an inquisitive black and brown pointy eared rabbit sitting in his enclosure with a wooden hidey house and log behind him

Caring for your senior rabbit

As your rabbit gets older, it's important to keep an eye on their health so you can keep them comfortable and happy.

When are rabbits considered senior?

Depending on their size, rabbits are considered to be senior at different ages.

Small and medium rabbits have a longer lifespan and are considered to be elderly between six and eight years old. Large, giant and dwarf breeds have a shorter lifespan and are considered elderly at four years old.

All rabbits age differently and some can show signs of aging sooner than others. If you're concerned about your rabbit, always speak to your vet.

Signs your rabbit is ageing

While all rabbits age differently, there may be some changes that suggest your rabbit has moved into their senior years. They include:

  • loss of muscle or changes in their weight
  • becoming less active
  • sleeping more
  • thinning or greying fur

Becoming less active can be a sign that your rabbit is suffering with arthritis, and may need help to keep them comfortable. If this is the case, book an appointment with your vet.

Health conditions in older rabbits


If your rabbit is starting to slow down as they get older, it's often due to arthritis. Arthritis causes your rabbit's joints become stiff and inflamed due to wear and tear. It's very painful and can prevent them from being able move around comfortably.

While arthritis cannot be cured, your vet will be able to help manage your rabbit's condition.

Signs of arthritis

Rabbits are good at hiding pain, so you'll need to look out for the subtle signs that they may be struggling. Signs include:

  • stiffness when moving
  • struggling to get in and out of their litter tray
  • reluctance to climb different levels in their enclosure
  • struggling to groom or a dirty, wet bottom
  • change in appetite
  • sitting in a hunched position
  • changes in their behaviour, such becoming aggressive towards people or other animals due to pain

If you think your rabbit might be suffering with arthritis, book an appointment with your vet. Pain medication can help make the condition more manageable. You can also make some adjustments to your rabbit's environment to help keep them comfortable.

Sore feet (pododermatitis)

Sitting for long periods of time, especially on hard flooring, can put pressure on your rabbit's feet, causing the skin to become inflamed. This is known as pododermatitis.

As elderly rabbits are less active, they are more at risk of developing the condition. If left untreated, it can cause ulcers or infections on your rabbit's feet.

Signs of pododermatitis

If your rabbit has pododermatitis, the bottom of their feet may:

  • be red or swollen
  • feel hot to the touch
  • show patches of lost fur
  • develop ulcers or sores

The more inflamed your rabbit's feet get, the harder it is to treat so it's important to contact your vet as soon as possible if you notice any signs.

Providing soft flooring such as towels, mats or vet bed, or adding thick layers of straw, hay or sawdust can help to prevent the condition.

Uterine (womb) cancer

Womb cancer is a common problem in older unneutered female rabbits. By the time they are six years old, 80 per cent of unspayed rabbits are likely to have developed a tumour in their uterus. You can prevent this risk by neutering your rabbit.

Read more about the signs of womb cancer in rabbits.

Dental disease

Many rabbits suffer with dental issues throughout their lives, but as your rabbit ages their teeth can become a more significant problem.

Keep an eye out for signs of dental disease and remember to check your rabbit's heath daily.

Overgrown nails

Rabbits that are less active and not wearing their nails down naturally are likely to develop overgrown nails. These can be very painful and uncomfortable, so it's important to keep them short.

Feeding your senior rabbit

Senior rabbits do not need any major changes to their diet. Like all rabbits, they need plenty of hay, with a small amount of pellets and fresh food.

Some brands do sell pellets to suit the dietary needs of senior rabbits, which can be beneficial – just remember to introduce any new pellets gradually to avoid an upset tummy.

How to keep your senior rabbit comfortable

There are some small adjustments that you can make to your rabbit's environment to help keep them comfortable.

Keep food and water within reach

If your elderly rabbit has to reach up to drink their water, or climb levels or ramps to access their food, it could stop them from eating or drinking.

If they are not as active as they used to be, make sure that their hay, pellets and water are all within easy access.

Avoid using too many levels

While many rabbits enjoy using different levels in their enclosure, they can become difficult to use as your rabbit gets older.

Avoid using ramps in their home. Instead think of new ways to make their enclosure interesting on ground level.

Take a look at our enrichment ideas.

Make litter trays accessible

You may notice your older toilet trained rabbit avoiding their litter tray. This could be because they are finding it difficult to hop into. Try using a litter tray with a low lip which is easier for them to access.

Keep them warm

Older rabbits can struggle more in the cold weather, so provide extra hay to snuggle up in and consider using a heat pad to keep your rabbit warm.

Use mats to prevent slipping

Slippery, wooden floors can be nerve-wracking for rabbits with arthritis. Placing non-slip mats on the floor indoors can help your rabbit to feel more confident when moving around.

Losing a senior rabbit

Company is an important part of your rabbits' wellbeing. But as they get older, sadly, one rabbit will often outlive the other.

If your rabbit loses their companion, allow them to spend some supervised time with the body of their friend to help them understand that they have gone.

Losing a friend can be hard on your rabbit, but spending some extra time together following the loss can be reassuring for you both.

Company is essential and many rabbits will benefit from finding a new friend after losing their companion.

Read more about saying goodbye to your small pet.

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• 14 February 2024

Next review

• 15 February 2027

Approved by
Anna Ewers Clark

Veterinary Surgeon MRCVS