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Grunting as a sign of pain
Grunting when approached is a rabbit’s way of letting you know that it does not want to be messed with. However, bunnies may grunt at you if they are guarding their hutch or babies as well as when they are in pain, so you as the owner need to determine if the grunting is pain related or protection related.
As with excessive licking, excessive chewing, biting and snapping, grunting when in pain is usually accompanied by additional signs of pain. An attentive bunny companion generally knows when their bunny is in trouble before the pain escalates to such a point where the bunny begins grunting when approached or snapping and biting. If your bunny’s mood has recently changed from very outgoing to morose, or its appetite has drastically decreased then your bunny has already begun displaying signs of discomfort or illness.
At the rabbit rescue, one rabbit would always grunt whenever we reached into her hutch for cleaning or feeding purposes, but her overall attitude was very loving once the cleaning was complete. She was also a very outgoing bunny and would always come to the door of the hutch when we entered the room. However, unknown to us, this little girl had started developing cancer deep inside her body. When the pain from the cancer hit her, the grunting began to be accompanied by periods of sitting in her potty tray facing the back of the hutch and running to the back of the hutch when we reached in to pet her. Her entire attitude became one of avoidance to touching and diminished movement.
As a bunny companion, it is your responsibility to always pay close attention to your rabbits overall attitude at all times because small changes could be indications of health problems. Though cancer cannot be treated in a rabbit, GI blockage, infections and many other health problems that cause pain can be treated if caught early. Although you may not be able to tell exactly what is wrong with your bunny when it begins displaying signs of pain, a rabbit veterinarian can, so do not delay in contacting a veterinarian as soon as you see any indications of discomfort or pain in your bunny.