Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Sudden or unexpected death

OWNERS PLEASE NOTE: A list of the most common differential diagnoses for sudden or unexpected death can be seen on the left where a brief synopsis of each condition is given. These contain images or video clips taken during post-mortem examination that some people could find disturbing

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.

      2. The rabbit had a serious underlying condition that was overlooked by the owner because rabbits can hide signs of disease effectively.

Post-mortem examination is the only way to establish a diagnosis although radiography can help to show fractures or areas of calcification that can help. An example is shown below. Click on the image for more details of the 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.