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Is Turning a Bunny on Its Back Bad for Them?

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Rabbits are cute and soft, but they can be more difficult to hold than other pets. Flipping your bunny onto his back is not necessarily a bad thing. However, use the proper handling techniques and take precautions so your pet does not injure himself when held this way.

What's at Stake?

Flipping your bunny over on his back can do more than annoy or frighten him. It can cause him to panic and seriously injure himself, possibly even fatally. Rabbits have fragile spines, so it's possible your pet may break his back as he struggles and kicks to orient himself properly again. Only experienced rabbit handlers, veterinarian professionals and owners who have cultivated trust with their pets should attempt to turn them over. A panicked rabbit may also bite and scratch at the handler.

When It's Necessary

There are two scenarios that require you to turn your bunny on his back. During the showmanship portions of rabbit competitions, handlers are asked to flip their bunnies over and perform a routine inspection in front of judges, according to Three Little Ladies Rabbitry. This procedure exhibits the handler's proficiency with his animal as well as the rabbit's docility and training, so it's not something a new owner should attempt. Owners can also use this process to perform a routine health inspection when looking at eyes, teeth and ears. A veterinarian may also flip your bunny using a similar handling technique to check for injury or disease.

In a Trance

Some experienced owners flip their bunnies over on their backs to curb unruly behavior or trim nails. This technique is called trancing because it temporarily puts the animals into a heavily sedated state. Other owners voice concern over the ethics of trancing, since the induced behavior is linked to a natural prey-predator instinct, according to the House Rabbit Network. However, many seasoned handlers use this technique to pet their rabbits, perform grooming and check for health issues. Bunnies can "wake up" from this induced stupor quickly, so handlers should keep both hands on their pets constantly to prevent accidents.

To Have and Hold

For an amateur bunny owner, the risks associated with flipping your pet on his back often outweighs the potential gain. There are plenty of ways to safely hold a bunny without turning him over. Always use both hands when lifting and holding rabbits. Place one hand flat on his chest with your thumb behind one of his forearms. Lift him with your other hand on his rear, pressing onto the back of his thighs and tail. When you pick him up, hold him to your chest to provide comfort and security.