Sudden Death of Young Rabbit

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littlebunny

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Hi,
This is my 1st post on the forums and sadly it's not a good one. Our dwarf hotot died suddenly on Monday. He was 9 months old. When we left home that morning, he seemed fine; hopping around and being his normal sassy self. When we got home, my daughter mentioned that he was laying in one place. Unfortunately, I said he was probably resting. An hour or so later, he was still in the same place. When I picked him up, his head fell backward like he had no support. When I put him on the bed and nudged him, he hopped but it was weird, like he'd been spinning around in circles and was dizzy? I picked him up again for cuddles and his head again fell backwards with no control. He wasn't making any noises and no teeth grinding. When I put him down again and nudged him, it was the same type of hop. I quickly picked him up so he wouldn't hurt himself and his head did the same floppy thing. I snuggled him and when I put my hand on his chest, I barely felt a heartbeat and thought he was dead. I panicked and did my own version of bunny CPR and he moved somewhat and I could feel a faint heartbeat. We rushed to the emergency vet, but he had passed away before we got there.

Does anyone have ANY idea what could have happened? We are heartbroken because he was so young.
 

JBun

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I'm very sorry for your loss. These types of deaths can be difficult to figure out without more specific symptoms that can help pinpoint a cause. It sounds like he had muscle weakness, and it's possible the head falling back could have had to do with brain inflammation(or might not). Or he might have had something called floppy rabbit syndrome. Usually, though their body is flaccid, they remain alert, and this is something they can recover from with some assistance, so I'm not sure this would be it, but there is a slight possibility.
http://www.medirabbit.com/EN/Neurology/Flop_rabbit/Floppy_rabbits.pdf

Could he have been exposed to cats or cat feces at all?
 

littlebunny

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There is a cat in our house, but they were very rarely together. We kept Bunbun in a separate, closed room so the other animals wouldn't bother him. I know there's no real answer without a necropsy, it's just hard to think we did something wrong. We sure loved that little guy.


I'm very sorry for your loss. These types of deaths can be difficult to figure out without more specific symptoms that can help pinpoint a cause. It sounds like he had muscle weakness, and it's possible the head falling back could have had to do with brain inflammation(or might not). Or he might have had something called floppy rabbit syndrome. Usually, though their body is flaccid, they remain alert, and this is something they can recover from with some assistance, so I'm not sure this would be it, but there is a slight possibility.
http://www.medirabbit.com/EN/Neurology/Flop_rabbit/Floppy_rabbits.pdf

Could he have been exposed to cats or cat feces at all?
 

JBun

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I asked about cats because rabbits can contract toxoplasmosis from cats/cat feces, and this can be fatal to them. One of the symptoms of this is ataxia(loss of coordination of movement), which it sounds like your rabbits unsteadiness might have been. If you think this is a possibility and a concern, I would suggest talking to a vet, particularly if there is anyone pregnant in your house or someone with a weakened immune system.

This is just a concern and a possibility based on the symptoms you described and having a cat present. It's possible the cause of death was something else entirely, but I felt it's important that you be aware of this just in case.
 

Nancy McClelland

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So sorry for your loss. We have had a couple pass that were fine in the morning and gone that night with no warning signs--sometimes it just happens and isn't your fault. We found one had an enlarged heart and suspect it with our other one that went but can't afford a necropsy so we don't know for sure.
 

littlebunny

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Thanks for that info, I had no idea that was something rabbits could be effected by. I'll keep that in mind if we ever get another bun. Is it something that could be transferred from human to rabbit, like if the human cleaned the cat litter but probably forgot to wash their hands and then handled the rabbit?! :shock:

I asked about cats because rabbits can contract toxoplasmosis from cats/cat feces, and this can be fatal to them. One of the symptoms of this is ataxia(loss of coordination of movement), which it sounds like your rabbits unsteadiness might have been. If you think this is a possibility and a concern, I would suggest talking to a vet, particularly if there is anyone pregnant in your house or someone with a weakened immune system.

This is just a concern and a possibility based on the symptoms you described and having a cat present. It's possible the cause of death was something else entirely, but I felt it's important that you be aware of this just in case.
 

RavenousDragon

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Theoretically, Toxoplasmosis can be transmitted to a rabbit that way, yes. BUT we really over state the risks of getting toxoplasmosis from cats (most people, turns out, get it from eating undercooked pork). Cats with a healthy immune system (e.g. not FIV or FeLV positive) will only shed it for 36 hours of their lives after exposure and then never again (their immune systems take care of it after that). Further, the parasite requires more than 24 hours outside of the cat to become infectious-- so daily cleaning of the litter box will prevent infection. It is generally outdoor cats that get it, and when they are young.

It could still be toxoplasmosis that killed your sweet bun (I'm so so sorry for your loss) but, unless your bun went outside and was exposed to feral cat feces, it's not that likely he got it from a cat.

If I had to bet on a disease that caused it, I'd bet E. cuniculi, which also causes head tilt, ataxia, and (in some cases), paralysis. This is a disease they often acquire from their mothers, and then it can 'flare up' suddenly-- through no fault of your own. :(
 

JBun

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I didn't think it happened that often either, until someone recently had two rabbits suddenly die that had been let out into a playpen where their cats had wandered through. It was confirmed by tests, that the rabbits had died from toxoplasmosis. So though not common, it can happen.
 
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