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Rabbits/why rabbit passed


I had a rabbit that was a rescue so i have no idea how old he was. he was free roaming. he would even sleep on the bed with me and my two dogs at night. i don't believe rabbits belong in a cage and at the very least should always be indoors.  he was acting perfectly normal before bedtime. i left him his usual dish of greens parsley some basil. i woke up during the night and noticed he was not in the room. so i went into the room where his food is and found him under a chair i pet him he seemed like he didn't want to be bothered so i just figured he wanted to sleep and be left alone.  a few hours later when i woke up for the day he came in my room on the bed but i noticed he did not eat all his food but he did that before so i was not that concerned. but then i noticed he did not go in his litter box overnight so then i was concerned. i started calling vets for an appt. many did not care for rabbits. some gave me numbers of vets they thought took care of rabbits but did not. i finally found one who gave me a 5:00 appt. i said that my be to late. i tried to get someone to talk to me on the phone and maybe help me help him until i could get to a vet. no one would. in between all these calls i was checking him and he seemed to go down hill quickly. i was trying desperately to help him. i picked him up and his eyes were closed. he almost seemed in a coma. then his mouth began to move and he threw up yellowish stuff. then he twitched and passed away. i'm heartbroken of course. but can't figure out what happened. i did get him new hay he had that day it was kaytee hibiscus has and he seemed to love it. do you think the hay could have been tainted in some way? i would like to have it tested but don't know who does this. but i'm hoping by his symptoms  you might have and idea. thank you so much for your time. if you have more questions please ask. by the way his name was scooter.

Dear Mary,

I am so sorry about the loss of your friend Scooter.

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.  The fact that he regurgitated yellow fluid could be a clue.  But it could have been either from his lungs or his GI tract (though rabbits cannot vomit).  It is impossible for me to tell without seeing it.

Since you noticed signs of unusual behavior before your bunny died, then please read:

which might also give some clues.    

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:

to call and find out what your options might be.

I am very sorry for your loss.




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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


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:

Find a rabbit vet at 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.


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.

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

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

Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology

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