Sudden or unexpected death


This part of the website contains images taken during post-mortem examination that some people might find disturbing.

Why do rabbits die unexpectedly?

Unfortunately, it is not an uncommon event for a rabbit to die unexpectedly. In this instance there are two possibilities:

      1. The rabbit was afflicted by a condition that could kill it within hours. 

      2. The rabbit had a serious underlying condition that was not obvious or was overlooked by the owner because rabbits can hide signs of disease effectively. 

A definite diagnosis of a cause of death requires a prompt post-mortem examination.

Radiography of the body can also be helpful. It may show fractures or areas of calcification that can aid diagnosis. An example is shown below. 

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). A 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.