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Rabbit Health:
CPR for Your Rabbit

CPR for your Rabbit

Here is a brief primer on the A, B, Cs of CPR for your rabbit adapted from Animal Rights Online, Michelle A. Rivera, Feb. 20, 2005.

Keep in mind that the following basic instruction is not intended to take the place of a visit to your veterinary clinic or pet emergency hospital, which should always be your first plan in an emergency. However, if treatment can be started on the scene or en route to an emergency veterinarian, a life may very well be saved.


Any animal, no matter how docile and sweet, can become fiercely protective of himself when in pain so your safety should be your first concern. Do not attempt CPR unless the animal is unconscious, both for safety and for the health of the animal. CPR should never be performed on a conscience, combative animal.

Airway: First: Call your rabbit's name to see if there is any response. If no response, carefully lean down close and look, feel and listen.

Look at the chest, rib cage, and flanks to see if there is a rise and fall, feel on your cheek or the back of your hand for breath coming from the nose, listen for breath sounds. Check to see if any foreign bodies are lodged back in the throat.

Breathing: If your rabbit is not breathing, pull the tongue out just a little, close the mouth and tilt their head back slightly to open the airway. Administer 4-5 breaths mouth to the nose. That is, close their mouth and gently breathe into their nose through your mouth. If squeamish about this, cover the nose with a light tissue, gauze or other flimsy material. You want to breath out just enough to make the chest rise. Larger rabbits will need more breath; little rabbits will need much less. Don't give too much or you will injure the lungs. Do at a rate of once per second.

Circulation: Check to see if their heart is beating. Check for a heartbeat (pulse). A pulse on a rabbit can usually be felt in the central artery of the ear. A femoral pulse (inside of the rear leg, towards the top of the leg in the groin area) can sometimes be found but it is not as easily located as on a cat or dog. If there is a pulse but no breathing, continue to perform mouth to nose resuscitation at the rate of 1 breath every second. If there is no pulse, begin CPR.

For small animals like rabbits, the technique is different than it is for larger animals. Place the rabbit flat on the ground. Gently compress the heart between first finger and thumb at the rate of 70-90 times per minute. Begin compressions at only 1/2 inch - 1 inch deep (depending on the size of the rabbit) and give one breath for every three compressions. Do this gently as the rabbit's skeleton is fragile. Check for pulse.