I recently discovered that my lionhead rabbit has a genetic defect, which causes him to have severe respiratory issues. The defect was actually bred into the rabbits because the breeders desired a flat-faced rabbit.

While I love my bun, had I known about this bred in problem, I probably would not have let the girlfriend buy him from a pet store as a way to vote with my wallet against continuing the practice.

I'm fairly certain I've convinced the girlfriend to always adopt going forward, however I'm still curious, Is there a way to tell if the rabbit you're looking at has been bred with genetic health problems?


1 Answer 1


There are many different problems that are associated with specific breeds. One problem you have is that the Lionhead is a breed that is a work in progress. This means that the breeders have not had time to breed out most of the problems, like the respiratory issues your rabbit is dealing with. The breathing issues are actually quite common in the short nosed rabbits as well as dogs and cats. I have 2 pugs and both of them have some breathing issues, and I have known quite a few people with ultra-typed Himalayan cats that also had breathing issues. Most of them are just a nuisance though some can be life threatening. The only way to completely avoid this risk is to avoid the brachycephalic(short nosed) breeds.

Part of the problem of purchasing any animal from a pet store is that the people selling the animal generally know very little about it. The probably do not know who the breeder is, or how healthy the parents were. Pet stores generally get the rabbits that many breeders would cull otherwise. This means that the rabbit probably is not of good type, or part of a breeding project that did not exhibit the traits the breeder is looking for. All baby bunnies are cute which makes them easy to sell to people as pets. But the breeders typically keep the best rabbits from their broods to breed with or show. If you deal directly with a breeder the breeder will be able to talk to you in depth about the rabbit you are buying. He or she will be able to explain what you can expect from your rabbit when it grows up and what faults the rabbit is showing when he sells it. Dealing with a breeder will also almost always mean you get the rabbit for less than what you would pay in a store. But talking to the breeder is the best way to determine what if any problems your bunny is likely to have in the future.

  • Not that I don't appreciate the attempt an an answer, and while I think consulting with a breeder before buying to find out as much as possible is a good suggestion, I'm a bit confused, is "go ask an expert" and considered an acceptable answer on this site?
    – virtualxtc
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 16:30
  • @Virtualxtc - I am not saying ask an expert, but rather the specific breeder where you are getting your rabbit from. If you make the question about a specific breed then I could talk about specific problems that are common to the breed. Off hand just from the pictures you showed in the other questions I can see a dozen genetic faults in your rabbit. Most of them will not create medical problems for your rabbit though.
    – anon
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 22:20
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    @virtualxtc - I don't see a "go ask an expert" mentioned. When someone wants to buy a pet it is a good advice to tell them to talk to the breeder of said pet. Not "a" breeder, but "the" breeder of this individual pet. Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 22:23

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