Can rabbits die of a broken heart?

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rmorrell86

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We sadly lost both our bunnies last night a couple of hours apart. Pip our youngest (3-4 months) and smallest died and we are at a loss to explain why physically she was fine but she didn't want her food on Saturday or Sunday morning and was limp and floppy when we found her in the run Sunday evening. She died shortly after. Pop was our older (6-7 months) and appointed herself as a mother to pip. She didn't want her food supply day morning either but ate up Saturday. She was hopping around during the room whilst we were caring for pip and seemed ok. We brought her up to see pip on the chair and we could hear them talking h to each other. A few seconds later pip died. From that second on pop did not walk again but just laid on the floor. We then watched as she rapidly deteriorated until she died a couple of hours later. Towards the end she was flopping over from side to side until she lay there making a circular motion with her head. Her breath grew more staggered and she eventually passed away.

I was wondering if anyone had any ideas as to what happened as we are absolutely devastated by what has happened and can't find any reason other that they both ate something they shouldn't have. Our only comfort is know that wherever they are they're together.

Thank you
 

Aki

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No. Rabbits die because they are ill. Clearly your rabbits both had something. A rabbit that doesn't want to eat is not fine, it's an absolute medical emergency - when one of mine refuses food, I try again about 20 mn later and if the rabbit still won't it, I call the vet demanding to be seen immediately. A rabbit having GI stasis (not eating / pooping) will have trouble recovering after 12h, probably die after 24-48h if not treated. Especially rabbits who are not fully grown.
Stasis is often a symptom (even if it can cause death on its own). We can't really tell you what the problem was without more details.
It sounds a bit like heat stroke to me. It killed a lot of rabbits this summer. If your rabbits were kept outside or in a hot place, it's a possibility. Deshydratation is possible if they weren't drinking correctly and weren't fed wet things (like leafy greens). But your youngest being about 3 months, you brought her home quite recently. If she doesn't come from a good breeder, she might have brought cocciodosis or something else with her. And if you didn't do a quarantine (two intact rabbits shouldn't be in contact anyway), those illness are very contagious.

I'm sorry for your loss. But if you decide to take rabbits again, I would not use again the cage / bowls of your previous rabbits without bleaching them thoroughly just in case. Also, next time, respect a quarantine before putting rabbits together and don't introduce rabbits that haven't been spayed / neutered (it's best to take a male / female couple to avoid problems, really) - it's only asking for trouble when the hormones will kick in (and they will, they always do).
 

BlackRabbits

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Based on what you wrote, I don't think your rabbit died of a broken heart. As Aki mentioned, it's more likely that Pop died because he had the same illness as Pip. They could have eaten something bad or both had the same disease.

I know it is possible for animals to die because a beloved partner dies. I've kept Siamese cats all my life and have seen this happen several times. Siamese form deep emotional bonds with their owners and other cats in the household. Death doesn't happen suddenly like a heart attack. Usually after the first pet dies, it takes a few days for the second pet to realize they're never coming back. Then their behaviour changes. They refuse food and "mope" around, then as starvation sets in, their kidneys or liver fail and they die within a few weeks. Any attempt to provide a "replacement" new cat friend is rejected, and in fact the presence of a new partner can cause the grieving pet to die sooner.

Given the intelligence and sensitivity of rabbits, I'm pretty sure they could die at the loss of a partner as well, theoretically. But as I described, it's a gradual process, they don't just keel over suddenly.
 

snicker13

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It does sound like your rabbit died of a broken heart. I can say this from personal experience. My first rabbit snickers had to be put down while giving birth. Skittles my 2 rabbit was very close to her. Everyday after she was gone skittles would go up to her empty cage rise up and look in her cage everyday for about a month. Skittles after that became more recluse and aggressive I have managed with a bit of clicker training to dispel some of his aggressiveness,but he has never been the same. Sure skittles did not die from a broken part but he has and never will be the same again.
 

Preitler

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Sorry for your loss...

I don't think rabbits have any concept of death, but they don't like it when something changes, so when their buddy is missing that sure can have an impact. But imho no such thing as broken heart, and for sure not that fast. And not at this age.

Even for a disease this is a very tight timeframe, I would suspect something toxic - like food with mold in it. A new plant. Or anything like that.
 

JBun

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No, your other rabbit didn't die of a broken heart. They both died from illness or a toxin.

If you aren't in North America, there is a good chance that RHD could be a possible cause of the sudden death of your rabbits, especially if they weren't vaccinated. It is a highly contagious and dangerous virus for rabbits, so if you are somewhere such as Europe or Australia and you still have your rabbits bodies, I would suggest taking them to the vet to rule out rhd. If your rabbits did die from rhd, then you would need to follow decontamination procedures and not have other rabbits in your home for some time.
https://www.harcourt-brown.co.uk/articles/infectious-disease/rabbit-haemorrhagic-disease

If you are in the US or Canada, rhd really isn't a worry, but to lose 2 rabbits close together usually means they died of something contagious, from heat stress, or both ingested something toxic. If possible, I would suggest having a necropsy done to determine the cause of death.

A rabbit not eating is a serious indication of something being wrong due to pain/illness, which can quickly become fatal in some cases, if not addressed appropriately. It's important that a rabbit be taken to the vet if they stop eating for more than a few hours. If a rabbit hasn't eaten for more than 12 hours, that is considered an emergency, and even then in some cases 12 hours can be too long without veterinary care.
 

rmorrell86

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Thank you for everyone's reply. I really appreciate it.

I'm aware that whatever pip had pop had too and that is what ended her life. It was the speed in which she went that has shocked us. Within 2 hours she went from running around the lounge to passing away. I'm not saying she died of a broken heart but I feel that the loss of pip meant she didn't want to fight it anymore and so she succumbed to it. It's the most heartbreaking thing I've ever seen.

Having read about RHD I remember an article on sky news about it and I think it's the most likely cause of their deaths. We had only had them a month and they were both from lovely homes. We live in the middle of the country and having found pip in the state she was in Sunday night the nearest emergency vet is a 2 hour drive. She was still eating grass but didn't fancy her food. She had plenty of shade in her run and hutch and even a nice pool to jump into of she wanted.

I'm not sure what the rules are about disposing of them but they are buried deep in a lovely part of the garden where we can always see them.

Pip and Pop :)
 

JBun

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I'm not too familiar with the details of rhd as it's not something that we really deal with here in the US, but I do know there have recently been cases of rhd 2 going on in the UK. If your rabbits did in fact have rhd, that means that the soil where they are buried is now contaminated with the virus, as will other surfaces that they had contact with before their death. I'm not sure what measures need to be taken, so I would suggest calling your vet and advising them of your rabbits sudden deaths and ask what you need to do with regards to your rabbits bodies and decontamination of surfaces in case it was rhd that caused their deaths. This is especially important if you plan on having rabbits again at a later time.

If you don't have a usual vet to call that you know is rabbit savvy, if you list your general area someone may be able to suggest a rabbit savvy vet nearby. One thing I will suggest if you plan on having rabbits again at some point, is make sure to have both the rhd1 and rhd2 vaccinations done, as they are separate vaccinations, and right now rhd 2 seems to be the one causing illness/fatalities in the UK as the vaccination for it is new and not many rabbits have been vaccinated with it yet.
 

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