15 week old rabbit dies without symptoms

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jmarie61

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My fiancee and I just got a Mini Lop named Rocky in early December. He was about 9 weeks old when we got him. Today he's 15 weeks old. I looked in his cage this morning and he was dead. Yesterday we were playing with him, happy, jumping and hyper as always. Only symptom I could think of was one day last week- when he seriously drank practically the entire water bottle in one day peeing all over (every single square inch) of his previously dried cage, which I've never seen before after being a rabbit owner my whole life. After that, there seemed to be nothing wrong whatsoever. We have no idea what could've happened- a 15 week old rabbit shouldn't have died this soon, we're devastated. I've been a rabbit owner since I was young and this is just so strange. We fed him mostly Timothy hay (unlimited supply) and pellets occasionally. Indoor rabbit in a roomy cage, healthy as can be. Any ideas on what may have happened? Thanks!
-Jessica
 

ladysown

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mostly hay and pellets rarely.

so he had an unbalanced diet, lacking in the proper amount of trace nutrients with insufficient protein to manage his growing bodies needs.

That's my guess.

Otherwise we couldn't tell you a thing.
 

JBun

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I'm very sorry for your loss. It's never easy losing a pet, even the ones that haven't been with us very long. And especially when their death is so unexpected.

It's impossible to say for sure what might have caused your rabbits death, but based on the symptom of excessive thirst I would suspect renal failure. The excessive thirst/urination can be a symptom of a few other health problems, as rabbits will sometimes drink excessively to alleviate some unknown pain or discomfort they are having, but more commonly the excessive thirst/urination will be linked to kidney disease. Though it would be rare for such a young rabbit to have, it's still possible and especially if the parasite e. cuniculi has affected the kidneys and caused the renal failure. E. cuniculi can affect rabbits of any age and could be one explanation for such a young rabbit having kidney disease, if this is in fact what your rabbit died from.

Feeding a hay only diet wouldn't have caused his death if he was eating the hay well. Many rabbits have to be restricted to a hay only diet for health reasons and they do just fine. Being a young rabbit it may have slowed his growth rate some, but that would have been the only effect that diet could have that I can see.
 

Nancy McClelland

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Sounds like a renal problem, not a dietary one. We've had a few make it past 15 and also had a few very young ones go without any real symptoms too--it just happens and bunnies are masters at hiding problems from us. You have our most sincere sympathy on your loss.
 

jmarie61

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Thank you all for your kind words and for your thoughts regarding what could have caused his death. We haven't thought of renal failure, as that makes total sense as he was drinking excessive water until he died. Wish I knew how he could've contracted some sort of parasite (perhaps the previous owner?) Something to look for in the future. Thank you all for your input!!

I'm SO glad I found a community that loves rabbits as much I do :)

Thanks again!
-Jessica
 

majorv

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A hay only diet has very little nutrients, and for a young rabbit who needs those nutrients to continue developing properly, JMO, may have contributed to what happened. Sorry.
 

pani

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A hay only diet has very little nutrients, and for a young rabbit who needs those nutrients to continue developing properly, JMO, may have contributed to what happened. Sorry.
I'm not too sure about that; I thought it was fairly common practice to provide a hay-only diet for the first few months of a buns' life, and then slowly introduce pellets/veggies after that. My buns were primarily on hay until about 3-4 months old, and then started eating pellets and green veg.
 

JBun

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E. cuniculi is actually a common protozoal parasite in rabbits, and it's believed a majority of rabbits already carry it but are asymptomatic and have no signs of clinical illness. It can be passed on from the mother, but it can also be contracted from the environment. Stress can be a contributing factor in the illness emerging, as stress will affect the rabbits immune system. Some vets will recommend putting a new rabbit on a course of fenbendazole to help preventatively treat the possibility of a rabbit carrying the parasite. So that may be something to discuss with your vet if you have any other rabbits or plan on getting another and have concerns about EC being contracted by them. But again e. cuniculi may not have been the cause of death, and it's very possible there could have been an entirely different cause. It's impossible to know without a necropsy having been done.

If you would like to know more about it, here's some information on the disease.
http://wildpro.twycrosszoo.org/S/00dis/Miscellaneous/ChronicRenalLagomorph.htm
http://www.gwexotics.com/wccms-resources/a/5/0/e/77554b90-a660-11e0-a685-0050568626ea.pdf
http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/resources/content/info-sheets/ecuniculi.htm
 

Aki

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I'm sorry for your rabbit. It's awful when you don't expect it. It could have been an infection or renal problem, as was said. Nevertheless, a diet made of timothy hay and some pellets occasionally doesn't seem appropriate for a growing rabbit to me. Was it recommended to you by the breeder? Babies need calcium to develop their skeleton, so alfalfa is needed. Also, rabbits grow very fast and need a certain calorie intake - it is true that part of the hay (the soft blades) have nutritional value, but it's not the case for the rigid blades (more akin to straw, necessary to push the food inside of the digestive system). Depending on the content of your bag of hay, it is not at all obvious if there is enough nutriments in it for the rabbit to grow in a healthy way. I don't think it caused your rabbit's problem (but he could have been weaker because of it and thus less resistant to an infection) but I wouldn't give the same diet to the next rabbit you'll get. There are some great pellets made for junior rabbits and if you get your rabbit from a good breeder, chances are the baby will be already eating vegetables too.
 

majorv

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I'm not too sure about that; I thought it was fairly common practice to provide a hay-only diet for the first few months of a buns' life, and then slowly introduce pellets/veggies after that. My buns were primarily on hay until about 3-4 months old, and then started eating pellets and green veg.
Not sure about the pet world, but that isn't true in the breeding world. Our babies start nibbling on mom's pellets by 3 weeks. They get hay also, but if I were to withhold pellets from them and only feed hay for 3-4 months as they're growing and developing, I might still have a few live young rabbits, but I would question their overall health.
 

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