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Rabbits/Elderbun kidney failure - last resort question


Hi Dr. Krempels
My question is on palliative care for kidney failure.  Our vet is an HRS vet, but he didn't have any advice for us other than subQ.  Remy is our beloved 10.5 y.o. harlequin.  His kidney function was compromised (long story, huge error in pharmacist cipro compounding) 1.5 years ago. His blood results then indicated kidney failure.  We have been treating him with subQ fluids daily for 1.5 years and he had great quality of life. Last week he started the classic water-gulping and he stopped eating cilantro, hay and pellets.  He'll now eat romaine but that's about it - and while his appetite is huge, he's lost 30% of his body weight.  We're dosing him with critical care and we are now increasing his subQ to twice/day.  Today he started to show extreme weakness in his legs.  He's not acting as if he's in pain, he's just weak. i don't see the point in more blood work, as weak as he is.  I know there's now solution to this, just wanted to find out if you had any last-resort ideas.

Hi, Susan

I'm so sorry about this sad situation.  Once the kidneys really fail, there's not much you can do but palliative care.

You could try dandelion root extract from a health food store.  It won't hurt, and some swear it helps.  

The pewter lining to this cloud is that chronic renal failure like this is supposedly one of the least painful ways to go.  I have read several articles citing a poll asking medical professionals if they could choose their way to die, what would it be, and most chose chronic renal failure because it is relatively "gentle".  Here is an article based on human experience:

A mammal is a mammal, and there's no reason to think the experience for a bunny would not be similar to that of a human in this case.

So love your little guy with all your heart and know that at least he is not suffering a very painful end.

I am sending many healing thoughts to all of you.



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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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