if your rabbit is dying, or, If it is getting old you might be worried that your rabbit is approaching death. As you’ve gotten to know and taken care of your rabbit, you will have learned what its normal behavior is like. Changes in that behavior are a sign of a change in health and even death.
A rabbit will live for between 6 and 12 years. Signs that a rabbit is close to death include an unusual level of lethargy, refusing to eat, difficulty breathing, or a sudden change in vital signs. A rabbit should have a heart rate between 180 and 250 beats per minute, as well as a body temperature between 100 degrees Fahrenheit and 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Skin conditions such as myiasis, are also signs that your rabbit’s life is not well. Many rabbits experience involuntary muscle spasms as they near the final minutes of life.
As much as you love your rabbits, death is totally a natural part of life. It is vital that you understand the common signs that let you know your rabbit is dying. This will let you know when to take your rabbit to the veterinarian for care, and this knowledge will also prepare you for the worst when it comes. Let’s now look at the top facts that will warn you that your rabbit is dying.
How To Know If Your Rabbit is Dying
You can give your pet rabbit a healthy and long life. In captivity, rabbits can live anywhere between 6 and 12 years if kept safely indoors.
When your rabbit nears the end of its life, its body will change in ways you can notice. Any of these symptoms alone is likely a sign of illness, but not necessarily the imminent death of your rabbit.
However, if you notice one of these signs is present, it may be near the end of your rabbit’s life. Knowing the signs that your rabbit is dying will make it easy for you to decide how to handle the end of your pet rabbit’s life.
1) Refusing To Eat Food
The most clearly noticeable sign is your rabbit will not eat its food. A rabbit needs to eat plenty of grass, hay, and green vegetables to meet its nutritional needs. So, something may be wrong, If your rabbit is not eating at all.
If your rabbit isn’t eating quite as much as it did when it was a little baby, this is not necessarily a need for concern. A healthy animal is driven to take in the nutrients to survive, and there’s no need to force your rabbit to eat more than it wants if it is getting the food it needs.
However, if your rabbit has any appetite, this can be a sign of being near death or illness. Many illnesses, both mental and physical, can suppress a rabbit’s appetite. Lack of appetite could also be a sign of old age. If you are worried that your rabbit is eating so little that it is not getting the nutrients it needs, take it to a vet for a check-up.
2) Unusual Level of Lethargy
Rabbits are physically active animals. However, the activity level can vary between one rabbit to another. The longer you’ve owned your rabbit, the more familiar you will be with what is a normal amount of hopping and running around for your pet. You will also know how typically playful your rabbit normally is.
If your rabbit becomes somehow lazy, apathetic about playtime, and unwilling to perform much physical activity at all, this could be a sign that your rabbit is dying or sick.
Unexpected lethargy may also be a sign of stress. To find out how serious this lethargy is, take your rabbit to a more enjoyable environment, free from stressors such as excessive noise and heat. If your rabbit calms down and gets up to play again, then their stillness was due to stress.
If the rabbit still does not seem to want to move at all, then it may be near death or illness. You may give it small amounts of water to drink through a syringe and try to wrap it in a blanket. If your rabbit refuses to drink, do not force it. You want to avoid making your rabbit choke in its weakened state.
3) Skin Conditions
Rabbits are very good at keeping themselves clean. However, a rabbit that is not feeling well will pay less attention to grooming itself. While a healthy rabbit will have soft, clean fur and skin, a rabbit that is getting sick may have excessively greasy or matted fur. This lack of fur care can be an early sign of a skin condition.
According to an article in Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice, rabbits are vulnerable to a variety of skin diseases. These include infectious diseases, parasitic diseases, and skin tumors. Some of these cases can lead to death.
Symptoms of these skin conditions include dandruff, bald patches in your rabbit’s fur, and also scaling or flaking of the skin.
4) Change in Vital Signs
When a rabbit nears death, its vital signs will move out of normal ranges. An animal’s vital signs include its heart rate and temperature. Here are the normal vital signs for a healthy rabbit:
- Temperature: 100-104 degrees Fahrenheit
- Breathing Rate: Between 30 and 60 breaths per minute
- Heart Rate: Between 180 and 250 beats per minute
- Capillary Refill Time: 2 seconds or less
You can test the rabbit’s body temperature with a thermometer. Its breathing and heart rate can be observed with careful counting and a timer.
To test capillary refill time, open the rabbit’s mouth carefully press against the gums around its teeth. As you add pressure, the color will lighten. After you remove the pressure, how long it takes for the gums to come back to the normal color is the capillary refill time.
If these vital signs are out of the ordinary, especially if this was a sudden change, it is time to take your rabbit to a vet.
5) Difficulty Breathing
Healthy rabbits do not breathe very noisily. This is because rabbits breathe through their noses, rather than their mouths.
This means that a stuffy nose is an unhealthy sign. If your rabbit sounds like it has a cold, that can be a sign of illness, including illnesses that leave it close to death. Signs of difficulty breathing include the following:
- Mouth breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Flared nostrils
- Runny nose
Rabbits will also breathe harder when they get stressed. Causes of stress for a rabbit can include hearing loud noises, experiencing overcrowding, the presence of predators, being chased, and being handled roughly.
Try to remove any sources of stress and see if your rabbit’s breathing gets well. If not, there may be a serious underlying cause.
A rabbit that is near death will have agitated breathing. Its breaths may come in fits and starts. This is often advertised as a “death rattle” for its unsettling sound and its association with the end of the rabbit’s life.
If your rabbit is shivering even though the room is warm, this could be a sign of shock. A rabbit will also shake as it nears death if it is stressed or frightened. This fear may be because of an external stressor, but it may also be a response to the rabbit’s own symptoms. A rabbit’s dying signs can be just as unsettling for the rabbit as they are to you.
You can put a light blanket over the rabbit to give it some comfort but do not tuck the blanket around the rabbit. Allow it to move around if it needs to.
During dying, a rabbit will often begin to drool. It can let out a lot more saliva than you would expect from such a small animal, especially if the rabbit has not been drinking water. The rabbit’s fur will absorb some of the drool, but it may still make a mess.
Your rabbit may also have a swollen mouth or face as the apparent cause of the drooling. If you look inside the rabbit’s mouth and its gums are pale white, blue, or yellow, this may be a sign of additional illness.
8) Unusual Noises
If your rabbit is making weird or unusual noises, this can be a sign that it is sick. A rabbit that feels uncomfortable may grind its teeth audibly. When it is in pain, a rabbit screams. As a rabbit nears to death, especially if a sickness is a part of its death, then it may let out squeaking sounds or involuntary groaning.
Other sounds to keep an ear out for are the sounds associated with difficulty breathing. This includes snuffling, sneezing, wheezing, and gasping.
Taking care of your lovely rabbit extends all the way through its life, until its final breaths moments. By making yourself familiar with your rabbit’s normal behavior and checking for these signs, you will know when your rabbit is dying and be able to give it the comfort it needs right up to the end.