Rabbits can’t vomit, so they don’t get literally sick from traveling in the car – but most rabbits do get stressed and frightened. There are several things you can do to make a car journey as smooth and stress-free as possible for your rabbit.
The general rule of thumb is to not take your rabbit in the car unless you have to – like if you need to go to the vet.
Sometimes taking your rabbit in the car is inevitable, but it can be a stressful experience for both you and your rabbit.
Check out these tips on the best and safest ways to take your rabbit in the car:
- Plan in advance: By planning, you can allocate extra time, bring along some supplies in case it takes longer than you expected, and get a carrier.
- Get a good carrier: You want a carrier that’s big enough, has good ventilation, is easy to access and clean, is secure, and has a handle or strap to move it.
- Let your rabbit get used to the carrier: Try leaving it out for several days before so your rabbit can explore it and give them treats when they go in.
- Prevent dehydration: Rabbits often don’t like eating or drinking when traveling. If it’s a long journey they could easily get sick. You could plan a rest break to feed and water them on the way to help with this.
- Secure the carrier in the car: The safest place for the carrier is lengthwise in the footwell behind the driver or passenger’s seat. You could also line the floor under the carrier with towels to reduce the vibrations.
- Make sure it’s a good temperature: Cooler is better. Rabbits can easily overheat, so having the AC on but not aimed at rabbits keeps them cool and is quieter than having the window open. If possible, avoid putting them in direct sunlight too.
- Keep it quiet: This means no loud music or radio that’d be overwhelming for your rabbit. Perhaps try an audiobook, podcast, or classical music that’s something for you to listen to and calm enough to not upset your rabbits.
- Comfort your rabbit: new experiences and cars are scary to rabbits, so taking the time to pet and soothe them will make a huge difference.
- Watch out for health issues: Always look out for signs that your rabbit is unwell. This can be tricky to work out whether they’re out of sorts because of the car, or developing a far more serious issue. Don’t take chances here as rabbits can deteriorate super quickly.
- Plan accommodation in advance: If you’re away from home and sleeping in a different bed (be that a friend’s house, a hotel, or something else) check that it’s rabbit (or pet) friendly.
- Prepare for a longer trip: Unexpected situations can change your plans, so always make sure you have more than enough food (fresh vegetables, pellets, hay, and treats) and enough supplies to last you longer than you originally planned.
- Look up local vets: If you’re away from home, you should research local rabbit vets in case of emergency – you might not need one at all but it’s a good idea to know where they are to save precious time if the worst happens.
There’s a lot to consider when taking your rabbit in the car with you. They’re creatures of habit so disrupting their routine might do more harm than good, try to only take your rabbit with you if it’s unavoidable.
Health Conditions Associated with Car Travelling
There are a few health conditions you should look out for when your rabbit is in the car. Each has specific symptoms that’ll indicate the problem, but the symptoms can also be because your rabbit is nervous to be in the car.
This fatal condition is if a rabbit doesn’t eat anything and their digestive system shuts down because there’s no gut movement. Rabbits can deteriorate quickly so you’ll have to get them to a vet ASAP. A top tip is to make sure they always have hay and eat a balanced diet.
Look out for signs of GI stasis like your rabbit not eating or drinking, toilet habits changing, lethargy, and loud stomach noises. In this case, your rabbit would probably turn down their favorite treat too, which is a huge red flag that something is wrong.
This is when your rabbit’s body overheats and they can’t regulate their temperature. This is doubly a problem in the car as cars trap heat inside and your rabbit probably won’t be drinking much water on the journey
Signs of heatstroke include panting, drooling, shaking, struggling to breathe, and if their ears are hot and red.
You’ll need to carefully cool them down if this happens. First of all, turn down the temperature in the car and try to get them to drink some water. You could also wrap them in a damp towel to try and cool them or spray some cool water behind their ears. If symptoms persist and you can’t cool them down, take them to a nearby vet.
If a rabbit is terrified (maybe by a sudden loud noise or frightening situation) they can go into shock which is when their body shuts down.
This would look like their body going limp, their heart rate slows down, pale white gums, dull eyes, and their body temperature would probably drop. Their ears would feel cold to touch in this case. One more symptom is hyperventilating, if your rabbit is breathing through their mouth then they need a vet immediately.
If this happens in the car, pull over and call the vet straight away. They can advise you what to do next. You might be advised to try and stabilize your rabbit, such as warming them up or removing the cause of the shock if you can.
Why Can’t Rabbits Vomit?
There are three main reasons why rabbits aren’t able to vomit. They don’t have a gag reflex, their diaphragm is weak, and their stomach isn’t structured to allow food to go back up towards their throat. For these reasons, rabbits can’t expel the contents of their stomach.
This means your rabbit’s digestion is one way. Anything they eat has to be pooped out, so they couldn’t be sick in the car if they wanted to.