We all know it, but nobody likes to talk about it: All life on this earth comes to an end at some point.
This also applies to the life of our rabbits.
As wonderful as it is to spend many years together with a beloved pet, the more painful in the end its loss.
In this article we will tell you 5 signs that your rabbit is about to die and answer the most frequently asked questions about this very sad topic to prepare you for this phase in the best possible way.
How old do rabbits become?
How old a rabbit can become depends largely on the breed, husbandry and health care.
Our domestic rabbits are usually much older than rabbits in the wild – because rabbits living in the wild are threatened by predators, such as the fox, and receive no medical care in case of illness.
A lack of food also plays a major role here – especially in the cold season.
Theoretically, the life expectancy of wild rabbits is about 9 years, but in practice it is quite different: Most animals do not survive their first year of life or their first winter!
The situation is different with our domestic rabbits. These have, depending on their breed, in principle the chance of a long life with a duration of 5 to 14 years. As a rule, the animals with good care between 8 and 10 years old – outliers up and down there are of course always.
Californians are quite far down with a life expectancy between 5 and 10 years, the dwarf rabbit on the other hand is one of the most robust breeds and comes with a life expectancy of 8 to 14 years.
In order to offer your rabbits optimal conditions to reach the maximum of their life expectancy, you can actively consider some things in your attitude.
More about this in a moment.
How does a rabbit behave when it dies?
In this section we will show you the 5 typical phases in the dying process of a rabbit.
Attention: Of course, these phases do not apply to every rabbit. Individual variations are quite possible.
Phase 1: Loss of appetite
If your rabbit refuses to eat, this may be a sign of illness – or the first phase of the dying process has begun.
If the rabbits themselves refuse force feeding, this is a pretty clear sign that it is in this first phase.
Phase 2: Abnormalities in fluid intake
In the second phase, you will notice that your rabbit is either constantly drinking or completely refusing to drink.
Phase 3: Things are (supposedly) going uphill
The third phase often fatally suggests that your rabbit will recover. The food intake works again and your rabbit moves more.
Unfortunately, this phase lasts only a short time and then turns into the fourth phase.
Phase 4: Changes in the stimulus-response scheme
Rabbits that are in the fourth – and thus penultimate – phase of the dying process often appear mentally absent to outsiders – a bit as if they had dementia.
In addition, the sensation of pain slowly diminishes and the animals hardly react or no longer react at all to external stimuli.
Phase 5: Breathing becomes shallower
The fifth phase usually lasts only a few hours to a few days.
The breathing of your animal becomes increasingly shallow, sometimes it even stops completely. Your rabbit will almost only sleep until it eventually comes to respiratory arrest and the animal dies.
Precaution in old age – 4 tips for you!
Sooner or later you will realize: My rabbits are getting old!
While they used to run around like crazy in their enclosure (a good sign that your rabbits are comfortable), they are now much more leisurely.
Find out how to best support your pets as they age with these 4 tips now!
- vitamins / nutrients
Rabbits that belong to the older age group are no longer as fit as young animals and have other needs like them.
In order for them to still enjoy the best of health, it is essential to regularly check blood levels with your veterinarian.
Depending on where your animal’s nutrient balance is not quite right, you can support them specifically by giving them vitamins and other supplements.
- upgrade the stable
From now on, observe more closely how the animals react to the cold (shivering?) – yes, rabbits can also freeze!
If you notice that your furry friends can’t handle the cold in winter as well as they used to, you should upgrade the animals’ hutch – especially if they are kept outside.
A well-insulated shelter will provide warmth and allow their old bodies to relax and recharge their batteries.
Alternatively, of course, you can bring your animals indoors during the cold months.
- build ramps in the enclosure
Keep in mind that older rabbits aren’t as fit as younger animals – which means higher places won’t be as easy to reach.
Places your rabbits used to hop up to with ease may now be quite a challenge.
Help your animals by placing ramps that allow them to reach higher places without jumping.
- he who rests, rusts
Exercise is especially important in old age to keep the musculoskeletal system functioning properly. Give your fluffy “grannies and grandpas” plenty of opportunity to move around as much as they want.
Ideally 24 hours a day!
Coping with grief in humans and animals
When your beloved pet dies, the loss is difficult to bear – both for you and for the animal(s) that remain.
Realize that animals can also feel deep grief and give them a few hours to say goodbye to their friend before taking the dead animal out of the enclosure!
Beware: the loss of a companion can even lead to depression in rabbits.
Despite your grief, please always think of the welfare of animals that are still alive.
If a rabbit is now living alone in its enclosure, you should – as difficult as it may be for you – promptly find a new partner animal for this rabbit to help it get over its grief and to fulfill its social needs.
If you don’t want to get a new rabbit because you can’t cope with the loss, then find a new home for the single animal.
Yes, even these rather unsightly tasks are part of pet ownership!
In order to cope with the loss of your pet, it is necessary that you take ample time to grieve. Only by engaging in your grief can you fully process the loss and re-engage with new animals.
It can also be helpful to create a memorial place in your home or garden for your rabbit, where you can go whenever you feel like it.
Frequently asked questions
Can I bury rabbits in my yard?
You may bury small pets, including rabbits, in your yard. However, this does not apply to water or nature conservation areas.
Also, the animal must be covered with at least 50 cm of soil.
We always recommend discussing this issue with your local municipality.
Where can I bury my rabbit?
Besides the possibility to bury the animal in your own garden, you can also have it buried in a pet cemetery.
In the meantime, there is also an animal crematorium in many cities. We recommend this solution primarily if your rabbit has died of a contagious disease.
Do I have to buy a new partner for surviving animals?
Since rabbits are very social animals, keeping them alone is definitely not appropriate for the species. Therefore, we recommend to provide the bereaved animal with a new partner animal.
For this we recommend our instructions for socialization.
How long does the dying process of a rabbit take?
This question cannot be answered in general. As a rule, however, you can assume several days.
When should I put my rabbit to death?
If you recognize that your animal is in pain and there is no prospect of improvement, then you should think about euthanasia in consultation with the veterinarian.
However, this is always an individual consideration, which we cannot answer in general terms.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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