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Can Rabbits Vomit? Vet-Reviewed Digestive System Facts

Visnja Radosavljevic

By Visnja Radosavljevic

a rabbit checked by vet

Vet approved

Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Rabbits are cute little animals kept as pets in homes across the world. There are many interesting facts about these furry critters, but one stands out in particular: their digestive system.

Bunnies have unique digestive systems that don’t resemble those of most other mammals, as they can’t regurgitate their food when and if necessary. This means rabbits can’t vomit.

However, there are behaviors that rabbits may exhibit that can resemble vomiting, which is why many bunny parents should still be familiar with this topic.

If you’d like to expand your knowledge about rabbits and vomiting, read on, as we cover everything about the digestive system of rabbits, including why they can’t throw up!

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Why Can’t Rabbits Vomit? The Digestive System of Rabbits

Rabbits have unique digestive systems that prevent them from being able to vomit. The main component responsible for the ability to throw up is the upper sphincter muscle. In rabbits, this cardiac sphincter is extremely strong and blocks the return passage between the stomach and esophagus, preventing the stomach fluids from reaching the esophagus 1. In addition the smooth muscle of the esophagus only enables food to travel in one direction: directly toward the rabbit’s stomach, they do not have reverse peristalsis.

This digestive system prevents rabbits from vomiting and burping. Therefore, all bunny parents should closely watch their pet’s digestion and keep their rabbits safe from potential problems that they could experience because they can’t vomit.

Are There Any Exceptions?

According to past anecdotal evidence, there have been instances where a rabbit vomited, though such an occurrence happened shortly before the rabbit passed away and is more likely to be regurgitation 2. The research indicates that this likely happened because the food was able to get through the sphincter and reach the esophagus, probably due to weakness.

two baby rabbits of the giant Chinchilla breed in their cage
Image Credit: taya_xxmeimei, Shutterstock


Health Risks That Rabbits Could Experience Due to Their Inability to Vomit

Here is a list of all the possible health risks that your rabbit could experience due to their inability to vomit, as well as prevention tips that should lower the chances of these problems happening.

1. Digestive System Blockages

A common problem that rabbits can experience because they cannot vomit is digestive system blockage. Anything a rabbit eats can only be passed out as feces. If it is too large to pass or is indigestible they could end up with a gastro-intestinal blockage.

Since digestive system blockages could potentially be deadly for your rabbit, you should ensure that your bunny eats healthy food in pieces that are not too big or too small, drinks enough water, and gets enough daily exercise.

  • Ensure that your bunny gets a healthy, well-balanced diet.
  • Ensure that your bunny gets regular exercise.
  • Keep your bunny well-hydrated.
  • Reduce stress.

2. Poisoning

Since rabbits are unable to vomit, they can easily die or suffer from various health-related issues if they consume something poisonous. Rabbits could accidentally get poisoned by ingesting a poisonous houseplant, chemicals, or anything else in your home that may contain toxins.

  • Keep all toxic things away from your bunny.
red rabbit on green grass
Image Credit: Victoria Paladiy, Shutterstock

3. Hairballs

Bunnies create hairballs in their stomachs as they groom themselves, and since they can’t throw up, the hair must be passed out along with feces. Sometimes this doesn’t happen effectively and a rabbit can have a large hairball taking up space in the stomach. This can lead to health problems.

Therefore, you should provide regular grooming to prevent your bunny from forming large hairballs.

  • Ensure that you regularly groom your rabbit to prevent hairballs and ingestion.
  • Ensure a high fiber diet to aid digestion.


It Looks Like My Rabbit Is Vomiting; What Should I Do?

Rabbits can’t vomit, though several situations may appear as if your bunny is vomiting.

These include:

Any of these situations should lead to a visit to your vet straight away.


Final Thoughts

Due to their complex digestive systems, rabbits are among the few mammals that can’t vomit. This means these little creatures are prone to several health risks, so it’s the responsibility of every bunny parent to keep their pet safe from potential hazards that could occur.

Featured Image Credit: Stella_E, Shutterstock

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