Whole litter of kits dead, one by one

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New Member
Sep 23, 2022
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Hey there, I'm Surgeon and I have a nearly two-year old doe. She had her second litter of rabbits around 7 or perhaps 8 days ago. She gave birth to five kits, with the pass of the days they all seemed to grow healthy and nicely, but yesterday at 2 am one of the smaller ones turned lethargic, the kit felt so hard and cold on my hand as it was hardly breathing. As soon as I took it on my hand, the little thing slowly stretched its legs, curved its neck, opened its mouth and died on my hands. I buried it the next day. Tonight three kits died in the same way, every single one on my hand, dying one by one. And another kit just.. Disappeared, leaving no traces or clues. I don't know what happened, as there was absolutely no way for them to escape, the kits didn't even knew how to walk and I looked everywhere for the missing kit and I never found it. The mother doe is well-cared, I give her quality hay and good rabbit food, she's in good health and has her vaccines up to date. In her first litter she birthed seven kits, all of them reached 3 months of age with no issue, even the weakest rabbit lived 4 months before dying mysteriously. These didn't even last two weeks. I don't know what happened with this litter. Please, help me understand


Jenny - Health & Wellness Mod
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Sep 10, 2012
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Utah, , USA
The most common cause would be the mother not feeding the kits, or a lack of sufficient milk supply to sustain them. But, if the kits were being fed and you verified they did have nice round bellies full of milk each day, then here are some other possible causes of high mortality in newborn kits.

A doe nervous of the presence of predators, or sometimes a less experienced doe, could stomp on or trample kits killing them.

If the kits live in an outdoor area, high environmental heat or exposure to cold can result in kits dying. Also if they're somewhere they could be exposed to rats, weasels, or other small animals that could get into their enclosure, that can explain the missing kit. Or if they're in a completely safe enclosure from other animals, then it's possible the kit died in the same manner of the other kits, but the mother cannibalized the carcass, as mother rabbits will do this so as to not attract predators.

The doe having mastitis would be another common cause for a high death rate in nursing kits. An infection contaminating her milk supply and getting the kits sick. If she does have mastitis, then she'll need to receive the appropriate rabbit safe antibiotic to treat it, along with any other necessary meds and supportive care to help her recover.

Medirabbit: safe antibiotics for rabbits

If the mother rabbit is ok and there are no signs of mastitis, I would be checking the nest area and anything the kits may have had contact with or been exposed to, to make sure they couldn't have been exposed to some sort of toxin. Maybe something like moldy hay in their nest.

If nothing that could be toxic to them is found, a toxin in the mothers feed maybe could have been passed to them, though it's likely you would have seen signs of the mother rabbit feeling unwell if this was the case. Toxic or deficient vitamin A levels can sometimes leave the adult rabbit acting fine but can cause reproductive issues with adult rabbits, and it can cause a high mortality rate with the kits.

If there were any signs of bright yellow diarrhea, e. coli is a possible cause, that could leave the mother rabbit unaffected.

Rabbit syphilis could be another possible cause, if the doe is affected, it can then cause health issues with the kits. Though you will likely see signs of this with the affected adult rabbits having signs of lesions around the mouth, nose, eyes, and/or genitals.

So those are a few possible causes that I can think of right now.