Health FAQ

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How long do rabbits live?

Domestic rabbits have been recorded to live an average of 6 to 13 years, with the longest known rabbit living a whopping 18 years.[1][2]

Wild rabbits in an enclosure and receiving supplementary winter feed were recorded surviving a maximum of 7.7 and 8.7 years (female and male, respectively).[2] The longest life span recorded for a female European rabbit in the wild is 7.6 years.[2]

How Long Do Rabbits Live?

How can I age my rabbit?

It is difficult to age living rabbits with any degree of accuracy. The only criteria to make an assessment of age during clinical examinations are the size and appearance of the rabbit, which can vary greatly according to breed and state of health and experience. The ears of a rabbit may give an indication -- they are soft in young rabbits and become tougher with age.[3]

Rabbits can be aged with accuracy by counting the adhesion lines in the jaw, but this technique cannot be used with living rabbits.[3]

What is a dewlap?

Female rabbits (does) often have a large fold of skin over the throat called a dewlap. Breeding does will pull fur from this area to line their nests before kindling. The dewlap can be large in older rabbits and can sometimes be mistaken for an abscess.[2]

Moist dermatitis often develops in this area.[2]

When do rabbits mature?

The age at which rabbits reach sexual maturity vary significantly by breed. Biologically, puberty occurs just after the maximal rate of growth. On the growth velocity curve, sexual maturity occurs at the point at which growth is still taking place but the rate decelerates rapidly.[2] As a result, body weight is more important than age when determining sexual maturity. On average, sexual maturity occurs when the rabbit reaches 80% of its adult body weight.[4]

A method of determining sexual maturity in female rabbits (does) is to examine the vulva. Does that are ready to breed, regardless of age, are those that have a moist, swollen, reddish-pink vulva. When does are not ready to mate, the vulva is small and whitish in color with very little moisture observed.[5]

Small breeds develop more rapidly and are mature at 4 to 5 months of age. Medium-sized breeds mature at 4 to 6 months, and large breeds reach maturity at 5 to 8 months of age. Female rabbits mature earlier than males.[2]

Among New Zealand white rabbits, females reach maturity at approximately 5 months and males at 6 to 7 months of age.[2] The small Polish or Miniature Lop usually are ready to breed around 3.5 to 4 months of age, the medium weight Californian, etc., at 4.5 to 5.5 months of age, and the large Flemish at 6 to 7 months.[4][5]

How long can rabbits reproduce for?

The reproductive life of a rabbit depends on its breed, but it is about 5 to 6 years for a male rabbit and up to 3 years for a female.[2]

How can I determine my rabbit's age?

How to Determine a Rabbit's Age

What diseases can I catch from my rabbit?

Zoonotic diseases that you can catch from your rabbit include the following:[6]

  • Mites. Can cause a mild rash in humans. People may get mites when petting or holding an infested rabbit.
  • Pasteurella. Can lead to a wound infection if an infected rabbit bites a human.
  • Snuffles due to Bordetella bronchiseptica. Can cause a mild, self-limiting cough in humans.
  • Fleas.
  • Ringworm.
  • Tularemia. An illness that is carried by wild rabbits in Europe and North America. Can be severe and fatal to humans.
  • Salmonella.
  • Listeria.
  • Pseudotuberculosis.

Potentially zoonotic diseases that you cannot catch from you rabbit include the following:[6]

Extra resources

What diseases can my rabbit catch from me?

Rabbits are naturally susceptible to one type of herpes simplex virus from humans, HSV-1.[7]:258

Ringworm is also another zoonotic disease that can possibly be transmitted between humans and rabbits.

Extra resources

Are bromelain from pineapples and papain from papayas effective at treating hairballs in rabbits?

There is some debate about the usefulness of these enzymatic products. As Dr. Anna Meredith writes,[8]

The usefulness of enzymatic products (e.g. papain) to digest hairballs is debatable – these products do not actually digest hair but may help to break down the matrix holding the material together. Pineapple juice is often advocated as it contains the enzyme bromelain, (and papaya contains the enzyme papain) but these are high in simple sugars and low in fibre, which may promote an imbalance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut. In reality anecdotal reports of pineapple juice helping with hairballs is probably due to it providing rehydration and being an energy source.

Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery also notes,[9]

Caution owners against the use of protein-digesting enzymes, as these can be very irritating to oral mucosa and potentially gastric mucosa. The risk of gastric ulceration is increased in anorexic rabbits, and use of these enzymes may exacerbate this.

Dana Krempels, Mary Cotter, and Gil Stanzione write,[10]

Only fresh or frozen pineapple will provide active enzymes (bromelain). However, neither bromelain nor papain (papaya enzyme) dissolves keratin, the main protein component of hair. The sugars in pineapple juice may actually promote overgrowth of Clostridium spp.

See Gastrointestinal stasis for more appropriate treatments when your rabbit is having digestive issues.


  1. Harcourt-Brown, F. (2001). Textbook of Rabbit Medicine. (1st ed.).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Quesenberry, K & Carpenter, J. (2012). Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery. (3rd ed.).
  3. 3.0 3.1 Varga, M. (2013). Textbook of rabbit medicine. (2nd ed.).
  4. 4.0 4.1 Richardson, V.C.G. (2000). Rabbits: Health, Husbandry and Diseases.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Mcnitt, J.I et al. (2013). Rabbit Production . (9th ed.).
  6. 6.0 6.1 Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund. (2005). Pet rabbits & your health. Retrieved 9 May 2016 from
  7. Barthold, S. W., Griffey, S. M., & Percy, D. H. (2016). Pathology of laboratory rodents and rabbits. (4th ed.).
  8. Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund. (2010). The Rabbit digestive system: A delicate balance. Retrieved 7 Mar 2016 from
  9. Quesenberry, K & Carpenter, J. (2012). Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents: Clinical Medicine and Surgery. (3rd ed.).
  10. Krempels, D, Cotter, M & Stanzione, G. (2000). Ileus in Domestic Rabbits. Retrieved 31 Jan 2017 from