Sudden Rabbit Death Syndrome 13 Signs and Symptoms to Watch For

Sudden Rabbit Death Syndrome
Sudden Rabbit Death Syndrome

Pet rabbits have become one of the most loveable animals to have in the home for both adults and children. They can bring a significant amount of joy to any family and are surely an animal capable of showing true love towards their owners and interacting in clever and entertaining ways.

We never want to take the chance of causing harm to our bunnies.

Additionally, we always want to be sure we are educated and understand when something could be very wrong with our bunnies. It happens. Bunnies do get sick and can, unfortunately, pass away quickly and without much notice.

Learning to recognize these causes, signs, and symptoms may be precisely what you need to care for your bunny correctly or to at the very least, make your bunny comfortable towards the end of their life.

For this post, I wanted to take the time to cover 13 common signs and symptoms that can be noticed by you as the bunny owner that typically indicate something is very wrong with your bunny. These signs and symptoms do, unfortunately, often suggest that your bunny may be on the verge passing away.

While it’s undoubtedly not the most fun to write about, it is an important topic when it comes to owning rabbits so being educated on these questions and concerns is imperative to making you a well-rounded, ethical rabbit owner.

This list is purely designed to help educate you that if any of these things come up, you can potentially help your bunny by merely knowing your rabbits and when you spot behavior that is out of the norm compared to usual, it typical means a trip to the vet needs to happen very quickly.

Let’s start diving into some of the details.

13 Signs and Symptoms That Your Rabbit May Experience Sudden Death

#1- Your Bunny Already Had a Pre-Existing Condition

Unfortunately, getting an accurate health history on your rabbit is not always possible. It’s possible that when you adopted your rabbit, they already had issues that you were not aware of. 

An easy solution to this is to ensure that a vet checks your rabbit before or during adoption and if that can’t be completed, ensure your rabbit is checked right after you adopt them.

This is a much better solution than running the chance that your rabbit has a condition that could result in death shortly after purchasing them. This is any rabbit owner’s worst nightmare coming true and if you can take active steps toward being proactive and avoiding this issue, you certainly should.

#2- Your Bunny Can’t Adjust to Temperature Changes

Bunnies are like many other pets. If they were raised indoors or at a pet store, they need to remain in this style of an environment. Ensuring that your rabbit is adjusted correctly to the new environment is crucial.

If you purchased your bunny that’s only been indoors since birth, don’t attempt to make them an outdoor rabbit.

Especially without speaking to a vet about best practices. Temperature shock or your rabbit not remaining at the correct temperature can ultimately be what causes your bunny to experience sudden death.

To re-emphasize, indoor bunnies should remain indoors to remain ethical and not to run the risk of a sudden bunny death.

#3- Deadly Fly Strikes or Potential Myiasis

This is an often-overlooked problem with rabbits that can cause sudden death easily. Flies that are carrying undesirable viruses or deadly parasites can land on your rabbit and lay eggs. When this happens, the flies can literally begin eating your bunny inside and out.

It’s deadly but if you can recognize this is happening a vet can provide a remedy for the problem which can potentially save your rabbit. Always be keeping a close eye on your rabbit and their behaviors and if you think something seems off, be sure to look over your bunny or take them to a vet for proper care.

This can avoid many potential issues and possible death situations by just being proactive with your pets.

#4- Someone May Have Mishandled Your Bunny

Despite what you may have heard, rabbits are not the biggest fans of small children. Kids can be loud and unpredictable. Rabbits can become scared and full of anxiety very quickly. Kids surely have the capabilities or placing fear in our bunnies.

Rabbits have even been known to jump to avoid children holding them or petting them which can lead to injuries to the back or neck and ultimately cause the death for your pet bunny. Rabbits have extremely delicate bones that can break very easily.

Factor in the fact that a child is mishandling a rabbit and ultimately fracturing a bone or the fact that a rabbit can die purely due to fright. This can be a dangerous combination for your bunny or eventually cause your rabbit to have a fear-based heart attack.

Your best bet with small children is to introduce them very slowly and don’t allow your kids to give your bunnies too much anxiety. Limit the amount of time they spend with each other and take the process smooth and slowly to eliminate this potentially hurting your bunnies.

#5- Anxiety or Fear Induced Heart Attack or Heart Failure

Loud sounds or even being chased by another animal can sadly be enough to kill your bunny. Bunnies again are frightened very easily so items such as extremely loud music, children or other animals chasing them can be enough to place your bunny into shock.

If the fear reaches this level, unfortunately, there is a very high likelihood that it could kill your bunny. It doesn’t happen too often, but it is possible.

Always try to keep your bunny in a safe environment, away from larger animals and keep an eye on small children playing with your bunny to help avoid this issue ever happening to you.

#6- Your Rabbit Was Injured by Another Animal

Rabbits should never be in the room with another large animal. Especially if it’s an animal that’s larger and not very well behaved. This could include dogs, puppies or even cats. In some situations, it’s not safe to even have your rabbit around other small rodent animals such as ferrets.

Animals like ferrets are natural hunters in the wild.

Rabbits are prey animals. An animal like a ferret could injure or bite your bunny and send your bunny into an anxiety-based shock or heart failure. Rabbits will be terrified of all these animals listed and it’s not good when their stress levels peak.

It’s not always that are other animals intend to do any harm to our bunnies, but planning is crucial. Your bunny should be able to stay in a separate room from these animals, and you should have a safe private time to allow your bunny to be out and about away from all the animals we have listed in this post.

It’s going to be rare for you to have the ability to train your dogs or cats to remain calm or not to get out of hand around your rabbits. Dogs are naturally curious so doing this is usually looking for issues and problems.

Playtime should be alone, and your bunnies should be allowed to have private sleeping areas away from these animals to avoid fear-based shock or other injuries that these animals can cause.

#7- Rabbit Experienced an Aborted Pregnancy

This is true of many animals and even with us as humans, but pregnancy often carries substantial risk for rabbits. If the rabbit happens to abort the fetus or the baby rabbits die inside of the mother rabbit, it can become fatal.

This is typically why they recommend forcing the birth after a few days past the normal pregnancy period because the risk tends to grow too high for the mother.

The inside of the mother becomes toxic in these situations and can be avoided with a trip to the vet. If you haven’t seen or read about how pregnancy works, you can see that post here.

It will give you a breakdown and go over essential factors such as gestation periods and what to do if your rabbit seems to be remaining pregnant longer than initially scheduled. Always double check with a vet if you have any additional concerns.

#8- Bunny May Have Ingested A Large, Sharp or Toxic Object

Bunnies need to be let out to play in safe areas. Sometimes swallowing an object may be the reason your bunny has experienced the potential for death. Electrical cords can be deadly but so can swallowing items such as glass or other sharp objects.

When a rabbit swallows these items, it can begin to tear the rabbit’s organs up inside and cause bleeding from the anus ultimately leading to death.

If you notice signs such as a lack of appetite or other potential warning signs such as blood coming out with the rabbit poop, this could be a strong indicator that something is very wrong with your rabbit.

When this occurs, get them to the vet as soon as possible to avoid further issues and complications and potentially save your rabbit’s life.

#9- Age Always Matter, Bunnies Get Old Like Any Other Pet

The same way that verifying medical records can be difficult for new adoptions or new pet owners, the age can also be hard to verify. Perhaps your bunny is actually a few years older than your originally thought and nothing with your rabbit is wrong due to sudden death or illness.

Rabbits can live typically around 8-12 years when kept as pets or indoors. If you were initially been off by a few years, it could be shocking and sudden that your bunny is aging or passing away due to old age, but it does happen.

Do your best to verify the medical background and pinpoint the age before or at adoption to help eliminate this issue. You can also ask your vet to come with you or take your rabbit to the vet after adoption to get a second look at health and to get a reasonable estimate on how old your bunny really is.

#10- Consuming Poisonous Items

Gardens can surprisingly be one of the leading cause of deaths amongst our bunnies. Bunnies naturally enjoy eating anything, and everything and typically enjoy chewing on about anything they can get their teeth on.

Gardens and others part of your yard may have pesticides or insecticide that can be a cause of concern if your bunny is able to get near them. Ingesting these chemicals can be fatal for your bunnies and can cause sudden death or the owner to wonder what may have happened.

Never allow your rabbit into areas where this may be present. Keep a safe area for your rabbit to play and roam and eliminate areas for your rabbit to be where you may not know everything present such as the insecticides and pesticides we discussed previously.

#11- Potentially VHD

Rabbits are also known to contract VHD which is also known as calicivirus. They can contract this easily. It’s a disease spread easily to rabbits, but it does typically display symptoms in your rabbit before death. Some of these symptoms could include loss of appetite, lethargy, high fever and not consuming any fluids.

The only way to potentially save your rabbit in this situation is to get them to a vet as soon as possible and let them treat your rabbit with the appropriate medications.

If you aren’t paying attention or aware of other issues your rabbit may be having, this may be tough to spot but when you do notice any of the symptoms we discussed, get them to a vet as soon as possible.

#12- Cancer Can Also Kill Your Bunny

Cancer is the silent killer of many animals unfortunately and your bunnies are no different. Bunnies can develop cancer. Sometimes this can be diagnosed before death and sometimes it can’t. The unfortunate part about this being the cause of death in your bunnies is the fact that it often goes un-noticed and treatment options are minimal.

Typically, if your rabbit does come down with something such as cancer, you will have to be looking at options that are much more based on making your rabbit comfortable in the final days as opposed to looking to cure the problem or extend your bunnies lives.

#13- Teeth Related Issues and Infections

Teeth problems with your bunnies can also lead to other infections and problems with your bunnies. Often this can go unnoticed for a long time before it’s at a point where you go to a vet or can take actions at fixing the issue.

When this happens, small animals tend to progress very quickly with illnesses so when your rabbit is sick with a tooth related infection, it can spread very quickly and impact the other areas. Other diseases that can stem from this can be items such as respiratory infections among others.

Typically, if you don’t get to a vet very early on with an infection in animals this small, it’s often too late and can result in the infection becoming fatal.

Again, this all comes down to understanding your rabbits’ behaviors. Effectively understanding when your rabbit is acting slightly off can make all the difference in the world.

When this is the case, you can get into your vet before it’s too late and hope that a medication or another option can help rid your bunny of this infection and get them back to their usual selves jumping and dancing all around.

Other Considerations and What to Do Next for Your Bunnies?

Some of these conditions listed above are entirely in your control as the owner. Items such as creating a safe environment are within your control in addition to keeping your bunny away from wild kids or other animals that may potentially harm your rabbit.

This in addition to always being aware of your rabbit’s behavior is a key to ensuring that your rabbit doesn’t experience any of these issues we have been discussing.

Other items such as contracting VHD is much more out of our control, and the only way to potentially save your rabbits when it’s a situation such as this is understanding the behavior your rabbit has most of the time when healthy.

Knowing this can help you spot when something may be potentially off with your bunnies allowing you to get them to a vet inadequate time to help save them.

Putting It All Together, Proper Love and Care Can Avoid Many of These Potential Dangers

Although this post may have seemed a bit scary or not very pleasant to read, there is good news. It’s entirely possible for avoid nearly all the items on the list and never need to worry about them.

Bunnies who are provided a safe environment and are well cared for live long full and healthy lives. Some common sense and love towards your bunny can make all the difference in ensuring that your bunny will be around for years to come.

What’s your experience with rabbits experiencing sudden death? Any causes of death that we didn’t mention on this list? Be sure to drop a comment below, and we will consider adding them to the list to ensure none of us experience any of these heartbreaking possibilities.