Nervous pregnancy in rabbits: causes, symptoms and treatment


You have observed a change in behavior in your rabbit: she tears the hair on her stomach, while behaving more aggressively towards you. In addition, while stroking her, you may have even felt that her breasts were swollen. Here are some symptoms that make you think your pet may be pregnant. However, you know that this is not possible, given a number of factors. It could therefore be a nervous pregnancy. Here is everything you need to know on the subject to confirm your diagnosis and our advice for treating your rabbit.

What can cause a nervous pregnancy in a rabbit?

There is not just one possible cause of nervous pregnancy in a rabbit, but several.

If you have chosen to accommodate a rabbit and a doe and do not wish to manage litters, you have had the male castrated. However, following the operation, he still retained the reflex to regularly straddle the doe, to mimic the protrusion. However, a female rabbit does not have a period of heat. Available all year round for breeding, it is coitus that triggers ovulation. Under these conditions, you understand that mating by a male, whether sterile or not, can trigger ovulation.

It will be the same in the absence of a male, even though only females keep company with your rabbit suffering from a nervous pregnancy. Indeed, the overlap by another rabbit can quite occur because it is a behavior which makes it possible to install the hierarchy within a group and therefore to mean to the other rabbit that it is in a lower position. , position of “dominated”. The rabbit’s body does not differentiate between a real coitus and a simulation. However, this kind of situation seems more frequent when the rabbits live confined in a cage, without going out regularly for a walk.

A nervous pregnancy can also be caused if your rabbit lives alone and has sexual hyperarousal. In this case, ovulation can be triggered only because you cuddle your rabbit a little too much.

Frequency and severity of nervous pregnancy in rabbits

The medical term used to refer to a nervous pregnancy is “pseudogestation”, That is to say a false gestation.

It seems that this mainly affects young rabbits, who have only experienced one true gestation. This does not apply to sterilized rabbits since ovulation is no longer possible.

It remains a rare condition in rabbits, unlike bitches. In the vast majority of cases, it is quite benign and evolves favorably spontaneously, without any medical intervention. A true gestation lasts from 30 to 31 days and the constitution of the nest appears between 25 and 30 days after what the doe has experienced as a projection. In the case of a false gestation, it is only 10 days after the stimulus. Obviously, when in doubt between a real and a false gestation, it is only if you know the date of mating or similar that you can tell the difference. In the case of a pseudogestation, it takes 15 days from the change in behavior for the hormones to return to their normal level and for the rabbit to behave as before.

Behavior to adopt in the event of a nervous pregnancy in your rabbit

It is advisable to let your rabbit experience her false pregnancy as if nothing had happened. The animal responds to reflexes triggered by its hormones: construction of the nest which leads to the tearing of hair, and more intense chewing of hay.

This does not mean that you should not pay attention to how she is going through this period. As for the nest, if you destroy it, it is likely that the doe will make another one, with undoubtedly an excess of stress and nervousness to the key. It must therefore be left alone from this point of view. As for the hay and hair, if you notice that she is exaggerating and that she puts too much in her mouth, you can intervene to prevent possible transit problems by gently removing what she has put there. .

However, if the doe reaches the stage of lactation, it is best to take him to a vet. A rush of milk is not good for his health because there will be no evacuation of the milk. It is therefore better to treat her as soon as possible. Do not hope to remedy it by yourself, to save a consultation, for example by giving him parsley: the chances of obtaining a positive effect are not guaranteed. If this does not work, it only delays the initiation of effective treatment with possible complications. Also avoid touching her stomach, especially her breasts, as you will only keep the milk secreted.

Even if it remains rare, some does are more prone to the phenomenon than others. If so, it is advisable to sterilize the animal. The multiplication of nervous pregnancies seems to promote uterine infections, tumors in the uterus or breasts, digestive problems, …

What if it wasn’t a nervous pregnancy

If this is your first rabbit or you have never experienced the phenomenon before, you may doubt that it is really a nervous pregnancy.

The fact that the rabbit pulls hair can also suggest a skin problem: the rabbit can also pull hair in cases of bacterial dermatitis, the presence of parasites, deficiencies or even poor hygiene. . The difference between pulling hair in the context of a nervous pregnancy is that the areas from which the hair was pulled out remain clean and the skin dewy. The rabbit does not scratch and the skin is therefore neither crusty nor itchy.

You should also be wary of possible behavioral problems. In situations of stress or too marked dominance between congeners, the rabbit can also pull out hair. But this will not necessarily be localized on the stomach, as is the case with a nervous pregnancy.