Unfortunately, there is no simple method for determining a rabbit’s age. It is undoubtedly impossible to match a rabbit’s age to a particular day or range of years. But, you can identify if the rabbit is getting old by observing a few distinct cues. So, what are the signs that your rabbit is getting old? What age is a rabbit considered old? How to take care of an elder rabbit? Let’s find out all of the answers in this article.
Vision loss, unable to groom, changes in weight, greying fur, and decreased activity level are some signs that indicate your rabbit is getting older. However, aging could lead to health issues like arthritis or heart disease. So consider visiting the vet for regular health checkups of an old rabbit.
This article will briefly discuss the symptoms that indicate your rabbit is getting older, what health issues a more aging rabbit can face, and how to take care of an elder rabbit. So, let’s get into it.
My rabbit is getting older.
The rabbit’s average life span is 5 to 9 years. However, they can also live up to 12 years, depending on the breed and environment.
In addition, a rabbit’s life expectancy is influenced by genetics, diet, and environment, just like humans, as some rabbits live longer than others relying on these or other factors.
Although it can be challenging to tell how old a rabbit is, checking at its feet can offer a hint since its toes tend to roll when rabbits age.
The thin skin of the rabbit’s hocks is pressed down by its weight, which causes your rabbit’s fur to rub away and develop thick skin.
Also, when a rabbit reaches 4 to 5 years of age, it slows down in its activities.
Other symptoms, such as excessive sleeping, loss of appetite, and sadness, should be examined by a veterinarian if they appear in your rabbit.
Aged rabbits may experience some of the same conditions or traits as aging people, which include greying fur, dementia, heart disease, arthritis, and cataracts.
Similarly, the prevalence of cancers in rabbits is rising.
The cutaneous mesenchymal tumors that occur most frequently in rabbits include malignant schwannoma, lipoma, fibrosarcoma, myxosarcoma, and leiomyosarcoma.
These tumors commonly affect young, healthy guys with a mean age of 5 to 6 years in old rabbits.
So, keep an eye out for such growths and bumps, and have a veterinarian examine them.
Also read: My Rabbit Died Suddenly.
How to know that my rabbit is getting older?
Rabbits do age more quickly than people do, but it would be difficult to see any signs as the changes will be gradual.
In addition, some of the symptoms won’t be apparent if your elderly rabbit has received a good-quality environment and health care in their entire life.
The other symptoms, though, will be more noticeable, so you will need to modify your rabbit’s lifestyle as they become older and become more dependent on you for their well-being.
A rabbit reaches senior status at about seven to eight years of age, but some of these symptoms may appear earlier or later depending on their environment and genetics.
When rabbits reach their senior years, they exhibit several signs of aging, which are described below:
1) Vision loss or cloudy eyes:
Cloudy eyes or eyesight loss are two of the earliest and most obvious symptoms that your rabbit is aging.
Eye cloudiness may appear suddenly or gradually, and you may not immediately notice it in your rabbits.
Most treatable eye conditions, such as glaucoma, can be attributed to this as a symptom of cataracts or other eye conditions.
In addition, genes or E cuniculi can both causes cataracts in rabbits.
Additionally, your rabbit can start bumping over objects or have problems finding a toy on the ground or other familiar things, which can be a symptom of visual loss.
Rabbits can readily adapt to having poor vision by using their other senses to explore their environment.
It’s crucial to send your rabbit to an ophthalmologist trained in treating rabbit eyes rather than a general practitioner if blindness or visual loss is discovered.
2) Weight changes:
It is usual for older, less active rabbits to put on weight, and you may need to change your rabbit’s diet to keep them at a healthy weight.
Encourage your rabbit for free-roaming exercise if it is overweight, and avoid providing sugary or fatty treats.
In addition, overweight rabbits can cause high risks of severe health issues like arthritis or heart disease and put too much pressure on their joints.
Additionally, overweight rabbits are more likely to develop sore hawks, and weight changes can also result in weight loss.
And weight loss can occur in rabbits due to the following:
- Reducing muscle mass
- Loss in appetite
- Not getting enough nutrients
- Other illnesses
Even though they eat the same portion of food, aged rabbits might still lose weight.
If this is the case, please see your veterinarian so they can recommend a new diet plan that involves giving your rabbit more food overall, especially pellets.
Also, tracking your rabbit’s weight during these changes is vital for a good scale.
Also read: Why Is My Rabbit Not Eating?
3) Sleeping more than usual:
When a rabbit reaches middle age, their once almost limitless vitality will start to fade.
As a result, they may sleep more or for more extended periods than they used to, or they may not be as eager to exercise or play with you as they once were.
Going to bed earlier, sleeping late, and taking longer naps are all acceptable aging-related variations in rabbit sleep-related hormone secretion.
As the years pass, your rabbit might begin to feel safer and more at ease around you and reduce to a constant need to be on high alert.
In addition, it is better to allow your rabbit to relax and sleep whenever it likes.
However, there are some hours of the day when they feel more energetic, so at that time, you should encourage them to exercise and play.
Morning and evening is the best time when your rabbit feels more active.
However, if your rabbit does not seem particularly motivated to move around when it ought to be more active, it might be experiencing mobility issues.
This condition includes difficulty in moving, eating cecotropes, reduced grooming, or unable to balance on its hind legs.
4) Greying fur or fraying coat:
Rabbits can also go grey when they become old, just like other animals.
Additionally, the hair coat of old rabbits may get much rougher or much thinner than previously.
These black and white hairs will be visible under your rabbit’s mouth, behind its ears, and around its ears, which usually stand out more against coats of dark colors.
In addition, over time, a rabbit’s appearance may get more ragged, and its fur may start to lose its shine, which is perfectly normal.
5) Changes in mobility:
Arthritis is one of the most prevalent conditions linked with your rabbit’s aging.
The smooth motion of the joints is aided by cartilage, which can deteriorate with time and cause joint pain or muscle loss if left untreated.
Rabbits usually get affected by arthritis in the age of middle or senior.
In addition, rabbits over six years old usually have some form of arthritis, although it can occur earlier in some rabbits.
When deciding how to proceed, speak with your veterinarian about supportive care such as physical therapy, joint supplements, or pain relievers for your rabbit.
6) Not using litter box:
Another indication that an elderly rabbit may have arthritis is that it stops using the litter box, as its mobility issues make it difficult for them to jump through a litter box with high sides.
Additionally, it can only indicate that your rabbit has trouble with fluid retention or has forgotten their typical routines.
However, in this case, you should provide a low-sided litter box to make it easy for your rabbit to enter and exit.
Or, instead, you can provide puppy pads around your rabbit’s habitat, so they don’t need to use the litter box by jumping in it.
In addition, your rabbit won’t have to jump over anything or hop over anything to relieve itself.
To dispose of the pad and change it with a fresh one at the end of the day, you may pick it up or sweep it up.
Also read: Why Is My Rabbit Lying In Its Litter Box?
7) Unable to groom properly than usual:
Senior rabbits occasionally fall when being groomed.
Also, older rabbits are more susceptible to fur mites, so you could notice that their skin has noticeable white flakes that resemble dandruff.
Similarly, they can have pee stains on their fur, excrement stuck in their bottoms, and crustier smell glands than usual.
It happens as it’s challenging for senior rabbits to balance, bend, twist, stand, and sit while grooming.
Also, a rabbit’s bottom needs to be kept clean to avoid urinary scalding, which happens when urine soaks into the rabbit’s hair, causing bladder sludge and other digestive issues.
As it will be challenging for them to do it themselves, you can assist your rabbit by brushing them, clearing its eye discharge, wiping its bottoms if needed, cleaning its scent glands, and even helping them scratch.
8) Decrease in activity level:
A young rabbit with hyperactivity will frequently be seen performing zoomies and air binkies.
In addition, they tend to be more alert, curious, and disruptive.
However, when your rabbit starts getting older, they slow down and prefer to rest and relax most of the day.
Your rabbit might run slower or jump as high, and it might be less likely to destroy things randomly.
9) Become sensitive to changes in temperature:
Rabbits are often quite sensitive to extreme temperature fluctuations, and this sensitivity only gets worse as they get older.
In addition, older rabbits are not able to withstand extremely high or cold temperatures.
On the other side, excessive heat might make rabbits anxious, and because they cannot sweat, rabbits can only cool themselves through panting.
Without water, cool shade, and sufficient airflow, they can overheat and possibly pass out due to ineffective panting.
If you notice that your rabbit reacts uncomfortably to unexpected temperature changes, take this as a sign that it is aging and adjust the temperature to suit it.
Elderly rabbits should ideally be kept in indoor enclosures where you have better control over temperature variations.
Also read: Do Rabbits Need Sunlight?
10) Changes in hearing:
Rabbits have sharp hearing that allows them to notice sounds that human ears cannot pick up.
However, as your rabbit ages, its intense hearing may diminish, and it could lose its hearing altogether.
Additionally, some breeds of rabbits are more susceptible to ear issues as they age.
Your rabbit will rely significantly on its sense of hearing unless born deaf.
It assists the rabbit in learning and comprehending commands and its surroundings, in addition to helping it in spotting potential predators.
If your rabbit doesn’t react to loud or unusual noises or its ears don’t flip in the direction of the disturbance’s source, it may lose its hearing.
A rabbit with hearing loss may become extremely disturbed, so you must be more careful and patient with it than usual.
Try your best to move slowly and within the rabbit’s line of sight.
To reassure your rabbit you are not a threat, you should also let it smell you.
What age is a rabbit considered old?
The lifespan of a pet rabbit is generally thought to be between 7 and 12 years, but this can vary greatly depending on the environment and factors like the bunny’s size.
Every rabbit is unique, and there is a significant difference, for instance, between a giant rabbit and a little lop.
Smaller rabbits have considered seniors starting around 7 to 8 years of age, whereas giant rabbits age more quickly and are typically considered seniors beginning around the age of 4 to 5.
If your rabbit is under nine months, it is considered a young rabbit; if it is around nine months to 4 – 5 years of age, it is known as an adult rabbit.
However, if your rabbit’s age is above 4 to 5, it is considered an elder rabbit.
Also read: Can You Introduce A Baby Rabbit To An Older?
What are the health issues of aged rabbits?
Elder rabbits are more prone to health issues, especially when they do not get suitable needs and environments.
Even though most health issues don’t pose a life-threatening risk, they can nevertheless be uncomfortable and restrict the rabbit’s mobility, so you’ll need to take additional care of them.
An older rabbit will also be more vulnerable to sickness and infection, which could be fatal.
Do not assume that a change in behavior or health is due to “old age.” Instead, see your veterinarian.
So that you can identify any early signs of disease, you should keep a close check on their behavior and general health.
Here are some health issues listed below, which could be severe if not treated on time:
It is becoming more widely acknowledged that arthritis affects elderly rabbits.
A rabbit may exhibit symptoms of arthritis, such as hock sores, flystrike, unable to groom, and difficulty climbing, running, or using ramps.
Also, due to wear and strain, rabbits can develop arthritis in their joints.
Adult rabbits frequently develop spondylosis, a kind of spine arthritis that causes discomfort and immobility.
It’s crucial to remember that rabbits are experts at masking their suffering, so keeping an eye out for minute indications of discomfort is essential.
If you observe any of these symptoms, talk to your veterinarian and ask about using painkillers.
To relieve tight and aching joints, veterinarians can give anti-inflammatory medicines. As a result, they might even be able to binky once more.
In older rabbits, dental disease is usually common because their teeth develop continuously during their lifetimes.
Age-related changes in the form and structure of a rabbit’s skull make it more susceptible to dental disease.
Your rabbits’ teeth naturally grind if they consume a healthy diet, especially hay.
However, the jaw joint may weaken when your rabbit age, leading to dental problems like loose or out-of-place teeth, which may lead to painful, sharp teeth spurs that need veterinary care.
Consult your veterinarian if you detect any changes in your rabbits’ eating habits, decreased feces, swelling around the mouth, or salivation.
In addition, your rabbits’ oral and digestive health must remain in top condition; thus, routine dental checkups are crucial.
Pododermatitis ( sore hocks ):
Many causes of pododermatitis (sore hocks) exist, but older, inactive, or overweight rabbits are more susceptible.
Many elderly rabbits develop pododermatitis on their back legs, also known as sore hocks.
A rabbit with sore hocks may experience significant pain and require medical attention.
Open wounds, redness, swelling, scabs, tougher skin on their hocks, and hair loss on your rabbit’s affected feet are some signs of sore hocks.
In addition, any wounds may be cleaned by your veterinarian, and they may also recommend some light painkillers.
Offering your rabbits a lot of fresh bedding material can help provide some protection from sore hocks.
The pressure that your rabbit puts on its hocks should be reduced by covering its enclosure and play area with mats, blankets, carpets, or other soft surfaces to speed up the healing process.
In addition, to keep its wounds clean, you will need to clean these blankets and soft objects more frequently.
However, you should change your rabbit’s diet if it is becoming overweight to aid in weight loss.
Obesity puts older rabbits at greater risk for significant health issues like heart disease and can worsen conditions like osteoarthritis.
The primary artery that supplies the rabbit’s heart with oxygenated blood, the aorta, and the heart itself, can become stiff with age.
It may increase the likelihood of cardiac arrhythmias and result in sudden cardiac death.
In addition, a stressed-out rabbit may potentially get a heart attack.
Your senior rabbit may cough more, eat less, have difficulty breathing or moving about, and lose weight more frequently if it has cardiac disease.
Remember that rabbits are clever enough to hide their pain until this condition worsens.
You must notice these symptoms and take your rabbit to the vet immediately to avoid life-threatening issues.
In addition to other drugs, your veterinarian may administer injections of isotonic saline to reduce pain and enhance heart contraction.
The veterinarian will also give you tips on how to alter your rabbit’s diet.
The signs of a rabbit with respiratory issues will be similar to those of a rabbit with heart issues, making it even more crucial to keep an eye on its behavior and health.
The symptoms of respiratory issues in your rabbit are sneezing, having a runny nose, or difficulty in breathing.
A rabbit who resides in a dusty or dirty enclosure or has come into contact with an infected animal may experience respiratory issues.
So, providing a clean and dust-free enclosure and play area for your rabbit is essential.
However, your veterinarian might also recommend medications if illnesses bring on your rabbit’s respiratory problems.
After three years, 80% of female rabbits who are not neutered get uterine cancer.
In addition to enlarged mammary glands, you might experience vaginal discharge, fatigue, and drowsiness.
An operation to remove the uterus should be able to treat cancer successfully if it is discovered in time.
However, early spaying of rabbits when it reaches 5 to 6 months old is the most significant way to prevent this disease entirely.
As with many animals, rabbits are susceptible to cancers that can be fatal and whose risk rises with advancing age.
You can identify warning indicators like weight loss, loss in appetite, behavioral changes, changes in urine or feces, and discharge from bodily openings by doing daily health checks.
Also read: Should I Neuter Or Spay My Rabbit?
Rabbits can be in danger of flystrike if they cannot groom themselves because they are uncomfortable.
Lack of grooming may cause droppings to accumulate on your bunnies’ bums.
Fly striking is an unpleasant condition where flies fall on a rabbit’s bottom and lay eggs that hatch into maggots.
In addition, if a rabbit goes into shock, a fly strike can soon be lethal.
Fly strike affects older and sicker rabbits more than others because they are less active and more prone to feces and urine soiling in warmer temperatures.
Because dirty bottoms are a tempting site for flies to lay eggs, which can be lethal, it is crucial to examine and brush your bunnies every day.
Also read: How To Clean Rabbit Urine Stains
How to take care of an older rabbit?
A well-kept indoor rabbit can live a long life and age gracefully.
However, your rabbit might require nursing care at some point in life.
A commitment you make to your companion animals includes providing for their needs as they age to respect the years of friendship and love you have shared.
So, here are some ways to keep your old rabbit comfortable and happy:
Regular exercise and activities are essential for older rabbits to stay healthy and prevent health issues.
In addition, due to a lack of exercise, senior rabbits frequently become obese.
However, you shouldn’t anticipate them to be particularly active.
It would help if you urged them to get up and walk around to maintain their health and fitness.
Providing them with playthings or hiding treats they can find while moving about is a great idea so they can play with them.
Avoid frightening your rabbit by making loud noises or performing other stressful actions.
When their surroundings undergo repeated changes, rabbits can also become stressed.
Stress is harmful to rabbits of all ages. They are easily startled and are susceptible to deadly heart attacks.
Age only makes this worse. Keep the area where your rabbit lives peaceful and quiet.
So, avoid making any additional changes to their daily schedule or environment.
Use soft rugs and carpet:
Most of the time, slick surfaces like hardwood and linoleum flooring are complex for rabbits to explore.
In addition, as individuals age, their muscles weaken, which worsens this issue.
Placing carpets and rugs on the floor gives your rabbit’s feet comfort while it walks or hops.
Your rabbit won’t fall because of the non-slip surface, which keeps them upright.
Since hopping on soft surfaces is easier on their joints, this is especially beneficial for rabbits that suffer from arthritis.
Provide proper diet:
You’ll need to modify your rabbit’s diet to suit its needs as it ages.
Before making any precise modifications, it is best to speak with your veterinarian; however, you can anticipate making the following dietary changes for your rabbit:
- Hay: A rabbit’s primary food source should be hay. High-quality hay helps keep rabbits’ digestive systems in check. Among the greatest possibilities for feeding your rabbits are timothy hay, oat hay, and orchard hay. If your rabbit is underweight, encourage it to eat more hay.
- Pellets: As they age, some rabbits tend to lose weight; thus, they require additional pellets to put on healthy weight. Don’t overfeed your pet with pellets, though, since this could lead to digestive issues. Before feeding your rabbits, ensure you get high-quality pellets and carefully read the package.
- Veggies or leafy greens: Older rabbits occasionally avoid eating vegetables due to tooth problems. However, a lack of fresh food can lead to other issues. So, be sure to feed enough veggies and leafy greens to your rabbit. Chop the tough veggies finely to make them easier to eat. Be sure to wash the fresh fruits, veggies, and leafy greens before feeding them.
- Water: A constant supply of fresh, clean water should be available for your rabbit. Regular washing will keep the water bottles and bowls clean.
Also read: How Much Food Should I Feed My Rabbit?
Low excess litter box:
Older rabbits avoid using litter boxes, as we’ve already mentioned, because doing so causes their joints to stiffen and hurt.
However, they enjoy using their litter box, so have a box with a low entrance that is easily accessible.
Another alternative is to cover the top of a litter box with a thick layer of bedding or hay.
In addition to providing a soft surface, this will also provide more traction.
Petting and massaging:
Pet and massage your rabbit frequently since it will want you to spend time with them.
The prolonged sitting alone can upset your pet, so avoid letting them do it.
Rabbits adore being petted and given care. As your rabbit become older, they become even more attention-seeking.
To assist them in unwinding and decompressing, be sure to pat them frequently and offer them massages.
You can look for any physical abnormalities while massaging, such as stiff muscles, swelling or bulges, changes in the coat, an unaligned bone structure, etc.
- The rabbit’s average life span is 5 to 9 years. However, they can also live up to 12 years, depending on the breed and environment.
- Aged rabbits may experience some of the same conditions or traits as aging people, which include greying fur, dementia, heart disease, arthritis, and cataracts.
- A rabbit’s life expectancy is influenced by genetics, diet, and environment, just like humans, as some rabbits live longer than others relying on these or other factors.
- Cloudy eyes or eyesight loss are two of the earliest and most obvious symptoms that your rabbit is aging.
- Arthritis is one of the most prevalent conditions linked with your rabbit’s aging.