Rabbits/Rabbit death


This is a non-urgent question. Our beautiful rabbit Snowbell passed away Saturday 15th March. The rabbit was a White lionhead and was just over 10 years old. When we first got him he lived in hutch, he was bought by my mother as a present for our daughter. At approx 8 years old the rabbit stopped eating and drinking, I discovered lots of information from your web pages etc. Following a visit to the vets at this time we decided to have snowbell live indoors. This is the best thing we ever did, we set about trying to make the rabbits life as good as possible. It had free run of the ground floor of the house (exclude access to certain areas of pipes/sockets/cables etc) and we doted on it. Over the course of approx 2 years we had several issues of non eating / drinking which we resolved in conjunction with visits to the vets. A day or so before snowbell died I noticed that eating drinking etc had reduced so I followed our routine we had done in the past ie fibreplex assisted drinking etc. On the 14th March Snowbell had a seizure, we took her to the vets 2pm and he had painkiller and gut motility injection. On return home the rabbit seemed to perk up although there still was an issue with movement of back legs. Later that night at approx 11:30pm snowbell took a downturn shortly after he had another seizure, following which he just lay down, it appeared that he was too weak to stand up. Myself, my wife and my daughter sat next to him and tried to make him comfortable and re-assure him, snowbell had about 10 more seizures before passing away at 7am. Sorry for being so longwinded we wondered if the painkiller may have still been if his system, as the fight he showed was truly amazing also do you have any ideas as to possible cause?

Dear Lee,

I am sorry about the loss of Snowbell.

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 a bit vague, and could have been due to any of dozens of different things.

If you noticed signs of specific, unusual behavior before he died, then please read:


which might give some clues.  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 can offer closure, but this is no longer possible in your case.  

The painkiller might still have been in his system, depending on what it was.  Opioids generally last from 4-8 hours in the system of a healthy rabbit with a normally functioning liver (longer if the liver is not working well to de-tox), but some NSAIDs (e.g., metacam) can last close to 24 hours.  It does not sound as if poor Snowbell suffered long, and I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that you gave him a wonderful life full of love.  That's something most bunnies never have.

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:

...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.


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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