factors around rabbits is GI stasis.

If you ever see your rabbit curling up into a ball and/or lying down on its side, this should be a concern.

You may not notice it happening at first, but your rabbit will begin to lose energy and become incredibly fatigued from all the breathing.

This isn’t an issue that is going to go away, you have to make sure to assess the problem.

I’ve written an article on how to identify certain illnesses that a rabbit can have and what to do when it happens. You can find it in my article titled, “Rabbit Throwing Up: It’s Way More Dangerous Then You Think!

Don’t wait until it’s too late, contact your veterinarian right away. This could very well be a life-threatening issue.

The temperature and environment might be to blame

Exhaustion is a pretty serious thing in the rabbit world. It can especially be dangerous in the case of high temperatures.

You going to have to ask yourself, is the house too hot? Or is it even too cold?

The ideal temperature for a rabbit to live in is between the range of 55 to 70° Fahrenheit (12 – 21° C).

It’s very important that your house sustains temperatures between these ranges. Some rabbits have also been known to be okay in temperatures up to 85° F.

However, any more than this for an extended period of time may actually cause your rabbit to have a heat stroke.

Rabbits don’t tolerate heat well especially for rabbits with a lot of furs.

If you are careful and experienced, there are a group of people who recommend that you trim your rabbit’s fur down so that the body heat inside your rabbit could be released cooling it down.

If you do choose this path, just know that you have to be very careful. Their skin is very delicate, and you could potentially pierce or harm your rabbit.

If the environment is too cold, however, you could always cover your rabbit up with some cotton rags lying around your house.

What does a healthy rabbit look like?

Rabbit laying on side - AboutEverythingPets.com
Rabbit laying on the side

Being healthy can actually be identified visually by you on your pet rabbit.

If your rabbit’s eyes are clear and bright and the tissue underneath his eyelids is a normal light pinkish color then everything should be great.

Your rabbit’s ears must also be clean and unobstructed. If you see anything impeding the ear canal and being lodged inside, try to remove it.

Cleaning the ears of a rabbit is simple and it’s similar to cleaning your own.

If you see your rabbit’s nose constantly running with a color other than clear.

A rabbit’s foot should be free of sores. When rabbits are too sedentary, and they pretty much stay in one place, there’s a strong possibility of sores being developed in areas that are constantly having pressure on them.

Finally, a really good indicator of a rabbit’s good health would be the quality of its fur. Check around for any issues regarding your rabbits, which may include bald areas, rashes on the skin underneath the areas of the fur, or any insect that is currently torturing your bunny.

What does an unhealthy rabbit look like?

Sometimes when a rabbit is having issues or some type of illness the symptoms can actually show up in the eyes.

If you believe there are any issues with your rabbit at the moment, try to lift up the eyelid and check inside the pocket of the eyelid. If you see the color pink then your rabbit is okay. However, if you see the color red, then this may indicate that there is some sort of infection in your rabbit’s eye.

Ear infections are also possible with rabbits. Check inside both your rabbit’s ears. Look for any redness or overly secreted ear wax. These can be signs and symptoms of an ear infection.

Clean out your rabbit’s ear if necessary with a Q-tip or a very soft cotton towel.

As you move down from the ears? Be sure to spread your rabbit’s lips up to take a quick glance at his teeth. Hope to see if they are any deeply red gums, or if the front incisors are broken.

This kind of thing happens a lot, especially if your rabbit is not getting the proper hay diet.

Ultimately, if your rabbit isn’t moving even after nudging it, then you might have a serious problem in your hands. Take into account and note in your mind if your rabbit is becoming more aggressive.

Also, you can make sure that your rabbit is properly eating the food in front of it. Now, we can’t always force these creatures to eat all the time especially when they don’t want to. We can, however, record how long it’s been since your rabbit has last eaten.

Any longer than 12 hours is a major cause for concern and you should immediately get your rabbit to the veterinarian for further assessments.

The bottom line

If you ever happen to catch your rabbit lying down on its side (a position either known as ‘sprawling’ or ‘flopping’) with his legs and paws stretched out or tucked in, it’s that you check up on it right away. You never know what could be the problem.

Remember to check up on your rabbit frequently, and make sure its breathing isn’t too frantic or heavy.

If you do suspect that there is something wrong with your rabbit, I recommend taking him to the vet as soon as you can.

Your vet will have the tools and the knowledge on how to help your pet rabbit get better.

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Author: John