3 week old rabbit kits dying...help!

by Sue G
(Delta, PA)

Please help. Within 2 days, we have found 2 of our seemingly healthy kits dead. They are 3 weeks old. All have been visibly healthy, running around, eating hay, nibbling pellets and Momma is still nursing them. The first dead kit we found was the largest of the litter and seemed perfect the night before. The next I found very lethargic in the cage and while I held it, it kept opening and closing its mouth. I knew it was going to die. It seemed very thin, like it hadn't eaten in a couple days :( We have 4 left and I am terrified they will die as well.

We had Momma at the vet for a messy bottom a week ago but the vet said it was probably just the stress from nursing and having a litter. ??? Now I am wondering if there is some bacteria infection spreading to the kits. :( My kids are devastated, as am I. This was the mother's first litter and all survived up until just a few days ago. We feed the mother timothy and alfalfa hay, pellets and have discontinued veggies as per vets orders until messy bottom clears up. Any advice or answers as to why kits are dying? Thanks.

***** Karen Sez *****
So sorry! It's hard to say the precise cause of the deaths, but I'd bet a couple glazed donuts that enterotoxemia was the cause. This is an acute diarrheal inflammation of the intestines triggered by a dietary imbalance between carbs and fiber (usually), that permits disease germs to bloom in the rabbit's hind gut. In the case of the kits, the toxins from those germs flooded the blood stream, causing circulatory collapse and death before there was any signs of diarrhea. The doe got a messy behind, but was able to compensate better than her little kits.

It's also possible that coccidiosis or other illness precipitated the problem, but it sure looks to me like the cases of fatal bunny diarrhea we've had in our barn from time to time.

The question is - was it more than just too many carbs? Were there pesticides on the greens? Were the pellets or hay moldy? What happened around your rabbits exactly 1 week prior to the deaths? An extreme stressor at that time might cause the stress-related diarrhea a week later.

It is always a heart-breaker to lose kits, especially at 3 weeks when they're the cutest ever. Please don't be discouraged; with care your remaining rabbits will do fine.

It would be good to remove both doe and remaining kits from the cage and give it a good cleaning with bleach, a rinse and a dry, especially the floor of the cage. This should help to minimize the populations of any pathogenic bacteria. The kits that have not gotten sick stand a good chance of surviving at this point.

Also, withhold ALL food except for the timothy hay and water for the next 24-48 hours. This is to reduce the easily digestible carbs and increase the fiber, which will help to restore the health of your rabbits' guts.

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Feb 04, 2013
by: Sue G

Thank you for your comments. The little ones have only been given timothy and alfalfa hay and pellets and water. There were no signs of the diarrhea in the babies, but as you said perhaps their system shut down before any sign of it. One of the remaining four has a slightly messy bottom now and I am very worried he/she will succumb to this disease and die as well. :( All the rest are eating and drinking, still nursing and seem active and alert. Even the one with messy bottom. I can't think of any stressors the week before except that our entire family was sick with the flu. Babies were not handled when we were sick. I cleaned the cage today, and after each kit had died. I didn't do bleach, but will do that tomorrow. The floor is lined with newspaper and the cage is on the floor. Thanks for your advice and comments. I'm praying that the remaining 4 survive.

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