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Is Your Rabbit Dying? 12 Signs Your Bun Might Be Nearing the End

is my rabbit dying? 12 signs

“How do I know if my rabbit is dying?” It’s a question that NO pet parent ever wants to ask.

Unfortunately, the average lifespan of a rabbit is 8-12 years. And sometimes, there will be no significant signs that your rabbit is dying. Rabbits can be very stoic when it comes to their own suffering. But, if you’ve seen it as much as I have, you can identify the signs. And hopefully, my experiences can help you.

Let’s get into identifying the signs that your rabbit might be dying.

Signs Your Rabbit Might Be Dying

Before we start, I want to mention that having one of these symptoms might not mean the end. In some cases, it could be something emergency vet care can resolve. But if your rabbit displays more than one of these symptoms, it’s likely near the end. Only a vet can really tell you for sure.

If your rabbit is showing any of these signs, it’s imperative to take them to the vet for a checkup or treatment.

1. Behavioral Changes

Behavioral changes certainly aren’t always a sign that your rabbit is dying. There are many cases where non-life-threatening issues cause behavioral changes, like hormones or even just boredom. But this is your first sign that something is wrong.

When a rabbit is dying, the most significant difference you’ll likely see is the behavior change, more specifically, an absence of energy, affection, and other personality traits. Your rabbit may also become more aggressive if there’s pain involved.

rabbit behavioral changes

2. Not Eating or Drinking 

This symptom needs more observation before diagnosis because it could also be something super-simple, such as tummy troubles. However, like behavioral changes, this still signifies that you should watch out for any other.

I should also note that this symptom alone can be fatal. If your rabbit has nothing to eat or drink for 12 hours or longer, this can lead to irreparable internal damage. So, if you notice that your rabbit hasn’t touched his food or water since last night, call the vet. Again, it may not be as severe as you think, and if that’s the case, your vet can help with treatment.

3. Can’t or Won’t Self-groom

Elderly rabbits that suffer from arthritis or other mobility issues will likely lose all interest in trying to groom themselves. Of course, on its own, this symptom can be caused by arthritis or obesity, in which case, a weight loss plan could probably solve it.

Rabbits that can’t groom themselves and are also experiencing diarrhea or incontinence may also pose a greater risk of infection or flystrike.

4. Little to No Movement

If your rabbit is dying, he won’t be moving around much. Sometimes, it can be sudden, and your rabbit will not want to move at all. Or it may start as erratic spurts of movement, saying running a couple of feet. Paired with being unbalanced, this is a clear sign that your elderly rabbit is nearing the end of his journey. Seizures are also common in dying rabbits.

rabbit not feeling well

5. Wobbly/Unbalanced 

Rabbits are very agile creatures, so if your rabbit is wobbly or seems unbalanced when he tries to move, especially if he falls down, this is a clear sign of something wrong. If you have a senior rabbit, this is likely a sign that your rabbit is dying. Before the end, my boy Bubba was very unbalanced. He was almost unable to stand up or move, so I knew it was time.

6. Paralysis 

Paralysis is a prevalent sign that your rabbit is about to pass on. Elderly rabbits have weaker muscles and many times, they will just become dysfunctional. This is after a long period of erratic movement or being wobbly and is usually one of the final signs that your rabbit is dying.

7. Can’t Make It to the Litter Box

Incontinence is prevalent in elderly animals and even some people. Whether it’s a mobility issue or something to do with the bladder or kidneys, it doesn’t matter. Your rabbit needs veterinary attention pronto. And, if your rabbit is older, this is a sign that it might be time to say goodbye.

8. Labored Breathing

Labored breathing can be caused by many things, from poisoning to respiratory illness (and beyond). But, no matter the actual cause, it means your rabbit is dying and desperately needs to see a vet, especially if it’s been like this for a while. If it’s caused a respiratory infection, you may even be able to treat it.

9. Dropping Body Temperature 

Dropping body temperature is a serious sign that your rabbit is dying. The average body temperature for a rabbit is 101-103 degrees Fahrenheit (38-39.5 °C). Your rabbit’s core temperature only has to drop a couple of degrees to 100 or less to go into the early stages of hypothermia.

Rabbit lying on the floor

10. Digestion Issues

Digestion issues include diarrhea, misshapen poops, no movement at all, and clear gel-like fecal substance.

This is more common in younger rabbits, weanlings that were separated too early. In adults, this can sometimes be a case of your rabbit eating too much of something he’s not used to. However, prolonged cases and cases with clear, gel-like poop mean something much more severe and warrant a trip to the vet before it worsens.

11. Blood In Pee 

Before starting on this sign, it’s important to note the difference between blood in urine and red urine. Before it was common practice to Google everything, I freaked myself out by feeding my rabbit too many greens. His pee was red, and I immediately panicked and called my vet, who (after laughing a little) told me that it wasn’t blood. That was just how my rabbit’s body processed all of the green pigment from the food.

So, if the urine itself is red, it’s more than likely not a sign your rabbit is dying. However, if you find streams of red in the urine, that’s an entirely different story. If you have an intact female (meaning unspayed), and you find blood in her pee, this is likely a sign of ovarian cancer, which is extremely difficult to treat in rabbits, especially at that point. A less severe possibility is a UTI which can be treated with a round of antibiotics.

12. Vocalizing

Rabbits are, for the most part, silent. When your rabbit is vocalizing, whether it’s grunting or actually screaming, this is a clear sign your rabbit is in extreme pain and needs to see a vet ASAP. This may not be a sign of them dying, but it’s also common for rabbits to scream as they pass away.

Fatal Illnesses That Have Less-obvious Symptoms

rabbit illnesses

Some things come on quickly or won’t have visible symptoms. Here are some fatal illnesses that have symptoms the untrained eye probably won’t be able to see.

GI Stasis 

Gastrointestinal (GI) stasis is when your rabbit’s digestive system slows down, not because of a blockage per se, but a change in the bacteria levels inside your rabbit’s gut. This often happens because a rabbit is not eating or his diet is insufficient, which, again, is dangerous on its own. And if you don’t know the signs of GI stasis, it can be tricky to spot.

Poisoning

Poisoning can happen quickly, depending on what causes it. Symptoms of poisoning include drooling, lethargy, heavy breathing, and seizures. If your rabbit is showing any of those signs or he’s been in contact with poison, he needs a vet ASAP.

Heart Failure/Heart Attack

Heart problems are often invisible without an enneagram or constantly checking your rabbit’s pulse. And often, heart attacks happen too quickly to realize what’s going on. Also, rabbits can be quite easily scared to death. This may not be as sudden, but the shock can cause heart failure.

RHDV

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease, also known as RHDV, is a highly contagious and fatal virus that can affect wild and domestic rabbits. This virus becomes deadly very quickly, with very few visible symptoms. The good news is that there is a vaccine to prevent it!

Comforting a Dying Rabbit

The most important part of comforting a dying rabbit is to provide a safe and quiet environment. Make sure that your rabbit is warm enough. You can give him a blanket to cuddle up in. Also, make sure that your rabbit’s water and food are close so that he won’t have to move around.

If it’s a more prolonged process, and your rabbit doesn’t seem to have the will to live, as awful as that may be to think about, you might want to consider euthanization.

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Euthanize Your Rabbit

Euthanasia is the single hardest decision we have to make as pet parents. It’s difficult to come to terms with, especially if you’ve never had to face it before. But the main thing to consider here is your rabbit’s quality of life.

If your rabbit doesn’t seem to get any more enjoyment out of life or if he’s struggling, euthanasia is probably the easiest way to the rainbow bridge. Your vet will be able to make the proper recommendation.

Conclusion

No one ever wants to think about their rabbit dying. But, if you know how to spot the signs that a rabbit is dying, you might be able to prevent it. Or, at the very least, you can make an informed decision about your next steps.

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3 Comments

  1. Loss of weight blood in urine not ate or drank for 2 days keeps getting aggressive and hasn’t chewed things like treats etc for over a week worried she is 9 years old

    1. Hi, this is an emergency and your rabbit needs to see a vet asap. Rabbits can’t survive without food or water for long.

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