If you’re concerned your rabbit is dying, there are many things you should watch out for and situations that may cause death. You will usually notice right away if something is seriously wrong with your rabbit, and you should always act fast when you do.
How do I know my rabbit is dying? Dying rabbits will become lethargic and hide as well as stop eating and drinking. Rabbits can die from shock, illness, infection, and injury, among other causes.
What Would Cause a Rabbit to Die?
Rabbits are very fragile creatures because they are prey animals, and many different situations can cause them to die. Most injuries, even if not life threatening, will cause a rabbit to go into shock, and these can be caused by predator attacks or accidents such as dropping or stepping on the rabbit. Severe injuries can cause death themselves, and untreated injuries can also become infected.
Eating the wrong things such as too much sugar or foods such as bread or pasta will cause fatal indigestion in a rabbit through GI stasis or fermentation in the gut. Feeding your rabbit too much sugar in the form of fruits or store-bought treats can cause this kind of indigestion.
Rabbits may also have allergic or toxic reactions to certain substances and foods, which can cause convulsions or seizures. It’s important to research what you are giving to your rabbit carefully before allowing them to have any foods or trying home remedies.
What Happens When a Rabbit is Dying?
A rabbit dying is the same as any other animal or even a human dying. Different circumstances may mean that a rabbit dies in different ways. Usually a rabbit that is dying will be very lethargic and will not want to move. Its breathing will slow down and the rabbit may close its eyes and try to go to sleep. If a rabbit is injured or frightened, however, it may run around or even scream because it’s in pain. Unless your rabbit is old and dies of natural causes, you’ll usually notice a change in behavior that indicates your rabbit is dying, such as hiding or refusing to move or eat.
What are Rabbit Dying Sounds?
Rabbits that are dying don’t make any particular sound by default. However, some causes of death have particular symptoms that include noises. A rabbit that is injured or shocked may scream from pain or fear at or near the time of its death. A rabbit with a respiratory condition will wheeze and have labored breathing or sneeze and snuffle a lot. Other than that, rabbits typically will die the same way as other animals or humans and will not make noise.
How Do Rabbits Die Naturally?
Domestic rabbits that die naturally usually do so of old age at around 10-12 years old. These rabbits usually pass away quietly in their sleep or while with their loved ones, just like any human or other pet that passes away of natural causes would.
My Rabbit is Showing Abnormal Behavior
If you notice any strange behaviors from your rabbit, you should immediately investigate. Is your rabbit suddenly lethargic, or suddenly more active? Is your rabbit unable to walk straight or moving in strange ways? Is your rabbit refusing to eat or use its litter box? All of these have different causes, some of which may be fatal and some of which may not. Rabbits that are suddenly hiding or refusing to come out of a hutch may be hiding a serious injury or illness. Rabbits are prey animals, so they will naturally hide any weaknesses that would get them killed in the wild. If your rabbit shows a sudden change in behavior, especially if it becomes less social or active, that’s a sure sign that something is seriously wrong.
My Rabbit Is Not Eating
Rabbits eat almost constantly, including while they’re using the bathroom. If you notice that your rabbit hasn’t eaten within the last 4-6 hours, this could be a sign of GI stasis, a very serious condition that can result in death if not addressed immediately. GI stasis occurs when your rabbit eats something it cannot digest, and its digestive system slows down to a complete halt. A rabbit’s digestive system must be moving at all times for the rabbit to survive, so this is fatal if your rabbit goes more than about 12 hours without eating.
If your rabbit has stopped eating, urinating, or defecating, you should contact a vet immediately. A vet may be able to get your rabbit’s digestive system moving again through motility medicines and IV treatments, and they’ll have emergency slurry on hand to syringe feed your rabbit to make sure it gets the necessary nutrients until its system is moving again.
My Rabbit Has Been Attacked by A Predator
If this happens, you may be lucky enough to see it and be able to respond and rescue your rabbit right away. If the injuries are very minor, you can treat them at home by dabbing them with hydrogen peroxide and then stopping the bleeding. However, if the injuries are life threatening you need to contact a vet immediately. Any large or visibly severe injuries such as gashes or broken bones need to be treated by a vet. Emergency treatment and possibly surgery is the only way to save your rabbit’s life.
However, if you are not there to see the attack, you will probably notice certain symptoms that will clue you in to the fact that your rabbit has a hidden injury. Your rabbit may:
- Fall over when standing
- Limp when it walks
- Be unable to walk in a straight line
- Sit or stand in an awkward position
- Lick or scratch at one part of its body
If you notice these signs, you should inspect your rabbit for an injury you may not have seen. If left untreated, even small injuries can result in death due to shock or infection.
My Rabbit is Limp and Lifeless, What Should I Do?
If your rabbit is limp and not moving, you should first check for breathing. If your rabbit is breathing, call a vet immediately. Limpness is usually a symptom of severe dehydration, shock, or sepsis. You may also notice that your rabbit has cold ears, or feels strange when you pick it up. In this situation, your rabbit is very close to death. You should wrap your rabbit up in a blanket so that it is warm but without constricting its movement. If you know that your rabbit is dehydrated, you can try giving it small amounts of water using a syringe without a needle, but be careful not to cause choking or asphyxia. You should do this on your way to the vet. It’s probably a good idea to have someone else drive you so that you can hold your rabbit and be there in case it passes.
My Rabbit Has Breathing Problems
Rabbits are obligate nasal breathers, which means they can only breathe through their noses. This makes respiratory health very important, as a rabbit with a stuffy nose can suffocate. You should never be able to hear your rabbit breathing, so if you hear wheezing, labored breathing, or snuffling, this is a serious sign. Typically, this means that your rabbit has an upper respiratory infection, which needs to be treated immediately. Other signs of URIs are sneezing and a runny nose. Take your rabbit to the vet immediately for treatment with antibiotics, as a URI can progress to the point where your rabbit will die from the infection.
Your rabbit may also be breathing hard due to extreme stress, which is also potentially fatal. Try to identify what the cause of your rabbit’s stress could be, such as frequent loud noises, the presence of dogs or cats in its space, overcrowding in its habitat, or frequent rough handling or chasing. You should try to eliminate these sources of stress and see if your rabbit’s breathing returns to normal within a short period of time.
My Rabbit Has Acute Diarrhea
If your rabbit has severe diarrhea, the biggest risk to their health is dehydration. If your rabbit is barely moving, and especially if it will not move out of the diarrhea, clean it up as best you can and go to the vet immediately. If you have a syringe without a needle, you can give your rabbit water on the way by gently pushing the water into its mouth. This will help keep your rabbit hydrated on the way to the vet.
If your rabbit has diarrhea but is otherwise acting normal, you can probably wait and make an appointment with the vet rather than going to an emergency service. However, you should keep an eye on your rabbit and make sure it is drinking enough and doesn’t become lethargic or stop moving, especially if the diarrhea continues. It’s important to keep your rabbit as clean as possible while this is happening, as fur covered in feces can cause another condition called myiasis.
Myiasis is also known as flystrike, and it’s a condition in which flies lay eggs in a dirty rabbit’s fur. These eggs then hatch into maggots, which can eat into your rabbit’s skin and cause death within 24 hours. The maggots from blowflies such as bluebottles and greenbottles are the most dangerous. The flies are attracted to fur that is wet or dirty with feces, urine, or the pheromones from scent glands. Fly strike is especially common in the summer months due to high fly activity, and you should be checking every day to make sure your rabbit is clean and healthy.
Flystrike is usually fairly obvious, as you will see a buildup of feces or moisture over time. Once there are visible maggots, your rabbit is in serious danger. Just picking off the visible maggots with a pair of tweezers is not enough, as maggots may have already gone under your rabbit’s skin. This can cause serious injury, infection, and shock. You should take your rabbit to the vet immediately if you notice any signs of eggs or maggots. Your rabbit will be put on antibiotics, but if myiasis is not caught early they may still die.
Why Do Rabbits Die When They Get Wet?
Rabbits typically go into shock when they are gotten completely wet because of how stressful the event is. When a rabbit goes into shock it usually goes limp and will stop moving, and may feel weird when you pick it up. Rabbits are not meant to get wet; in fact, their fur is designed to repel water and stay dry as long as possible. Their fur will absorb a lot of water, and once they are completely wet they’re difficult to get dry.
A wet rabbit can easily get hypothermia, even in warm weather, due to how sensitive their bodies are to temperature, and because they take so long to dry there is a very large window for this to happen in. Trying to dry a rabbit more quickly using towels may result in shock due to stress, and using a hair dryer can cause burns or heat stroke.
My Rabbit Was Dropped and Has Broken Limbs/Back
You should get your rabbit to the vet as quickly as possible. If your rabbit can be treated immediately, it’s possible to avoid death or paralysis. Your rabbit will need to have the bones set and be treated with steroids to prevent spinal swelling. Any broken bone is serious, but a broken back and broken hind legs are the most serious of them all. You should absolutely not attempt to set bones or move the rabbit except to get it into a carrier and to an emergency vet. It’s very possible that your rabbit will die or will be paralyzed. Paralysis doesn’t necessarily mean your rabbit will die, but it will need special accommodations for the rest of its life.
Signs of Shock in Rabbits
Rabbits may go into shock for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is fear, which can be caused by loud noises, sudden movement, the presence of predators, being submerged in water, or injury. If your rabbit begins to show any of these signs, it is probably in shock:
- Glazed eyes
- Rapid breathing
- Cold ears or paws
- Rapid or weak pulse
- Pale gums
If you have an emergency vet within one hour of your house, you should take your rabbit to the vet immediately. However, anything farther than that could cause your rabbit to die, as rabbits do very badly on car rides due to the motion and stress. If you cannot get to a vet, cover your rabbit in a blanket and massage its ears. Give it water through a syringe to help keep it hydrated and monitor its condition. Your rabbit may recover, but some shock is too severe and the rabbit may die of a heart attack. Even if your rabbit’s condition improves, there’s still the possibility of death and you should be prepared.
Can Rabbits Die of Loneliness?
Yes, a rabbit without a group of rabbits to live with or whose partner has recently died can refuse to eat and drink to the point of death. Social groups are very important to rabbits, so a rabbit that doesn’t have any social interaction will suffer. Rabbits mourn just like humans do, and they will especially do so if they are in a bonded pair. Rabbits that are bonded are like people who have been married for many years. You may have heard of someone mourning him or herself to death after the passing of a longtime partner. The same can happen for a rabbit. If one of your rabbits has recently died and any other rabbits are showing symptoms such as refusing to eat, not playing or moving around like they used to, or hiding or refusing to socialize, you should consider going to the vet. If left alone, this rabbit could die of mourning. If you only have two rabbits and one of them dies, you can try adopting a new rabbit and see if that helps your rabbit adjust to losing a loved one.
Rabbit Heart Attack Symptoms
A rabbit will usually have a heart attack due to a severely frightening event such as a predator attack or being dropped or stepped on (even if not injured). When a rabbit has a heart attack, the heart beats too fast for it to fill with blood, and the heart muscle itself starves and dies. A rabbit will die within 24 hours of the heart attack, usually as quickly as 1-2 hours.
A rabbit that has had a heart attack will go very still and quiet and will usually hide somewhere familiar like a hutch or favorite place. The rabbit may scream at the time of the heart attack due to the fear or pain, but it won’t scream after that unless it’s scared or injured again.
Do Rabbits Have Seizures Before They Die?
Rabbits may sometimes have seizures before they die, but not always. Usually if they are having seizures, the seizures are the cause of death. Rabbits may convulse or shake while they are dying if they’re frightened, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re having seizures. They may also twitch while they are dying or after they are dead, which happens occasionally in all animals.
Why Do Rabbits Scream When They Die?
Rabbits typically scream when they are in extreme pain, so if a rabbit is screaming as it dies, it is hurting very badly. Rabbits don’t always scream when they die, just when they’re in pain. A rabbit that dies from a heart attack or from a disease will die quietly just like any other animal, as will a rabbit that dies from natural causes like old age.
How to Save a Rabbit from Dying
The best way to save a rabbit from dying is to act quickly. You will very rarely be able to help them on your own, so you should contact the closest vet and get there as quickly as possible. The moment you notice strange behavior or symptoms, you should try to identify what’s going on and give that information to your vet. You should act immediately on acute symptoms and not wait any more than 6-8 hours on more vague symptoms like not eating or drinking. When in doubt, it is usually better safe than sorry. See if your vet has walk in availability, or go to an emergency vet if necessary.
How to Comfort a Dying Rabbit
A dying rabbit is just the same as a human or other animal that is dying. If you are close to your rabbit, it probably loves you and wants to be with you as it dies. Rabbits don’t like to be held, but you can sit or lay next to your rabbit and pet it and speak softly to it. Try not to loom over it or do anything to scare or intimidate it. You can try offering its favorite food and drinks, but it probably won’t eat. The most important thing is to just be there and gently touch your rabbit unless it pulls away. If your rabbit is injured, be careful not to touch the injury if you’re petting it.
My Rabbit Died, What Do I Do with the Body?
Usually veterinarians have incinerators that can burn your rabbit’s body so that you can keep the ashes. It’s important not to throw the body in the trash, as this can spread diseases and attract vermin. It’s not the best idea to bury your rabbit, as animals including domestic dogs and cats may smell the body and try to dig it up. If you bury your rabbit, do so in a secluded place and bury it at least a foot deep, covering it with packed earth.
How do I know if my rabbit is sick? Sick rabbits may hide or refuse to eat or drink. Sick rabbits may also be unsteady on their feet or move or stand strangely.
What do I do if my rabbit is sick? You should always take your rabbit to the vet first. Rabbits shouldn’t be treated with home remedies due to how sensitive they are.
What foods can kill a rabbit? Anything that is not a fruit or vegetable can be fatal to a rabbit. Pits from fruits like cherries and peaches can also kill a rabbit, as can some vegetables like eggplants.