Medicating your rabbit

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This page goes over instructions, tips, and resources for a few basic medical procedures that rabbit owners are likely to need to do for their rabbits at least once in their lifetime.

Giving an enema

A foster rabbit with acute constipation getting an enema at the veterinarian.

Enemas can help hydrate hardened fecal matter when facing a GI stasis crisis. Please contact your veterinarian first before trying to give an enema to your rabbit, as the risk of colon puncture is a real possibility.[1]

The following are some resources on giving rabbits an enema:

"How to Give Your Pet Bunny an Enema" starring Zuma

Giving eye drops

Below are some relevant vidoes about giving rabbits eye drops.

Calgary Avian & Exotic Pet Clinic. (2020). Rabbit Eye Drops
Melanie N. (2012). Rocky getting his eye drops

A few websites with their own instructions and videos:

Giving ear drops

Below are some relevant vidoes about giving rabbits ear drops.

Nina and Popcorn. (2020). FIVE TIPS: Administer Ear Drops for a Rabbit


Schiller being a good boy and doing his nebulizing for his chronic snuffles. Image (c) and used with direct permission from wannabecanuck.

Nebulizing is a treatment often given for upper and lower respiratory infections. Here is an example of a medical nebulizer for small animals.

The following are some resources on nebulizing rabbits.

Here are some videos about placing rabbits in a nebulizer.

MediRabbit, Nebulizer
How to Nebulize a Rabbit

Below are some experiences with nebulizing as a treatment.

Oral medication

While some rabbits may enjoy the taste of their medication and eat it from the syringe directly with pleasure, most often, rabbits do not like having syringes near their face and liquids squirted forcefully in their mouths. Syringe-feeding oral medications can be stressful and a struggle.

If you need to feed a pill to your rabbit, obtain a pill crusher to help convert it to a more liquid form.

Howcast. (2013). How to Give a Rabbit a Pill

The following tips may help bribe your rabbit into voluntarily eating their medication instead of needing to forcefully restrain and medicate them.

  • Tricking your rabbit with fruit or another treat either by putting the medication in the middle of the treat or syringing in medication in your rabbit's mouth from the side while the bunny is busy trying to eat the treat.
    u/Havoc_918. (2018). Snowy loves his food...and his meds
  • Drizzle the medication on a lettuce leaf, fruit slice, or other treat. Banana and apple slices work well at masking most tastes. While bread is not recommended as a regular food for rabbits due to the large amounts of starch, it is safe in limited amounts and small bites of whole wheat bread can be used to soak up the medication and fed as a treat.
  • Dress their pellets with the medication. This can be done either in a spoon or a bowl depending on pellet quantity. Often, if the rabbits won't consume the pellets immediately, they will nibble on them over the next hour and consume their medication effectively that way. Here is an image album from /u/PeppermintBee demonstrating the technique.
  • Mixing the medication with baby food, a sugar-free jam, or applesauce to mask the taste.
  • Ask your veterinarian to compound the medication with a sweet flavor like apple, banana, or marshmallow.

If no amount of bribery will work, the following are some tips to help you restrain your rabbit:

  • Use a two-door carrier to catch your rabbit and use the top entry to corner and stuff a syringe in their mouth.
  • Catch your rabbit in a carrier and walk around for a minute or so to slightly stress the rabbit and make them easier to handle.
  • Use an unfamiliar location to medicate your rabbits like a table top, bathroom, or dresser surface.
  • Kneeling over a feisty Netherland Dwarf for her daily medication.
    While kneeling on the ground, hold your rabbit firmly between your thighs and block the rear entry with your feet so they are unable to back out of the trap. Bend over your rabbit to put the syringe in their mouth. If you have a bad back, you can make a similar restraining position on a low table with your chest, armpit, and arm.
  • Use a bunny burrito for restraint. See Grooming#Bunny burrito for tips.

As a general tip, we recommend giving the best tasting medications first to your rabbits, especially if they'll eat them on their own. Rabbits will tend to thrash and resist harder and harder once they taste medication that they don't like, even if the latter medicines are better tasting.

The following links have more information on methods on giving your rabbit their oral medication.

Here are some videos about various strategies to orally medicate rabbits.

Calgary Avian & Exotic Pet Clinic. (2020). Medicating Rabbits
Pet Emergency & Specialty Center San Diego. (2011). Administering Oral Medication to a Rabbit
Avian and Exotic Animal Care. (2020). How to give oral meds to a rabbit using a "bunny burrito"
Howcast. (2009). How to Give Medication to a Rabbit
boozybunnies. (2021). 3 Simple Ways to Give Medicine to a Stubborn Bunny
C T. (2017). Syringe Administration - Wick
/u/LadyFleata. (2012). Bunnies taking medicine

Syringe feeding

Force feeding recovery foods such as Critical Care can be a much more daunting task than oral medications due to the amount of food that needs to be fed and the amount of time needed for the procedure. This is something that most rabbit owners will need to learn to do due to bouts of GI stasis, dental issues, or during recovery from a major surgery such as a spay.

Do not force feed rabbits if they have obstructive bloat, and please take your rabbit to an emergency hospital immediately instead. Force feeding rabbits with an intestinal blockage can rupture their stomach.
We recommend filling up the oral syringes from the back of the barrel by spooning the food in directly or with a funnel after removing the plunger rather than trying to draw up the solution from the tip. This helps to reduce the amount of air in the barrel for feeding as well as minimize the amount of liquid needed to constitute the recovery food powder.
Using a small funnel to fill a large syringe full of recovery food.

If you are unable to locate a syringe for oral feeding in an emergency, you can try to assist feed by using a Ziploc bag. Fill the bag with the liquid food, cut a small corner off, and squeeze the food out of the bag through the tip to feed.

A few tips specific to syringe feeding recovery food vs. medicating a small amount of medication:

  • Give very small volumes of food (less than 1cc at a time) to prevent aspiration.
  • Aim the tip at the opposite cheek rather than the back of the throat to prevent shooting food directly down the throat.
  • Use a large syringe (15cc) and add more water as needed so the food flows out smoothly. You can also cut the tip of the syringe with a pair of scissors to make the feeding opening larger.

Please see the #Oral medication section above for more general tips on handling your rabbit for medication.

The following are a few articles with tips about syringe feeding rabbits:

The following are videos to help demonstrate different effective techniques of restraining a rabbit for force feeding:

Westwood Veterinary Practice. (2020). Syringe feeding a rabbit with kneeling
Calgary Avian & Exotic Pet Clinic. (2020). Rabbit Syringe Feeding Demo
Calgary Avian & Exotic Pet Clinic. (2020). Syringe Feeding Rabbits
CBEAM Center for Bird and Exotic Animal Medicine. (2020). How to syringe feed Herbivore Critical Care to a Rabbit
Pet Care Veterinary Hospital. (2009). How to Syringe Feed a Rabbit
/u/Foinz. (2015). Rabbit feeding and giving medicine with syringe (critical care)

Subcutaneous injections

Subcutaneous injections, also abbreviated as SC, SQ, sub-cu, sub-Q, or subcut injections are given in the fatty layer of tissue under the skin. This method is commonly used to inject medications as well as fluids for hydration.

Below are some additional resources about giving subcutaneous injections to rabbits.

The following are videos of demonstrations of the administration of subcutaneous injections in rabbits.

Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics. (2020). How to give a rabbit an injection under its skin
Tai Wai Small Animal & Exotic Veterinary Hospital. (2012). How to Give a Rabbit Injection (scruff)

Subcutaneous fluids

A Mini Rex given subq fluids with a giving set in a snuggle bed in a carrier on the floor.

Subcutaneous fluids, also abbreviated as SC, SQ, sub-cu, sub-Q, or subcut fluids are fluids given in the fatty layer of tissue under the skin. Many rabbit owners will never need to learn how to do this, but health issues like dehydration, megacolon, and kidney disease may require owners to learn how to do so at home.

There are two ways of giving fluids to rabbits: 1) using a syringe set, and 2) using a drip line (giving) set.

A few tips when giving fluids to rabbits:

  • Common needle gauges when giving fluids to rabbits range from 18 gauge to 21 gauge or thinner. The lower the number, the larger the diameter of the needle and the faster the fluids can be given. However, a thinner needle may be more comfortable to your rabbit.
  • If your fluid bag is cloudy or discolored, discard the bag as it may be contaminated.
  • If you are giving a large amount of fluids to your rabbit (over 20ml), it is recommended to warm the fluids to around body temperature (~100°F) first for their comfort and to prevent lowering their body temperature if your rabbit is unwell. To warm them, you can place the bag directly in a warm bowl of water with the ports out of the water, or if you would like to warm the line as well in a giving set, water-tight in a Ziploc bag. Do not submerge the ports or line directly in water as it can introduce contamination. A sous vide cooker or tea kettle with exact temperature controls can be very helpful for this purpose. A full bag of fluids may take 10-15 minutes to warm up. Do not overheat the fluids - it can cause serious burns under the skin.
  • You may see some (or a larger amount if unlucky) blood or blood-tinged fluid when removing the needle sometimes. This is not a serious issue and means that you hit a blood vessel in the skin when inserting the needle. Pinch the insertion hole or put pressure on it with a paper towel or gauze and make sure it clots and stops bleeding.
  • If using a giving set, always put a new needle on the end of the line when you finish a fluid administration session to prevent contamination traveling up from an old needle.
  • If you have issues inserting and positioning the needle under the skin more than twice, change to a new needle to minimize discomfort.
Hypodermic needles dull quickly with each use.

The following are videos of demonstrations of the administration of subcutaneous fluids using a giving set in rabbits.

Calgary Avian & Exotic Pet Clinic. (2022). How to give subcutaneous fluids to rabbits
Chicago Exotics PC. (2021). How to give your rabbit subcutaneous fluids without a syringe 2/2
The Center For Avian & Exotic Medicine. (2020). Subcutaneous fluids for rabbits
MediRabbit. (2009). Subcutaneous fluid administration
FastUpOnRabbitCare. (2008). Subcutaneous Fluids

The following are videos of demonstrations of the administration of subcutaneous fluids using a syringe set in rabbits.

Chicago Exotics PC. (2020). How to give subcutaneous fluids to your pet rabbit
BunniesOfTheBurrow. (2023). Injecting Subcutaneous Fluids In Rabbits
Avian and Exotic Animal Clinic. (2021). How to Give Subcutaneous Fluids to Companion Mammals
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine Grafton. (2020). How to Administer Subcutaneous (SQ) Fluids—Syringe Method

Taking temperature

Normal rectal temperature for a healthy rabbit should be between 101-104°F or 38.3-40°C.

Infrared thermometers for the ear are not accurate in rabbits as they use their ears as their main thermoregulatory organ, and temperatures will fluctuate greatly whether they are hot or cold.

Here are some resources on taking your rabbit's temperature.

Howcast. (2013). How to Take a Rabbit's Temperature
Georgia House Rabbit Society. (2014). How To Take A Rabbit's Temperature
Rabbits' Ray of Hope. (2021). Vet takes rabbit's temperature!

Further reading

See also


  1. Kathy Smith, Rabbit Health in the 21st century, 2003, p43.