Rabbits cannot tell their owners when something is wrong, but physical symptoms can help owners spot strokes and prepare for heart attacks. Strokes have easily recognisable symptoms, some of which never go away. Heart attacks are sneaky, but owners can see symptoms of heart disease that signal a weak heart. Dr. Dana Krempels from the University of Miami Department of Biology recommends keeping rabbits indoors as much as possible to catch symptoms early.
A rabbit whose head is tilted to one side could be suffering from a stroke. Veterinarian Barbara Deeb of the House Rabbit Society lists the head tilt as a symptom of several other medical conditions in addition to stroke, so owners should take their rabbits to a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis.
When stroking, a rabbit's face droops to one side, according to Deeb. Facial features may stop functioning properly. The rabbit may drool or be unable to blink as normal, and typically the eye on one side will face downward and require moisture in lieu of blinking. Some bunnies also have trouble eating and drinking and need owners to hand feed them.
Stroking limits the movement of some rabbits. If unable to stand, they often roll to one side. Otherwise, they may exhibit unusual movement patterns, such as circling in the direction of the head tilt or stumbling as if dizzy. This loss of balance could also signal other problems beside strokes, such as vestibular disease.
Respiration is a key indicator of a rabbit's heart health. Rabbits who pant heavily after exercising, pant during downtime and have trouble breathing on their backs could have heart problems, according to Kathy Smith's "Rabbit Health in the 21st Century" on Lagomorphs rabbit information website. Not getting regular exercise makes rabbits more vulnerable to heart attack. Krempels states that rabbits can also die of heart attacks if they cannot escape from predators.