If you know your rabbit is aging or it’s been sick, it may be on its way to the rainbow bridge in the life hereafter. It’s a very sad and heartbreaking thing. But, it is a natural process of life. So, it’s important to show your furry friend some last displays of affection.
You not only want to make the rabbit as comfortable as possible but also prepare for what’s to come afterwards in regards to disposal. Remember, ensuring your rabbit is comfortable means you will also be taking care of your grieving process.
Give Lots of Affection ; Attention
Show your rabbit how much you love them and how much they mean to you. Because of a rabbit’s affectionate and social nature, it’s important that they get plenty of love and affection. Allow the rabbit to set the pace of affection and respect those boundaries. Cuddle, pet, stroke and groom them but allow retreat if that’s what it needs to do.
Unfortunately, rabbits can hide their pain very well and it’s difficult to know if they’re hurting. This is because, in the wild, they know they’re a tasty meal for predators. So, they’ve learned to not advertise themselves, which includes showing injury or pain.
There are indications you can observe that may indicate they’re hurting. Things like persistent eye squinting, increased respiration or a sudden onset of aggression can be indicators of pain. But there are other nuances to this as well.
If they’re reluctant to move about or lie down stretched out, it can be an indicator of pain. But ensure these behaviors follow other concerning activities. For instance, if you notice the rabbit isn’t sleeping well, sits in a curled position or lacks an interest in its surroundings, they may very well be in pain. Other things like loud grinding of its teeth could also be an indicator.
See the Vet
In the event you have any questions or doubts about the rabbit’s pain, take it to the vet right away. They’ll be able to run tests and do some x-rays along with prescribing the proper medication.
Food ; Water
Sometimes, sick and dying rabbits will refuse food and water. But this isn’t good and they have to have nourishment or their condition will go from bad to worse quickly.
Understand that a rabbit can go without food for up to 12 hours and up to 24 hours without water. After this time and they still don’t eat, their metabolism will cease to function, also called Gastrointestinal Stasis. If they don’t drink, they can suffer from things like dehydration, organ failure and intestinal blockages.
These are all serious emergencies that can turn deadly fast. First, try keeping their favorite foods and a shallow bowl of water nearby. See if they at least pick at it in some way. If they aren’t eating, ensure they’re nibbling on the hay you have in their enclosure.
If the rabbit is still not consuming anything, call the vet as soon as possible. In the case that you can’t contact your vet or get the rabbit in to see the vet in time, you have to force feed it.
Get two feeding syringes from the pet store. One will be for water and the other will be for food. For food, you have a couple options. You could puree some vegetables or get some special food from the pet store that’s high in nutritional value.
Place the rabbit under your elbow, but take care not to squeeze it too hard. Hold up the head with your index finger by the chin and put the syringes in its mouth. Take this slowly and don’t shove it in, you don’t want the poor thing to choke. Use about one to two ml of food followed by five to 10 ml of water.
Do not normalize force feeding and take the rabbit to the vet as soon as possible. Such a feeding could stress your bunny, which comes with a whole other set of issues. Things like vomiting, diarrhea and other unpleasant reactions can occur.
Because rabbits have such a delicate sense of smell, ensure there are no offensive odors in the vicinity that would contribute to their discomfort. This means keeping them away from other pets in the house and their special areas. For instance, don’t put your dying rabbit near a cat’s litter box.
Try to surround the rabbit with smells you know they like. For instance, you could keep some lavender flowers nearby or you could make a diluted lavender oil mixture in the room via a diffuser. Even a bit of lavender incense will work if you know your rabbit is amenable to the smell. Do not put essential oils directly on their skin, they will cause irritation.
Other things like fresh cut grass, raw carrots, cabbage, mint and basil are all comforting smells to rabbits.
Body Temperature Monitoring
Of course, you want to ensure the bunny’s immediate environment stays warm and balmy. Their normal body temperature ranges between 100°F and 103°F. So, if they’re ill or dying, they may have higher or lower temperatures.
Taking the Rabbit’s Temperature
This means you’ll want to check its body temperature with a thermometer. Take it at least once during the day and again at nighttime. If they have a low temperature, the rabbit may be experiencing hypothermia. In the event of a high temperature, it could mean an increasing fever.
Use a plastic thermometer and insert it into their rectum. You must do this properly or you could hurt the bunny. When in doubt, ask your vet.
For Low Temperatures
If the rabbit’s temperature is below normal, you have to take immediate steps so it doesn’t go into shock. There are several ways to bring body temperature up:
- Cover the bunny with a blanket: don’t wrap it in the blanket, but use a soft and warm piece of fabric.
- Use a heating pad or hot water bottle: wrap in a towel so as not to burn the rabbit and place it under their bed.
- Use an electric heater: ensure the temperature stays at 70°F or the overheating could cause dehydration.
For High Temperatures
If the rabbit’s temperature has a reading higher than 103°F, you have to bring the temperature down. It may suffer permanent physical damage or become incredibly dehydrated. There are a few ways to control an excessive temperature:
- Use an ice cube to cool the rabbit’s ear but wrap it in paper toweling or something of the like to prevent frostbite.
- Uses a cold pack wrapped in a towel and place it under their bedding, once again to avoid frostbite.
- Use cool airflow via an air conditioner or a fan but ensure the temperature doesn’t drop to less than 55°F.
Ensure the Coziest Surroundings
A final tip in ensuring a rabbit enters the great unknown happy and loved is to ensure it has a clean, calm and quiet sleeping area. Their immediate environment should be dark and clean. There shouldn’t be any excessive noise, dampness or breezes.
The space should be large enough for the rabbit to stretch out wherever it wants and total freedom from inhibition. This includes their ears touching the top of their enclosure.
Bedding will be important for insulation, hiding and something to munch on while providing safety and comfort. Avoid using pine or clay but you do want to have something to absorb urine if necessary. Use things like newspaper, straw, peat and hay.
Other Family Members
Make sure any small children or other household pets stay away from the bunny if they don’t have a good history. Now, if they’ve been good friends this whole time, then it’s important for them to show the rabbit their love as well as to say goodbye.
The Scream of a Dying Rabbit
You will know bunny is on its way out when you hear a blood-curdling scream that sends a chill down your spine. Because it’s unusual for a rabbit to vocalize anything, when they scream, it’s not a false alarm.
This can and will be an unnerving experience. So, it’s important you prepare and brace yourself and your children for this. It’s important to stay close to the rabbit when this happens and contact the vet. Taking it to the vet will help the rabbit leave in a dignified and painless way.
Once your fuzzy friend has passed, you must now take care of its remains. There are many options available that are humane. But you want to make sure that the route you take is within legal limits. Don’t put it in the dumpster or be mindless about burying it in the backyard.
The vet will have plenty of resources for consideration and are familiar with handling death. If you’ve taken the rabbit in for euthanizing, doing this through the vet may be best. They can send it away for cremation, in which case you’ll be able to keep the ashes and have your own funeral.
Before you choose to bury the bunny in the backyard, you have to look up your local laws and regulations about doing such things. There are many jurisdictions that have outlawed this altogether and it could cost you dearly later on, including fines and court dates.
If it is legal and you own your property, then contact the local utilities so you can ensure you avoid gas lines and plumbing. Once all is clear, dig a hole about three to five feet deep and do this far away from the house. You want to make sure predators like coyotes, dogs and other wildlife won’t try to dig up the rabbit.
If it’s winter time, you will not be able to bury the rabbit in the yard. Some veterinary clinics have special freezers that can keep the rabbit until the ground thaws enough for burial.
Losing any pet can be traumatic and dealing with it can be a heartbreaking experience. But when the rabbit begins its path to the rainbow bridge, there’s nothing we can do except try to make our furry friend as comfortable as possible.
Because it’s such a sad affair, prepare and plan for burial options. Especially when you are certain the rabbit’s life is ending. This will help relieve some of the gruesome details while you and your family grieve.