The sudden death of baby bunnies is not only painful…
But it is also very frustrating when you don’t know what happened.
Everything was fine… and out of nowhere, they’ll suddenly leave you.
Unfortunately, sudden death in baby rabbits is a very common thing to happen.
Read on to find out:
- 17 reasons why baby rabbits die suddenly
- 5 tips to help a dying baby rabbit
- How to tell if a baby rabbit is dying
- What to do with a dead baby rabbit
- Whether mother rabbits kill off their young
- And much much more…
Why do baby rabbits die suddenly?
Baby rabbits die suddenly because they are weak-hearted and tend to die from heart attacks. As a prey animal, they’re highly sensitive to loud noises or sudden movements. Domesticated breeds can be born weak and more prone to sudden deaths.
17 reasons why baby rabbits die suddenly
#1: Hereditary diseases
Domesticated bunnies are more likely to inherit genetic problems and carry hereditary diseases.
Unethical breeding may cause baby bunnies to die because some breeds aren’t meant to be combined together.
For example, mating a wild rabbit with a domesticated one can result in a lot of complications for newborns.
Another example of why unethical breeding can kill is because some rabbits are already sick, breeding them together will produce a sickly newborn.
Newborn bunnies may inherit the sick parent’s illness.
Research proves that ataxia, for example, is one hereditary disease that can lead to death.
#2: Virally transmitted diseases
In some cases, bunnies can also get sick because of other animals around them.
Pets like dogs, cats, pigs, or barn animals such as cows and insects like flies or mosquitoes can transmit diseases to your bunnies.
An example of a viral disease that could kill bunnies is “rabbit hemorrhagic disease”, a.k.a RHDV.
If you experienced one or more losses, the bunnies may have been infected by this virus.
RHDV is known to be a deadly disease that can kill rabbits in a short amount of time.
Infected rabbits may not even show symptoms at all but just suddenly die.
This disease takes up to 3 days to infect your bunny, so always pay close attention to them.
A new strain of RHDV known as RHDV2 can take longer to incubate but it can kill faster.
RHDV has a 40 to 100% death rate while RHDV2 has about 80% death rate.
There aren’t enough reported cases to verify the death rate with the new strain.
Here are the common symptoms of RHDV:
- Lack of appetite.
- Getting high fever.
- Skin color changes.
- Abnormal breathing.
- Bleeding from the nose, mouth, and rectum.
While it is said that there is no known cure for this, countries like the U.S and Mexico are already working on a vaccine.
Warning: If you suspect that your bunny is a survivor of RHDV, keep them away from other bunnies. Survivor bunnies are still carriers of the virus, they can infect others even if they’ve already recovered.
There are many ways this virus is transmitted but the most common cause is blood-sucking insects like mosquitoes and flies.
#3: Wasp bites
Bunnies can also be victims of wasp attacks.
While wasp bites are usually not fatal, baby bunnies can actually die from it.
Like humans, some bunnies can develop insect allergies.
A single bite may not be too alarming…
But getting bitten multiple times is when it can be dangerous.
If your bunny was stung by a wasp, they usually get better on their own.
In case there are signs of discomfort, gently apply a cold compress on the sting area for at least 5 minutes to help your bunny.
Warning: Keep a close eye on their ears or their entire face. When the ears or face swells up badly despite being stung in a different area, it’s a sign of severe reaction that can be life-threatening.
Further reading: 15 Alarming Reasons Why Your Rabbit Keeps Sneezing + 11 Tips
#4: Other animal attacks
Your bunnies can get frightened or stressed out by other animals.
Their mere sight or presence puts a bunny at risk of fright-related heart attacks.
Other times, animals may attack them without leaving visible evidence.
An example of a sneaky culprit could be snakes. They might attack a bunny without eating them.
What’s more, It’s difficult to spot a bite mark on a bunny.
Even if the snake wasn’t venomous, the shock from the attack can be enough to end a bunny’s life.
#5: Chemical poisoning
Baby bunnies can also die suddenly from unnatural causes like chemical poisoning.
It may happen if you use strong chemicals near your bunnies.
Some cleaning products can have intense chemicals mixed in them.
Here are a few examples of chemicals to watch out for:
- Air fresheners.
- Chlorine bleach.
- Detergents and dishwashing liquids.
- Polishing products for furniture, walls and floors.
- Glyphosate (commonly found in herbicides to spray on plants).
Most of these products contain volatile organic compounds a.k.a VOC.
Warning: Avoid mixing bleach with other cleaning products that have ammonia (commonly found in polishing products) as it can cause breathing problems or worse, even cause death. It’s strong enough to poison a human which means it’s even more dangerous for a bunny.
Bunnies are curious animals. They won’t know if something is toxic to them.
There are bunnies who tend to lick walls, testing if they can chew these for fun.
Polishing products on walls may contain ammonia and rabbits might accidentally lick them.
Though it may not seem too dangerous at first, accidents can happen. Also, some bunnies are born weaker than others.
Simple cleaning products can end up making them sick.
Whether you have young bunnies or adult bunnies, it’s best to keep them away from chemical exposure.
If you are going to clean your house or their enclosure, take them away for a few hours.
Let the chemicals wear off first.
You might also want to check out: Why does my rabbit shake?
#6: Dirty cages and rodents
Since we mentioned cleaning, the hygiene of your bunny’s cage or nest is very important too.
Dirty cages not only might have bacteria around them but also attract flies and rodents.
Flies can cause myiasis, they can lay eggs directly on rabbits or on your bunny’s food sources.
Eating a fly egg can quickly make a baby bunny sick.
On the other hand, rodents are known carriers of various diseases.
Rats can also make your bunny sick from their urine or feces. In some cases, a rat may bite your bunny too.
If a rat shares your bunny’s food, rat saliva left on the food is also highly dangerous.
Clean the cage at least once a day for safety.
#7: Swallowing a sharp object or anything inedible
Baby rabbits can be clumsy as they are still exploring their surroundings.
Due to their curiosity, they may examine things here and there to find out what they can eat and what they can’t.
And sometimes, this curiosity can lead to fatal injuries.
They might mistake small, round objects for consumable food pellets.
A bunny’s stomach may not react well to foreign, inedible objects which leads to death.
#8: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
SIDS also happens to animals and other than humans.
If a bunny dies without any proper explanation, it gets classified as a case of SIDS.
#9: Neglect from breeders or pet stores
If you bought your bunny from a breeder or a pet store, there’s a risk of getting a very weak rabbit.
Plenty of pet stores are notorious for not giving proper care and attention to the animals they sell.
Sadly, those businesses may treat bunnies as nothing but products to sell.
Too much neglect is enough to make baby bunnies weak, sick, or stressed. It could be all three as well.
The best way to prevent this is by visiting reputable breeders or adopting from shelters.
#10: Stress, depression, and separation anxiety
Rabbits are social creatures and they’re used to having a companion.
Did you know that your bunny can die from loneliness?
Mental health is also a critical factor when it comes to taking care of your rabbits.
If they are raised with other bunnies.. they will seek that feeling of companionship.
Rabbits feel safer when they’re surrounded by their fellow bunnies.
Separating from their siblings can make baby rabbits feel vulnerable.
Sometimes, not giving them enough attention can also make them feel lonely.
Make sure they know you’re there!
Here are 7 signs that your baby bunny is in distress, depressed, or anxious:
- Abnormal breathing.
- Throwing things around.
- Biting their fur out constantly.
- Grunting and making unusual noises like screaming.
- Showing signs of aggressive behavior (e.g biting or kicking).
- They stop playing and showing interest in their surroundings.
- Refusing to eat, drink, or move. They stay in one place as if they’ve given up on life.
Warning: If your rabbit is showing one or more of these signs, do not ignore it and think it will pass. Your rabbit needs help or they might die unpredictably.
#11: Feeding problems
Baby bunnies may also have a hard time when it comes to feeding.
Having a bunch of siblings compete for resources can limit their food intake.
Bunnies have a hierarchy order so competing is a natural behavior.
Other times, feeding problems can be due to underlying conditions.
These conditions can make it difficult for them to drink, swallow, or digest food.
For example, overgrown teeth or stomach problems can be a cause of difficulty in eating.
This often leads to them growing weaker and weaker and may lead to sudden death.
Check out this article: Rabbit Syringe Feeding: 13 Safe Tips To Force Feed A Rabbit
#12: Overfeeding or inappropriate diet
Baby bunnies are natural healthy eaters. But they can still die because of an unbalanced diet. Whether it’s due to overfeeding or inappropriate food.
Bear in mind that you shouldn’t give your bunny fruits or vegetables at an early age.
It’s safer to feed 4-week old bunnies with only hay mixed with goat milk formula.
Giving baby bunnies kitten milk replacers (KMR) once a day is also a good choice. This helps them gain a proper amount of weight.
Another thing to consider are sudden changes in diet. These can affect your bunny’s gastrointestinal tract. Make changes to your bunny’s diet slowly at least every 2 weeks.
Note: The only time it’s safe to introduce fruits or vegetables to your bunnies is when they reach at least 12 to 20 weeks old.
#13: Gastrointestinal stasis
Following #12, an inappropriate diet can cause Gastrointestinal Stasis (GI for short) to your bunnies.
This condition affects your bunny’s appetite and may cause them to stop eating.
GI stasis means your bunny is having a hard time passing the food through their gastrointestinal tract.
This is more likely to happen if there is an imbalance in the bunny’s diet.
For example, eating too many pellets gives more carbohydrates, and not eating enough hay will result in a lack of fiber.
Untreated GI problems can lead to organ failure which can cause sudden deaths in bunnies.
#14: Cold temperatures and bathing
Newborn bunnies don’t have thick fur like their mommas.
They need their siblings to keep each other warm. This means, if a baby bunny gets too cold, they can die easily.
Which also means you shouldn’t bathe your bunnies. Most bunnies don’t need to take baths.
Bunnies can keep themselves clean.
There are cases when new bunny owners bathe their rabbits which can be a shocking activity for bunnies.
As a result, those bunnies die a few days after the incident, their little hearts can’t handle the shock.
Other than not being used to bathing in water, the cold can also make them weaker.
The best thing you can do if they have any dirt on them is to gently wipe their fur or skin with soft, damp clothing.
If you need to save your bunny from dying due to the cold, you can check out this video for further tips or guidance:
#15: Changes in the environment
Most domesticated rabbits live indoors or in a well-maintained enclosure.
This means… bunnies from pet stores or shelters might not survive in a different environment.
For example, putting them outdoors may not be a safe thing to do.
Because they were born or raised in a clean environment, baby bunnies can have a weaker immune system.
This can make them more vulnerable even to weak bacteria that they can come across with.
You know when they say let children play in dirt to build their immune system?
Well, the same thing applies to animals like rabbits.
Since they had less exposure to such things, their body won’t be able to handle the outdoors.
Avoid placing them in an environment that they’re not used to.
#16: Heart attacks
Rabbits in general are faint-hearted animals. But, baby rabbits are more sensitive than their adult counterparts.
They can die from shocking loud noises or even sudden movements.
It explains why they often “freeze” and their breathing stops.
Loud sounds such as slamming doors, car engines, other animal noises, and the likes can be enough to give those babies a heart attack.
In fact, even fully grown rabbits can die this way.
Fear striking noises will easily pump up their heart rate, it might start beating rapidly and cause them to die.
#17: Mother rabbits kill their young
Mother rabbits sometimes kill off their young.
This is common among other animals as well, not just rabbits.
It happens when the mother deems the bunny to be weak and unqualified to survive.
Oftentimes, mother animals spare their young by not prolonging their pain so they kill them off early.
You may know this as “mercy killing” that some people do for their pets or animals.
The mother rabbit normally does it by purposefully neglecting the weak bunny, separating it from its “healthy and qualified” siblings.
The weak baby bunnies will be excluded from feeding and be driven out by their own mother.
This can be preventable, that’s why it’s important to know what to do if a baby bunny is dying.
What to do if a baby bunny is dying? 5 tips
#1: Take them to the vet immediately
Taking your bunny to the vet should be your top priority if a bunny is dying.
Vets can accurately tell you how to help your bunny.
Plus, they can determine if the rabbit is sick with a transmittable disease.
Knowing if the disease is transmittable to other bunnies is an important safety precaution if you own more rabbits.
For example, a vet can tell you if your bunny is infected by RHDV.
Even though there’s already a high chance the other rabbits are also infected, it’s still best to avoid the risk of spreading it.
That’s why you should verify from your vet if the sick bunny has a transmittable disease or not to avoid spreading the disease.
But if your bunny is closely bonded with another bunny, then you must keep them together.
So if you need to leave your bunny at the vet, don’t forget to bring along their best friend.
A sick bunny will need emotional support from their companion.
Only separate a bunny if they have not yet bonded with other bunnies.
To make the safest choice for your bunny, ask direct advice from your vet as soon as possible.
#2: Give them first aid treatment
In case you can’t bring your bunny to the vet right away, provide them with first aid treatment in the meantime.
Check if your bunny can drink or eat. Bottle feed them if you must.
Feed them around the clock and make sure they are getting enough nutrition.
Take turns with a family member to keep an eye on them until you can visit the vet.
While you don’t really need expertise in this, you must be careful when it comes to nursing baby bunnies.
Make sure your hands are clean and you are feeding them with the right food.
It’s best to feed them temporarily with soft food. You can also soften pellets by mixing it with milk.
Here are some important tips to know when caring for a baby bunny.
- Feed them twice a day, but not more.
- Don’t force a bunny to eat, as it leads to stress.
- Rabbits drink goat milk. It’s more accessible in pet stores or vet offices.
In case you are concerned about the mother rabbit, don’t worry.
Most domesticated rabbits don’t care that much about human scent on their young, according to a study.
#3: Keep them warm indoors
As mentioned earlier, bunnies can be sensitive when living outdoors. It also increases the risk of exposing them to transmittable diseases from insects or other animals.
Remember, rabbits are prey animals and they will be frightened by other animals easily – which can lead to a fear-related heart attack.
So, make an exception for your baby bunnies and take them inside.
Do NOT leave them out in the cold especially during rainy weather or winter season.
Keep them in a warm room, let them rest inside a box with soft clothing as a replacement for their nest.
Note: An ideal room temperature for most rabbits should be around 60 to 65 Fahrenheit (15 to 18 degrees Celsius).
The bedding needs to be soft and clean. Make sure that no other animals can also disturb them in the meantime.
#4: Find them a companion
If you adopted a baby bunny by itself and it seemed unhappy from the start, it could be longing for their friends or family.
Bunnies are social creatures and they get lonely quite easily.
Make your bunny feel safer by bringing in another bunny around the same age as them.
Lonely bunnies may starve themselves due to their feelings which may lead to their death.
You can avoid this by simply helping them find a friend.
Though, you can also bring in a puppy or a kitten, other pets that can get along with rabbits.
However, it’s best to find them a fellow bunny because cats or dogs may scare off your bunny even more.
Sometimes, finding a playmate for your baby bunny can bring life back to them and witnessing it happen feels just like magic!
#5: Give them the comfort that they need
Sometimes, in tight situations such as this, all your baby bunny needs is some extra comfort.
Don’t leave their side and make sure to keep a calm atmosphere around them. Keep things silent, warm, and comfortable.
Give them treats that they love and just tend to all their needs.
“How to tell if my bunny is dying?”
There are 10 signs that give away if your bunny is dying:
- Not eating or drinking.
- Shaking and whimpering.
- Their body has turned limp.
- Unusual noises like screaming.
- Doesn’t respond or react to anything.
- Refuses to move from their spot all day.
- Watery eyes, watery feces, bluish tongue.
- Shortness of breath or abnormal breathing.
- Uncontrolled jerking movements and spasms.
- Neglecting their hygiene and sudden release of bowels.
If your bunny is experiencing two or more of these signs, they need immediate help.
Warning: Not many know it, but giving medicine to someone who isn’t sick can create terrible side effects.
This can happen to animals like rabbits too.
Continue reading: 21 Heartbreaking Signs That Your Rabbit Is Dying + 5 Tips
What to do with a dead baby bunny?
#1: Remove their body from the nest
Once it takes the worst turn of events, you need to prepare yourself for the farewells.
Baby bunnies can die due to many reasons, but knowing what to do with their remains can be puzzling for new owners.
Here’s the first thing you should do…
You must immediately separate the dead bunny from the live baby bunnies.
This is to ensure that their deceased body will not accidentally infect the other bunnies.
Don’t wait long before removing a body.
The longer the body sits in the nest, the higher it endangers the other baby bunnies.
#2: Give them a proper burial
The next thing you can do for the dead baby bunny is to give them a proper burial.
If you have any land or space where you can bury them, then go for that.
The closer their resting place is to you, the easier it is for you to visit them whenever you miss them.
You may also consult your vet for alternate options.
Other people may have different ideas for their beloved pets.
For example, some people cremate the bunny and keep their ashes with them like we do for deceased humans.
What’s important is you remove the body from the nest first thing before thinking of ways to dispose of the body.
#3: Clean the nest after burying the dead baby bunny
Once you’re done with the burial, you need to go back to the nest and clean it.
This is done to disinfect the nest to make sure that the remaining rabbits don’t get sick.
If necessary, relocating their nest can be another option.
If they are kept inside a cage, cleaning the cage thoroughly is very important before putting them back in it.
People also ask:
Why do wild baby rabbits die suddenly?
Wild baby rabbits can die suddenly if they experience fear-related heart attacks, just like a domesticated baby rabbit. All rabbits are prone to heart attacks that can lead to death.
When a wild baby rabbit is taken from their nest, the sudden change of environment can also heavily stress them out.
Stress is not good for baby bunnies and their weak hearts may not be able to handle it well.
If you find a wild baby rabbit, don’t recklessly approach it.
At best, you should leave it be.
Leaving them alone will lower their risk of dying from fear.
The only time you should approach a wild baby rabbit is if you found the mother rabbit’s deceased body.
But as long as the mother is alive, wild baby rabbits will be fine and should be left alone.
Can baby rabbits die from cold?
Baby rabbits can die from the cold if left out too long. They are not as resistant to cold as adult rabbits.
Newborn rabbits don’t have fur like developing rabbits and it will make them more vulnerable.
Though they are used to cold weather, they are not used to direct contact with water. Rain can easily make them sick or give them a freezing shock.
This can lead to death easily.