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Question
Yesterday as I was leaving for work I went to refill Thumpers food dish and he was in the corner of the cage and I went to love on him like I always do before I leave and he started shaking a bit.  I didn't think to much of it because he has done this before.  Just a little shake here and there.  When I got home from work he was worse.  He was shaking badly, his ears were horribly hot, his head was hanging off to the side sort of like he was leaning.  When he tried to hop he was loosing his balance and kept falling over. I grabbed him up and wrapped him in a towel and headed out the door to the vet and within a five minute period he started shaking violently and got stiff and was breathing hard.  About 5 minutes after that he took his last breath.  I returned home with him and gave him a proper but very sad and emotional burial.  We were very attached to him.  He was only a year old.  Can you please give me some insight?  I would greatly appreciate it.  Thank you.

Answer
Dear Michelle,

I am sorry about the loss of your bunny.

Sadly, there is absolutely no way to confidently ascertain a cause of death without a post-mortem exam, preferably including histopathology of major organ tissues.  The signs you describe are very vague, and could have been due to any of dozens of different things.

Please read:

www.bio.miami.edu/hare/sickbun.html

which might give some clues.  The hot ears, shaking, and general malaise suggest a serious, systemic infection.  But unless you can provide a lot more specific information, this is the best I can offer.  

If a body has been kept very cold (not frozen), and it has been less than 24 hours since death, a necropsy is one option possible, as it can sometimes give closure and peace of mind.   You can find an experienced rabbit vet here who may be able to help with this:

www.rabbit.org/vets

to call and find out what your options might be.

I am very sorry for your loss.

Sincerely,

Dana

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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.

Expertise

I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:
THE INTERNET IS NOT THE PLACE TO SEEK HELP IN AN EMERGENCY.

...it is an EMERGENCY.

Find a rabbit vet at www.rabbit.org/vet for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.


RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.

Experience

I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Organizations
Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Publications
Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Education/Credentials
Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology
(http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare)

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