A rabbit who has stopped breathing needs immediate help. Even before you transport your rabbit to a rabbit-savvy veterinarian, you may need to initiate CPR. Knowing how to perform CPR on your rabbit, especially when every minute matters, could mean the difference between life and death. Fortunately, performing CPR is a straightforward process.
Is Your Rabbit Breathing?
Before you initiate CPR, you must determine whether your rabbit is breathing:
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- Gently lie him on his back.
- Say his name.
- If he does not respond to his name, look at his chest. Is it rising and falling?
- Put your ear in front of his nose. Can you feel or hear his breathing?
- If you do not hear breathing or see his chest rising, gently tip his head backward and open his mouth to determine if an object, such as a pellet, has become stuck in his throat.
- Remove any obstructions, if possible.
Start CPR Immediately
Only begin CPR once you are certain your rabbit is not breathing. Attempting CPR on a conscious rabbit may cause him to become agitated and combative.
- Tilt your rabbit's head back.
- Place a piece of gauze or a tissue, if possible, over his mouth and nose to prevent disease transmission.
- Put your mouth over your rabbit's mouth and nose.
- Gently breathe into your rabbit's mouth and nose. Your rabbit's chest should rise.
- Put your hand over your rabbit's heart to see if it is beating. You can feel the vein in either of your rabbit's ears to determine if he has a pulse.
- If he has a pulse, gently breathe into your rabbit every five seconds while ensuring he still has a heartbeat. Do not breathe faster or you could injure his lungs.
- If your rabbit's heart is not beating, use your forefinger and thumb to compress his heart.
- Compress on your rabbit's chest between one and two times each second. After every three compressions, give one breath.
- Continue with the CPR for a maximum of five minutes. If your rabbit has not responded in that time, his chance of survival has passed.
Seek Veterinary Assistance
Once your rabbit has stabilized, take him to a rabbit-savvy veterinarian immediately. A veterinarian can determine whether your rabbit needs to be hospitalized, to take antibiotics or is healthy enough to return home.
Not all veterinarians care for rabbits. Find an exotic veterinarian with experience treating rabbits before you are faced with an illness or emergency.