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Sudden or unexpected death

OWNERS PLEASE NOTE: 

The differential diagnosis list contains images or video clips taken during post-mortem examination that some people could find disturbing.

Why do rabbits die unexpectedly?

Unfortunately, it is not an uncommon event for an owner to find their rabbit unexpectedly dead or dying. In this instance there are two possibilities:

      1. The rabbit was afflicted by a condition that could kill it within hours. A list of the most common differential diagnoses for sudden death can be seen on the left. The link goes to a brief synopsis of each condition.

      2. The rabbit had a serious underlying condition that was overlooked by the owner because rabbits can hide signs of disease effectively. The list of these conditions is long and not covered on this website yet. A diagnosis should be evident from post-mortem examination.

Post-mortem examination is the only way to establish a diagnosis. Radiography prior to the procedure can be helpful. It may show fractures or areas of calcification that can aid diagnosis. An example is shown below. Click on the image for more details of this  case.

This radiograph is the dorsoventral view of the thorax of a rabbit that died unexpectedly just after induction of surgical anaesthesia for neutering. The radiograph was taken after death. It shows a fractured scapula (arrow). Post-mortem examination showed adhesions between the heart and the chest wall. The rabbit had been picked up and shaken by the family's dog 6 weeks previously and had made an apparently uneventful recovery.

We are currently running a 'SUDDEN or UNEXPECTED DEATH INVESTIGATION' in which we pay for histopathology on tissues collected during post-mortem examination and Filavie perform PCR testing for RHDV2.