Help...2 dead lionheads and sick owner

by Cindi
(Arizona, USA)

My daughter's bunny stopped eating and drinking for a couple of days and despite our best efforts to keep him hydrated with a dropper he passed away. There were no other signs of illness besides not moving and appearing very weak. My daughter and I cleaned his cage thoroughly and boiled his water bottle and dish.

A week later we bought a new lionhead from the pet store. This bunny seemed healthy when we got him. Two weeks later I checked on him in the morning and he was fine and when I got home at night he was dead in the cage. I don't know if our first bunny had a disease and despite cleaning the cage it spread to the new bunny?

Also after their deaths I have started feeling sick at my stomach and flu type symptoms. Don't know if it's related but I am starting to wonder if the bunnies could have spread an illness to me?? Any thoughts on this would be appreciated. Thank you.

***** Karen Sez *****
So sorry about the problems, Cindi. The most likely cause of death for bunny #1 is enterotoxemia - a 'dysbiosis' or upset of the balance of gut bacteria in favor of the bad ones, usually clostridia spp. This is an anaerobic germ, and I highly doubt would be anything that could transmit to you.

How old was bunny #2, the lionhead? I'm guessing that by coincidence it may have contracted the same problem - enterotoxemia. I say by coincidence, because while one might suspect the possibility of transmission, you took pains to clean everything very well, even boiling the feeders etc. Good job.

Because enterotoxemia is frequently brought on by feeding issues, you'd need to examine how you've been feeding the rabbits. If you get another rabbit (and I hope you do), ensure that they get a handful or two of grass hay every day, along with commercial rabbit pellets, and no sweet treats like apples or bananas.

There is one more disease that rabbits frequently get - pasteurellosis. This is called 'snuffles,' is most frequently manifest as a lung infection, and is a bacterium that can be transmitted to humans. The transmission is rare, and usually occurs in the case of compromised immune systems. The thing is - you've said nothing that would indicate the bunnies were sick with pasteurellosis.

I certainly hope that your own symptoms are indeed a winter-related typical under-the-weather thing. But don't take me for a physician or a vet, and seek help if you think you need it.

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May 17, 2013
Two dead bunnies
by: Liz

HI, this morning my daughter found her black bunny dead in his cage. It was a huge shock as the bunny had seemed well and happy. His eyes were open, his fur thick and glossy, and we were mystified. Then this afternoon, the second rabbit, who had also seemed very healthy, suddenly went downhill and died in my daughter's arms (listless, short breaths, then a kind of convulsion). You can imagine how distressed my daughter was. Again, the rabbit had had glossy, thick fur, bright eyes, had eaten well this morning and no discharge or lesions that we could see. Can you cast any light on what might have killed them both so suddenly and without warning?
We are in Australia.
Thanks in advance for your advice.

***** Karen Sez *****
So sorry to hear it. The cause of death could be from a contagious germ, or it could be from something as simple as a diet-related imbalance of the intestinal bacteria causing an enterotoxemia. There's no way for me to know which was which from way over here, especially since I am no vet. It might be wise to get a vet to perform a necropsy (autopsy on animals) to see if a cause can be determined. The reason would be to prevent newly acquired pet rabbits from coming down with the same thing. At any rate, you'll want to disinfect everything very well. Not very helpful, I know...

Dec 16, 2011
Thank you
by: Cindi

Thank you so much for your response. The only other thing I can think of that may have allowed transmission between the bunnies is that I didn't steam clean the carpet between the first bunny's death and getting the new bunny and we did let both bunnies roam around the house and play. Also I did give our first bunny some tomato not long before he died. Oh, I hope that didn't do him in.

I did do some blood work but most likely just have a flu bug. With the timing of falling ill with both rabbit's deaths it just struck my curiosity. We do hope to get a new bunny but I thought I might wait a month or two just in case there is some kind of bunny virus lingering around. I don't think my daughter can bare losing another beloved bunny. They are very cool animals that brought us a lot of joy and laughter and I would love to be a bunny owner for life.

***** Karen Sez *****
Your plan is a good one. :-) Bunnies are awesome, and I hope your daughter is not discouraged -- it's very unusual to lose two bunnies in a row; I hope the third time's the charm. :-)

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