Understandably, you do not want to deal with the death of your beloved rabbit.
Nevertheless, you should not completely suppress the topic, because especially in the case of diseases, it can quickly become necessary to have the rabbit euthanized in order to relieve the animal of its pain.
In view of this, in this article we have prepared the topic of putting rabbits to sleep for you:
when to euthanize rabbits: 10 common reasons.
Euthanizing a rabbit is a difficult decision.
Of course, the animal should not be tortured unnecessarily, but also not be euthanized too early. What you have to pay attention to and how the euthanasia proceeds, you will learn here by the example of ten common reasons.
In general, there are several factors to consider when making a decision:
Is the rabbit pain-free?
Is there a chance of recovery?
Are you being advised by a veterinarian who has extensive experience with rabbits?
Can your rabbit eat and drink?
Is it still participating in what is happening in its environment?
Have comprehensive examinations been performed?
Based on the answers, you can determine whether or not the rabbit still has quality of life and whether the veterinary care and recommendation is helpful and reliable. This is because veterinarians who do not know rabbits extensively often do not know all the options.
In the following, we would like to present 10 common scenarios that require euthanasia.
- rabbit paralysis
Paralysis often occurs in the hind legs. Injuries to the spine may be responsible. Possible triggers for this are falls, blows or violent movements when your rabbit struggles or tries to escape.
Animals can become contorted, bruised, pinch or sever nerves, suffer a herniated disc, or even fracture their spine.
As a result, the hind legs can no longer be moved in a controlled manner. The rabbit can only move with its front legs and drags its lower body behind it. The sight is frightening and immediately arouses pity.
Nevertheless, neither injuries nor neurological damage caused by a disease such as E. cuniculi need to be permanent.
For strains and bruises, pain relievers, muscle relaxants, heat and careful exercise, as well as physical therapy and massage to stimulate circulation and loosen the muscles, all help. This promotes healing and can speed recovery.
If bones and nerves have been injured or the nerves have even been severed, affected animals often have no pain. There is a possibility of healing in both cases.
While other types of tissue and bones heal comparatively quickly, nerves take a very long time to do so. They grow a maximum of one millimeter a day. Therefore, it can take months before the hind legs can be loaded and moved again. However, recovery is not impossible.
In any case, an imaging examination must be performed in the event of paralysis. At the very least, an X-ray is required. It is optimal to have this done in a veterinary clinic with specialists in orthopedics, as a better assessment of the chances can be made here.
As long as the rabbit is pain-free, continues to eat and drink water, and is responsive, there is no need for euthanasia.
However, there is still one problem…
Since the abdomen cannot be moved in a controlled manner, it drags on the floor and thus through feces and urine-soaked bedding. This can cause the coat to stick together, which in turn can lead to problems with defecation, skin irritation and inflammation.
In the summer, this is compounded by the possible infestation of fly maggots.
To avoid this, you need to wash the coat daily or dry bath it. In the long run, this is exhausting, time-consuming and stressful for your pet.
It is therefore better to provide your rabbit with a wheelchair. This will not only save him from dirty fur, but also make him more mobile.
- dental problems
Tooth misalignment or missing teeth can significantly reduce your rabbit’s quality of life.
If your rabbit can still eat special food on its own, for example by licking it up, and if it can still drink, euthanasia is not necessary.
If, however, your animal is continuously dependent on feeding by you without any prospect of improvement, suffers from pain or constant inflammation, there is an immense restriction.
In this case, you must consider whether you can provide multiple daily feedings through a syringe and the increased care.
If you have the impression that your pet is suffering and no longer behaves actively and cheerfully, if digestive problems cannot be avoided by the diet or if there are repeated injuries, euthanasia can be a salvation.
However, if one of the front teeth is broken or there has been inflammation at a tooth root, this can be treated well and, if necessary, ground down until the tooth has grown back properly.
So again, gradations must be made and it is critical that your rabbit is pain free as well as a chance of improvement or habituation to the condition.
Abscesses can occur anywhere in a rabbit.
It is an accumulation of pus in a closed cavity. They can be formed in a number of ways. In the jaws, they are often due to inflamed tooth roots.
However, the cause may also be an unnoticed injury that has healed from the outside in, thereby trapping pus. The pus formation then proceeds unnoticed at first.
The larger the abscess becomes, the more painful it becomes. Tissue cells are killed. There is noticeable or even visible swelling and local heat development.
If the abscess breaks open inwards and pus enters the bloodstream, this has fatal consequences, as sepsis occurs.
As soon as you notice such a swelling, you should therefore immediately consult a veterinarian. The treatment of abscesses is usually long but possible.
The earlier the therapy starts, the better the chances of success and the easier the treatment will be.
What is the treatment of an abscess in a rabbit?
The first step is to open the abscess from the outside.
Then the tissue cavity is rinsed. This is because pus in rabbits has a pulpy to crumbly consistency and, unlike pus in humans, is therefore difficult to drain. In addition, the wound must be disinfected from the inside out and left open for a longer period of time. It is important that the formed wound can regress and heal from the inside out.
Therefore, in addition to the administration of antibiotics, ongoing and thorough wound cleansing is required. This may take several weeks, depending on how large the abscess already is.
In extreme cases, surgery may also be required to remove the dead tissue and close the wound.
In addition, it is always important to determine the cause of the formation of an abscess.
Euthanasia is only necessary if the abscess has already caused extensive tissue damage, bone has been affected, and the overall condition is too weak for surgery to be necessary.
- bladder stones
Euthanasia due to bladder stones is necessary only in absolutely exceptional cases.
Nevertheless, life-threatening conditions can occur due to them. This is due to the physiology of rabbits. The organism absorbs the calcium contained in the food not only as needed, but extracts the entire amount from the food.
In this way, a supply is ensured even if the water and feed are low in calcium.
However, this also means that often too much calcium is absorbed.
If the rabbit consumes sufficient liquid through water, green feed and water-rich vegetables, the mineral is excreted through the kidneys and bladder. However, if very large amounts are consumed and there is too little fluid, the calcium cannot be completely dissolved in the urine.
Instead, it precipitates and clumps together to form bubble crystals or bubble sludge. These are the basis for bladder stones, which can initially reach considerable sizes without being noticed.
For one thing, they irritate the urinary bladder and increase the risk of bladder infection. As a result, the urine may contain traces of blood and urination becomes painful.
Secondly, the stones can get stuck in the urethra, preventing urine from being passed. This causes the bladder to fill and the urine to rise up to the kidneys. As a result, the kidneys fail and the rabbit dies if not treated in time.
Typical signs of bladder stones are:
Problems with urination
urine is passed frequently but only in droplets
Urine outlet and abdomen may be moist to wet
traces of blood in the urine
unpleasant, sickly odor
Urine appears milky and cloudy or is discolored
Loss of appetite
sensitivity to touch
strongly bent posture
If your veterinarian advises euthanizing at the first detection of bladder or kidney stones, get a second opinion.
- maggot infestation
Various causes show up responsible for a maggot infestation in rabbits.
unnoticed wounds hidden by the fur
unclean housing conditions
fur stuck together with pulpy or liquid feces
Flies lay eggs in the rabbit’s fur. Maggots develop rapidly from these eggs, mainly in warm weather.
Although the maggots themselves usually feed only on dead tissue, they can create or aggravate sores and contaminate them.
A maggot infestation should therefore always be taken seriously and treated immediately, as the number of parasites can reach triple digits within a very short time and the maggots can feed all the way into the muscles or abdominal cavity.
If the infestation is less severe, the maggots can be collected and the wound rinsed. It is usually necessary to shear the fur in the affected area to do this as well. Wound sprays and ointments, as well as regular cleaning and protection of the wound, can gradually heal it.
If the maggots have already entered the abdominal cavity, there is often no alternative to euthanasia.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints and musculoskeletal system. It is not curable, but its progression can be stopped. The earlier you take appropriate measures, the less the associated discomfort.
Risk factors for osteoarthritis include:
Bad posture and malpositions
Overloading of the joints
Lack of exercise and insufficient muscle mass
The disease is manifested by bony growths, stiff movements, the arthrosis seat, in which the hind legs are stretched far forward.
The symptoms worsen in cold, wet weather as well as in intense heat.
In addition, your animal will appear stiffer after a longer period of rest and must first “warm up” before fluent movements are possible again. Jumps are often avoided.
The reason for this is, among other things, the degradation of the cartilage and the ossified growths, but also the associated pain.
However, your rabbit does not have to live with this discomfort!
Painkillers and anti-inflammatories, an adapted diet, massages and targeted physiotherapy as well as the reduction of excess weight can prevent the progression of the disease and alleviate discomfort. Your rabbit can thus have a high quality of life for a long time, be free of pain and move almost completely normally.
Euthanasia should only be considered if pain relief cannot be achieved despite all attempts. In such a condition, the animal will hardly move anymore, will lose its appetite and thus also its weight, will not clean itself anymore or only insufficiently and will sometimes even lie in its own feces and urine.
If such a condition occurs, euthanasia is a salvation.
- broken leg
Your rabbit may break its paw or leg while playing, jumping or falling. Especially if it falls or jumps on a very hard surface, the risk of this is high.
Older animals can also be affected more often than young rabbits, as the risk of osteoporosis is increased and the bones are therefore more fragile. As a result, they break more easily and often, unfortunately, more complicatedly, but heal more slowly. Nevertheless, this need not be a death sentence.
A distinction is made between
Smooth fractures are the easiest to treat, as the fracture sites fuse together more quickly and easily. The bone must be stabilized and stiffened by then, which can be achieved with a splint, for example.
Comminuted fractures are more complicated, as the bone here has broken into several small pieces. If necessary, an operation may be required so that these fuse together again properly and neither malpositions nor persistent nerve damage occur.
Subsequently, the paw or leg must also be splinted to prevent the bone parts from shifting.
In the case of an open fracture, surgery is inevitable. If the rabbit is otherwise healthy and strong enough for surgical intervention, euthanasia is again not necessary.
If surgery to join and align the bones does not produce the desired result, amputation is an option.
Many people cannot imagine that a rabbit can manage well with three legs or paws. However, the animals quickly get used to it and have a high quality of life.
Amputation can also be useful if the fracture has already healed but the bones are pinching nerves and the animal is therefore in continuous pain.
If this is not an option and your rabbit cannot be kept pain-free with appropriate means, euthanasia is advised.
Torticollis is caused by a parasitic protozoan. Many rabbits carry it. However, an outbreak and symptoms only occur when the immune system is weakened. Several causes may be responsible for this.
unclean housing conditions
Encephalitozoon cuniculi, also known as E. cuniculi or EC, can then multiply and spread, causing significant damage to the organism.
A very obvious characteristic is the tilted position of the head.
However, seizures are possible as well as paralysis, nystagmus and eye disease and kidney failure. Usually, only one of the symptoms occurs. However, multiple symptoms are also possible.
With modern medications, such as Panacur, and a change in husbandry conditions, the rabbit can recover.
However, it is first important to make the correct diagnosis.
Because even if a rabbit carries the parasite, it is not necessarily the trigger for the symptoms. Therefore, a comprehensive examination must be performed. This includes a large blood count and x-rays from two levels or a CT scan.
A simple test for E. cuniculi is not sufficient because rabbits can carry the protozoa without suffering from it. Inflammatory values and kidney performance must be checked in any case. If these deviate from the norm, the cause is not EC.
Euthanizing because of E. cuniculi is only reasonable if a comprehensive therapy has been carried out. For this purpose, a drug against dizziness and nausea can be administered in addition to Panacur. Physiotherapy, massages and increased fluid intake are also recommended. In addition, you must be patient. Although the symptoms appear very suddenly, they take some time to subside.
Only when there is no improvement after medication and other treatment and the animal is severely restricted, euthanasia is a salvation.
- kidney failure
Kidney failure can occur due to a variety of triggers.
Bladder stones can cause urine to back up, putting stress on the kidneys. Likewise, kidney stones can develop, obstructing the flow.
Other possibilities include:
bacterial infections, for example due to cystitis
organic stress or side effect of medication
persistent stress and chronic pain
insufficient fluid intake
digestive disorders, such as constipation or intestinal obstruction
loss of appetite
neurological difficulties up to seizures
reduced urine output
As a rule, these are caused by so-called acute renal insufficiency.
This means a sudden onset, but also that the condition is treatable. The excretory organs can recover through appropriate medication, the supply of fluids, keeping warm, taking it easy and adjusting the diet.
In chronic renal failure, the kidneys are damaged to the point that there is no improvement. Infusions and medication can improve the quality of life. However, this condition often cannot be maintained for long.
Thus, if pain is present, weight is greatly reduced, and the animal is apathetic, euthanasia may be necessary.
Tumors can form in rabbits just under the skin as well as on internal organs and in the abdomen.
They do not have to be malignant in every case, but they can negatively affect supply, restrict blood flow, and produce pain.
In the case of cancer, they can metastasize and spread throughout the body.
If tumors are detected early and are located in areas that are easily accessible, they can be surgically removed.
However, this is not always possible.
If tumors produce pain, cause failure to thrive, and even prevent the animal from taking in food and water, euthanasia is a salvation.
What is the procedure for euthanasia?
There are two different methods of euthanizing a rabbit.
If the animal is very calm, the barbiturate can be injected directly into the bloodstream. This is usually done by shaving a spot on the leg and placing a cannula through which the drug is administered.
Breathing and heart stop very quickly as a result.
The second method is done with prior anesthesia.
The rabbit is anesthetized. In this case, the first injection is made into the muscle so that the animal falls asleep and the sensation of pain is eliminated.
In the second step, the barbiturate is injected so that heart and lung function cease.
The barbiturate can be injected into the bloodstream, directly into the heart or into the abdomen.
- How much does it cost to have a rabbit euthanized?
You should expect to pay about 30 euros to have a rabbit euthanized. The cost depends on several factors. These include:
Amount of medication depending on weight
Time and related amount of the rate
Type of euthanasia
Veterinarians must follow the veterinary fee schedule (GOT) for treatment.
However, they can charge according to the single, double or triple rate. This results in a wider range of prices.
There is also a difference if the euthanasia is done in the practice during regular opening hours, if it is done as an emergency outside opening hours or if it is done at your home.
Therefore, this information is only a rough guide.
Where can I bury my rabbit?
If your rabbit has passed away, you need to decide what to do with the body.
We have collected some options for you.
Possibility 1: Grave in the garden
Burial in your own garden is legal.
For a small animal like a rabbit you don’t even have to get permission (for big animals like dogs you need the approval of the veterinary office).
Nevertheless, you must follow some rules:
The grave must not be located on a water or nature reserve area
The grave must be at least 2 meters away from public ways
The corpse of the animal must be covered with at least 50 cm of soil.
Option 2: Pet cemetery
There are more and more pet cemeteries where you can have your rabbit buried. This way you have a grave that you can visit again and again.
However, this type of burial is not cheap. Expect costs of up to 300 dollars.
The cost is about 30 euros.
Possibility 3: Household waste
One possibility, which we personally would not consider, but which we would like to list here for reasons of transparency, is disposal via household waste.
This is allowed for smaller animals like a rabbit according to the animal body disposal law.
Attention: Do not bury in the forest!
If you do not have your own garden, please do not consider burying your animal in the nearby forest.
frequently asked questions
does the rabbit feel pain when it is put to sleep?
If the veterinarian proceeds correctly, the rabbit will not feel any pain except for the sting of the first injection. For this, however, after initial anesthesia, it must be checked to see if there is still a pain response.
This is because the barbiturate can be injected into the bloodstream after anesthesia but also directly into the heart.
If the initial anesthetic has not yet fully kicked in, the stab through the chest and into the heart may well produce pain.
Therefore, make sure that your veterinarian takes his time and checks the reactions to pressure beforehand.
Can rabbits be euthanized with sleeping pills?
Administering medications designed for human use is not humane or painless euthanasia.
Rabbits metabolize many substances completely differently!
Internal bleeding, cramps, nausea, dizziness and immense pain are typical consequences.
So with sleeping pills only an agonizing and slow death can be induced.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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