Mysterious death of rabbit

by Ryl

I have 3 rabbits put in a cage. The cage was big enough for the 3 of them. This afternoon I noticed that 1 rabbit was very weak. He seems like he has no energy; he didn't even eat or drink any water. What I did I transferred him to another cage with separate water and feed. By the way, I feed them grass for fiber...

The rabbit was very weak, he couldn't even stand up not to mention he was very light like I can pick him up with 1 hand only. I let him rest and when I came home I found him dead and there were lots of poops. When I picked him up I noticed that the side of his body leaning on the floor was wet. I have no idea what happened since the other 2 rabbits are fine.

And by the way this happened before when I bought a rabbit and 2 weeks after I found him dead. I never used the cage again. So I have no idea what happened.

***** Karen Sez *****
So sorry to hear about your rabbit.

It is very hard to diagnose the problem from way over here, can you take the dead rabbit to a vet to obtain a necropsy (animal autopsy)? This would be your best way to get definitive answers.

Nevertheless, I can offer you some sort of opinion based only on what you have told me – take it as opinion since I’m not a vet.

I have several suspicions, and all are related to your statement that you feed grass for fiber: First, is the grass you give the rabbits sprayed with pesticides and therefore toxic or poisonous? Second, are there noxious/poisonous weeds in the grass? And third, is the grass contaminated with parasites such as Eimeria species that cause coccidiosis? Do local wildlife have access to this grass and could they possibly defecate in it, introducing various parasites?

Your buck, being very light, had probably gone off his feed for perhaps a week or more. And since there were three in the cage, you may not have realized that 2 animals had great appetites but that third one was not eating until it got very weak.

Some coccidia strains are quite deadly – they cause damage to the rabbit’s intestines, it develops enteritis (inflammation in the guts), the rabbit goes off feed and loses weight, and then it dies. Coccidia sometimes causes a massive and fatal diarrhea, but sometimes all you see is steady weight loss to the point of death.

The wetness under the rabbit could have been diarrhea, but since you mentioned lots of poops, a better guess is it was leakage of urine that occurred after death.

The fact that one of the three rabbits got sick and not the others needs to be explored. Now that there are just two in the cage, will these also begin to lose weight or go off feed? Keep an eye on them as you try to figure things out. If the problem is parasites, you'd think these two might also get sick, unless their immune systems are very strong.

If the problem was pesticides, you'd think the other rabbits would show symptoms as well. (If they don't, this theory may not be valid.)

If the problem was a deadly weed, there is a chance that the other two escaped the problem this time, but that one of them might get sick and die if more noxious plants are gathered in with the grass.

After a rabbit dies, one can clean and disinfect a cage if it is all-wire. I would think that wooden hutches could also be carefully scrubbed down and soaked with a disinfectant such as ammonia or bleach or other strong disinfectant, and then safely reused. (The exception is calicivirus (Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease {RHD}). In this case one will have to destroy the hutch preferably by burning it.)

What else do you feed the rabbits? Do they receive sufficient nutrition in the form of pellets? Inadequate nutrition will weaken the rabbit’s immune system and leave it vulnerable to various health challenges. Maybe there is some other clue we need to know that will pinpoint the problem.

I’ll be interested to know what you think of these thoughts, and in feedback from other rabbit breeders. Good luck!

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Mar 21, 2016
My Baby Bunny
by: Anonymous

I had a baby bunny, he was healthy, eating drinking, fine, I heard him make a noise so I checked on him and he was on his side breathing or trying to and shaking. My mom tried to help but it didn't work.

I don't know why this happened but please help me, I just lost him today on Monday, March 21, but please help me, i miss my baby so much.

***** Karen Sez *****
Hey Anon,
Sorry for the death of your bunny. The only way to know for sure why the bunny died is to take it to the vet for a necropsy (animal autopsy).

Give yourself permission to get another bunny. It might help to read through this website, especially the pages about feeding rabbits, and the pages about caring for pet rabbits.

See our other resources here:

Rabbit Raising Problem Solver

World of Raising Rabbits Ebooks

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