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Rabbits/Ruptured cecum (not emergency, previous rabbit)


Hello Dana,

I'll get straight to the question and add the rest of the story after if you have time to read it. In January this year I unfortunately lost my rabbit, Bandit, due to an accident which resulted in a ruptured cecum. I'm wondering if there is anything that could have been done to correct a ruptured cecum. What little information I have been able to gather from the internet suggests to me that any surgery on the cecum would have been just as likely to kill him as the ruptured cecum itself.

He was injured when I picked him up for a grooming session and he panicked. Instead of letting him jump out of my arms from standing height, I held onto him but must have done so too tightly. I immediately knew that something had gone wrong. I put him down and he hopped back to his cage but was extremely restless. He would choose a position to sit (a pained position) and within 30 seconds would be up and finding another position to try. I immediately tried the treat test which he refused.

Being a Sunday, as is usual for rabbit emergencies, my regular clinic was closed. I had been recommended but never before needed to use the emergency clinic. I phoned them straight away and had Bandit there in about 30-45 minutes from the accident. The vet I saw didn't seem to take me very seriously, she said he didn't seem in pain and couldn't feel anything wrong. I told her otherwise that I could tell he was in a lot of pain and they needed to do something. They gave a pain killer and took him in the back to perform an ultrasound which I was told they wouldn't do for at least an hour because of other things they had going on. To this I argued extremely strongly and ended up in tears over the fact that they didn't seem to have the sense of urgency that I had.

In the end I had to leave the clinic and wait despite me knowing his situation was an emergency, it broke my heart to leave knowing that waiting was the wrong move, but I spent a few minutes with Bandit before I left. I received a call about an hour and a half later telling me they had performed the ultrasound and he had collapsed and passed away almost immediately after. Obviously I was heart broken. Knowing that his cecum had been ruptured, I assumed that even if they had performed the ultrasound immediately, that there would have been nothing they could have done. It simply would have been nice to have them trust my judgement about my house rabbit that I'd owned for three years. I will certainly find it hard to trust them for any rabbits in the future. There is another recommended emergency rabbit vet, which is probably a 45 minute drive away, and I'm considering that possibly better vet care likely outweighs the risk of a longer drive in an emergency.

Ultimately, I suppose it's been eating at me these past few months since I lost him. While I know that I did everything I could by getting him to the vet straight away, I have still been wondering that if perhaps I had fought harder for an immediate ultrasound whether he could have been saved. I'm going to guess that your answer will be that there was nothing to be done for a ruptured cecum, which is I suppose the best outcome for me to know that I did as much as I could have to help.

My apologies for rambling on. Thank you for taking the time to read this and answer my question. I have admired your work and knowledge on rabbits for a long time and much of what I've learned about rabbit health has come from you.

Thank you,

Dear Rebecca

I am so sorry for this tragic accident.

Seriously, there is nothing that could be done for a ruptured cecum.  Is that what they found on necropsy?  You do not say how this diagnosis was made.

The cecum wall is tissue-paper thin, and while it is pliable, it is very delicate.  I cannot imagine that it would take sutures or even glue well.  Also, the bacteria from the cecum would already have contaminated the abdominal cavity, so peritonitis would have been inevitable, and a horrible, painful death.

I am sorry for his death, but a quick passing was definitely better than the lingering one he could have suffered.



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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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