signs your rabbit is dying
Health and Wellness

10 Signs That Your Rabbit is Dying

A rabbit can live a long and full life, but you’ll eventually start to notice that your rabbit is no longer healthy. Every journey has an ending, and that’s true for your pet. There is no avoiding this.

What are the signs of a dying rabbit? A dying rabbit will start to lose interest in grooming, become lethargic, reject company, and act more aggressively. If your rabbit breathes through their mouth and cannot stay warm, they likely have a matter of hours left with you. Just make your rabbit feel as comfortable as possible.

It’s a devastating time when a rabbit passes away. You need to swallow your sadness until after it happens, though. A dying rabbit must be comforted and soothed until their last breath. This guide explains the signs of a dying rabbit. It’ll still be upsetting, but you can at least prepare yourself.

How Long Do Rabbits Live?

A happy, healthy, and well-cared-for rabbit can live for around ten years. Some bunnies reach 12. In rare cases, a breed like a Mini Lop can live as long as 18 years.

How to Make Your Rabbit Live Longer

As PetMD explains, you can prolong your rabbit’s life in simple ways:

  • Good Food. A rabbit’s diet is pivotal to their health. Once your rabbit reaches adulthood, focus on quality, fresh hay and less on pellets. Don’t overdo the fresh veg, either. Keep it as a treat.
  • Exercise and Adventure. Setting up a hutch and leaving your bunny to it is not enough. Rabbits need exercise, indoors and out. Prevent chewing of electrical cables, and remove any dangerous obstacles.
  • Good Vet Care. Finding a vet for a rabbit isn’t as simple as registering a cat or dog. You’ll need a vet that is experienced in handling bunnies, and they’re harder to come by.
  • Spaying and Neutering. Fixing a rabbit can extend their life expectancy. Female bunnies, in particular, enjoy reduced cancer risk if they’re spayed. This procedure also makes rabbits happier and calmer.
  • Entertainment. Life in a hutch can be dull for a bunny. Fill their home with toys, and change them up regularly. Even better, get a second pet rabbit. Once two bunnies bond, they’ll be inseparable and entertain each other.

It’s important to enjoy your rabbit’s company while you can. They may not live as long as we’d like, but rabbits provide immense joy. It’s up to you to return that delight.

Can Rabbits Die Suddenly and Without Warning?

Sometimes, rabbits die very suddenly. This is heartbreaking. They can seem fine one moment, but pass away the next.

This may occur due to a sickness that you didn’t see coming. Bunnies hide their ill health from humans as much as possible. They don’t want predators to know that they are weak.

Rabbits are also very frail and delicate. This means that accidents can be fatal. If a rabbit is dropped, for example, it can be catastrophic. This is why children should always be supervised when playing with rabbits.

Of course, predators also remain a threat. You can watch your rabbit while they play, but they’re still vulnerable in their hutch. Even if a fox can’t reach your pet, they’re not entirely safe.

The sight of predators can send a bunny into cardiac arrest. They die of fright. Avoid this by covering your rabbit’s hutch with tarpaulin at night.

dying rabbit behavior

10 Warning Signs That Your Bunny Will Soon Die

Medical science and animal care knowledge are improving every day. This makes sudden death in bunnies less and less frequent. All the same, one day, you will need to say goodbye to your rabbit.

If you can prepare yourself, you’ll be less surprised when your rabbit passes away. This doesn’t mean that you’ll be any less upset. All you can do is brace yourself for what is to come.

1) Your Rabbit is Approaching Double Figures in Age

Time waits for no rabbit. Eventually, your pet’s age will catch up with them. If your rabbit is aged 8 or over, they could be on borrowed time.

If any comfort can be drawn, know this. Old age is a peaceful way for a rabbit to pass away. The best case scenario is a bunny serenely drifting off to sleep, and not waking up.

It’s impossible to say how long a rabbit will live with complete conviction. It depends on their breed, general health, and lifestyle.

Also, remember that senior rabbits have weakened immunity. You’ll have to be particularly vigilant about observing your older bunny.

2) Your Rabbit is Lethargic and Disinterested in Exercise

A healthy rabbit will always want to run, jump, play, and explore. They’ll wind down as they age, with less activity and more sleep. They’ll still enjoy stretching their legs, though.

When a rabbit is dying, they lose all interest in physical activity. The change will be dramatic and pronounced. You won’t recognize your pet. They’ll stop asking to be let out, and they won’t move when they are.

This indifference and apathy will not be restricted to physicality, either. Dying rabbits stop grooming themselves, too. As rabbits are clean by nature, this is a bad sign.

When your rabbit’s time is short, they’ll lack the energy to do anything they enjoy. This is when you need to prepare yourself for the worst.

3) Your Rabbit Avoids Handling and Interaction

Healthy rabbits love to interact. Sure, they may not all like to be handled, but they’ll generally tolerate it. If your rabbit becomes antisocial, it’s not a good sign.

Another telltale sign that a bunny is dying is when they ignore their hutch mates. Bonded rabbits want to spend every moment together. If your bunny was the hutch alpha and no longer demands grooming, they know something is wrong.

A dying rabbit’s lack of interest in interaction is linked to their general apathy. When nothing is comfortable for a bunny, they want to be left alone.

If your bunny is also hunched over or curled into a ball, they’re in pain. This suggests that they have contracted a severe illness. Sadly, they will have kept this to themselves.

Don’t force such a rabbit to interact, but don’t desert them either. Bring them out of their hutch, get them comfortable, and sit with them. Stroking, petting and a soothing voice can do a long way.

4) Your Rabbit Refuses to Eat or Drink

Perhaps the most pivotal sign of all is that a rabbit will not eat or drink. When this happens, your rabbit is very close to the end.

A bunny will sit and graze on hay all day and night. They even eat hay while pooping. For a rabbit to refuse food, something is very wrong indeed. By this stage, it’s usually too late to help them.

Many illnesses prevent a rabbit from eating. The most prevalent of these is gastrointestinal stasis, as the House Rabbit Society explains. This condition is usually accompanied by constipation, and obvious pain.

You can’t force a reluctant rabbit to eat. Always give them the option of fresh hay, though. This is also an excellent time to offer favorite treats, such as raisins. If this tempts your bunny into eating, it will cheer them up toward the end.

5) Your Rabbit is Breathing Through Their Mouth

Rabbits are known as obligate nasal breathers. In short, they need to breathe through their nose. If they are breathing through their mouth, it’s because they’re struggling for breath.

You can tell when a bunny’s breathing is shallow. They’ll tilt back their head, attempting to get more air in their lungs. It will also be very loud. Drooling may also accompany the mouth breathing.

A dying rabbit will also elicit a ‘death rattle.’ They’ll breathe louder and louder, with an increasingly raspy quality. This could last as long as 24 hours. It’s tear-jerking to listen to, but your bunny needs your comfort during this time.

6) Your Rabbit Behaves with Uncharacteristic Aggression

Has your sweet, loving bunny suddenly taken to biting and kicking? This is a sign that they are in pain. They’re worried that you’re going to pick them up, and make it even worse.

You must not punish your rabbit for this. Instead, you must show compassion. In addition to hurting, your pet will be afraid. You need to show them that you’re not going to make things worse.

The only note of caution to sound around an aggressive rabbit is sickness. If they are behaving this way due to ill health, it may be a transmutable condition.

Tularemia, also known as Rabbit Fever, can be passed from bunnies to humans.

Symptoms of a Dying Rabbit

7) Your Rabbit Has a Low Body Temperature

A healthy rabbit will run a temperature between 101 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Toward the end of their life, this will drop sharply. A hypothermic rabbit is a surefire sign that they are dying.

This may be a symptom of an illness. Alternatively, your rabbit may be going into shock. Sometimes, bunnies cannot stay warm as age catches up with them.

If your rabbit is cold, they will start to shiver. This should not be confused with muscle tremors. These are a different symptom. Drape a blanket over your rabbit to increase their temperature, but do not wrap them up.

This will not only cause stress, but it could be dangerous. If your rabbit experiences a seizure, they need room to move.

8) Your Rabbit Suffers from Seizures and Fits

Seizures and tremors in rabbits are very frightening. They are common in a rabbit that is nearing the end of their life.

Loss of muscle control is usually linked to a neurological issue in your bunny. Their brain and nervous system are starting to shut down, as they know time is short.

When a rabbit’s body starts to spasm, they move a surprising amount. Clear plenty of space, and surround your bunny with soft cushions and blankets. This will soften any landing.

Don’t hold your rabbit down while they’re having a seizure. This can hurt them. The last thing that you want is to add pain to an already terrifying experience.

9) Your Rabbit Vocalizes Regularly

Rabbits are verbal creatures. You’ll learn their sounds, including those that signify pleasure. Sadly, you’ll also come to recognize expressions of pain and discomfort.

A dying rabbit will make a variety of sounds, seemingly involuntarily. Squeaks and Nibbles list the sounds to look out for. These include squeaking, whimpering, grunting, and whining.

If your rabbit seems unable to control their vocalizing, they probably can’t. A bunny will eventually reach a point where everything hurts. They’ll also be frightened of what is to come.

Don’t tell your rabbit off. Just offer as much reassurance as you can. You’ll miss those noises once they cease.

10) Your Rabbit Screams

If you’re lucky, you will live your life without ever hearing a rabbit scream. It’s a gut-wrenching sound, comparable to that of a wailing child.

A rabbit will typically only scream in moments of extreme terror or fear. Breaking a limb, for example, or fleeing a predator. A scream suggests that a rabbit fears that their life is about to end.

If your rabbit is screaming, they must be comforted. Offer much soothing as you can, without hurting them. Do whatever it takes to calm the bunny down.

How Do I Know if I Should Euthanize My Rabbit?

If your rabbit is in visible distress and pain, euthanasia may be the most humane decision.

Consult an animal healthcare professional, and confirm that euthanasia is the best approach. Feel free to get a second opinion, too. Not every vet is a rabbit expert.

If you do need to euthanize your bunny, remember that it’s the best choice for them. No rabbit will want to live an extra two or three months in pain. Sometimes, you need to break your own heart to spare a bunny further distress.

My Rabbit’s Life is Coming to an End

With dignity and compassion. When your rabbit is dying, they will be petrified. More than ever, they need you. You’ll need to put your sadness on hold until the appropriate time.

If your bunny is dying, you cannot stop it. This means that you must not try. Attempting to force a dying rabbit to eat or drink will cause stress. Likewise, they can’t ‘walk it off’ with exercise.

Even keeping your rabbit warm with blankets can be a dangerous practice. If they overheat, a rabbit becomes very stressed. This can escalate their demise.

As your rabbit prepares to take their last breath, offer soothing strokes. Having you nearby will make the transition easier for them.

Knowing that your rabbit is dying can be tough to accept. Unfortunately, you need to do just that.

After your rabbit has passed on, you can cry before disposing of your rabbit’s body. Until then, they need you. Learning the warning signs of imminent death can help you provide that support.