Signs and symptoms of a dying rabbit

Last Updated on October 5, 2022 by Admin

As much as we love our beloved pets, death is inevitable and destined to happen at some point in a rabbit’s lifetime. Although the average lifespan of a rabbit is around 8 to 12 years, they can kick the bucket earlier due to unnatural causes.  Some of the tell-tale signs of a dying rabbit include loss of appetite, diarrhea, shivering, breathing difficulty, involuntary spasms, lethargy, abnormal poop pellets, and screaming due to pain. Other times a dying rabbit shows no signs or symptoms of illness as we shall discuss in this article.

Dying rabbit

How to tell whether a rabbit is dying


Quite often, it’s hard to tell if a rabbit is ailing since they are prey animals naturally good at hiding their symptoms or sickness. The trait is quite common in the wild since it helps keep predators away or from taking advantage of their vulnerable condition. Below are some of the common signs and symptoms that a bunny displays when they’re about to die.



  • Loss of appetite


A rabbit that is at its death bed is most likely to lose interest in its favorite meal or drink water. Consequently, harmful bacteria then build up in the intestines hence slowing down the digestive system. Additionally, it leads to the formation of gas which causes painful bloating.

This severe condition is commonly referred to as GI stasis which prevents the gut from functioning normally. Loss of appetite can be due to an infection, toothache, or the likelihood of your pet being stressed out. In other words, a bunny that doesn’t eat in the next 12 hours is likely to suffer from gut stasis which if left untreated leads to death.


  • Abnormal Feces

Another common symptom of dying rabbits is abnormal fecal pellets or even diarrhea. The latter mostly occurs when your pet has eaten or drunk something poisonous. Diarrhea is a sign of health decline since it causes dehydration for your pets. It’s usually common around young rabbits and can be deadly if left untreated.

If your bunny’s poop is smaller than usual, it could be an indication that they’re suffering from stress or are in pain. On the other hand, if their poop has a double or triple merge, then it’s a clear indicator that their digestive tract isn’t functioning properly.



  • Shivering

A rabbit that’s about to die is most likely going to shiver or feel cold even when the temperature is warm. In times of distress, bunnies are usually poor at regulating their body temperatures. A rabbit that’s lying on its side and trembling could be as a result of shock, stress, ingesting something toxic, or GI stasis.


  • Breathing difficulty

Another sign of a dying bunny is breathing difficulty. In other words, it will have a stuffy nose forcing your pet to breathe using its mouth. Additionally, their breathing also tends to be noisier than usual. In most circumstances, difficulty in breathing along with a nose twitch is usually associated with a respiratory infection and is usually a common sign of a critically ill bunny.


  • Muscle Spasms

Involuntary spasms or muscle twitch is another common sign of a dying rabbit. This particular condition makes bunnies lose control over their limbs and quite often they’ll hit themselves against nearby objects. Muscle spasm is mainly caused by a head tilt or a viral Rabbit Hemorrhagic disease having a 70 to 100% mortality rate for adult bunnies.

  • Lethargy

Dying rabbits are normally less energetic and playful than usual. Lethargy is brought by stress and quite often an environment that isn’t that conducive for your pets. Ensure that they’re in a quiet habitat away from any stressors. On the other hand, a bunny can be lethargic in a new or unfamiliar environment. It’s therefore pivotal to determine what causes lethargy if you want to increase your pet’s lifespan.


  • Squealing


Quite often, a bunny that’s about to die will squeal, wheeze, groan or snuffle. Rabbits are relatively quiet animals and will rarely make loud vocalizations. However, when injured, in pain, and about to die, they’ll make a high-pitched sound.

  • Isolation

In most circumstances, a rabbit will seclude themselves or at least try doing so if they can. Instinctively, bunnies are prey animals that prefer to isolate themselves from the colony to avoid attracting predators. Quite often, a bunny that is eagerly trying its best to hide out from other bunnies is most likely on its deathbed.


Other causes of rabbit death lacking symptoms


There are other times when a rabbit dies unexpectedly without showing any signs or symptoms. Although it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what led to your pet’s demise, below are some of the common causes of a bunny’s death without showing any signs or symptoms.

  • Ingesting poison or sharp objects

A rabbit that has eaten or drunk something poisonous can die suddenly or several hours later with no signs or symptoms of illness. If you suspect your pet has ingested something harmful such as glass or poison, take them to a vet immediately.

  • Heart attack

Heart attacks are usually fatal and sudden. Loud noise or fright from other pets such as cats and dogs can put a bunny into shock, which eventually leads to heart failure.


  • RHDV

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus has no noticeable symptoms, is deadly, and usually affects a bunny’s liver and blood vessels. The virus for this particular disease can remain in the environment for close to 4 months and typically survives extreme temperatures.



Unfortunately, in most circumstances, it’s usually not possible saving a dying rabbit especially if they have mild symptoms. If your vet feels that your bunny is suffering and lacks a  fighting chance, then putting them down is the best option. As much as it is devastating, it’s usually the most humane to end their pain.


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Rabbit hemorrhagic disease: Signs and symptoms


Rabbit sepsis symptoms


How common is tularemia in rabbits?


Unhealthy rabbit eyes: Info and Facts


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