If the sad yet inevitable time comes that your rabbit is about to, or has suddenly passed away, you are going to want to know what to do with them. What are your options and how can you give them a nice send off whilst simultaneously disposing of their former body. I decided to research the topic and will be providing it here today.
So, what do you do with a dead rabbit? Your main options include either cremation or burial. Both can be organized by your vet, although for a burial you may want to do this yourself in a location of your choice. However, you will want to be careful of where you bury your dead rabbit as some states and local authorities have strict rules of where you can bury an animal. It’s always advisable to check with the authorities in advance if you are not planning to bury your rabbit in your own land.
Let us now take a closer look at the life of a rabbit, signs they are coming to the end and then the practical ways to dispose of their little bodies.
Rabbit Life Expectancy
A pet rabbit that is well cared for and kept indoors, can live anywhere between 7 to 10 years with some even living into their teens.
Many people are under the wrong impression that rabbits are low maintenance pets, that do not require the same veterinary attention as cats and dogs. This is just not true.
While they don’t need yearly vaccinations like other house pets, they do require regular veterinary check-ups and they must be spayed/neutered for optimum health.
Rabbits are sensitive creatures that need daily monitoring, and they must be kept indoors as the mere sight of a predator can put them into cardiac arrest.
Some species even suffer from anorexia, which if undetected can be fatal.
Their living conditions must be up to standard, their hutches must be clean and dry, they need enough space to exercise, and they need a fresh supply of hay daily in their diet. Other than this you need to ensure that you are fed a nutritious diet, providing a variety of safe fruit and vegetables.
You’ll also want to provide some mentally stimulation via chew and activity toys.
If you do all that is needed to keep them healthy, they should live into old age.
Signs Your Rabbit Is Dead
Rabbits do not hibernate at all, so if your rabbit is motionless, unresponsive, and stiff – they have died.
The death of a rabbit can be a hard blow for anyone with a strong bond to their pet. However, it is important to familiarize yourself with the signs of a rabbit that is dying. This way, you can be prepared and know what to do when the time unfortunately comes.
It can be hard to know whether your bunny has a treatable pathology, or is suffering from something fatal.
Let’s look at five signs of a dying rabbit:
1) They do not eat or drink – this is one of the most obvious signs for any owner if he refuses to eat hay and drink water this is a clear sign of ill health. Rabbits cannot do well without hay in their diet, it provides them with much of the nutrition they need and optimal levels of fiber, and they will die without it.
2) Inactivity/ Apathy – young, healthy rabbits are extremely active and curious. If their behavior changes to the point where they no longer engage in exercise and activity, be aware that something is very wrong.
3) Their vital signs alter – when a rabbit is about to die, their vital signs will change. Many owners do not check their rabbit’s temperature regularly, if at all. But you must be aware of the vital signs in a healthy rabbit so that you can compare them with your rabbit’s signs. Look out for:
- Body temperature – it’s usually between 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees F ) and 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees F)
- Heart rate – their heart rate fluctuates between 180 and 250 beats per minute.
- Respiration – they take between 30 and 60 breaths per minute.
- Capillary refill time (CRT) – this is a way of observing how many seconds it takes for capillaries to restore their normal color, once pressure has been applied to them. To test CRT on a rabbit, gently press the mucosa of their gums to see if it takes longer than 2 seconds to recover their normal color. If you notice any discoloration on their gums, this is a bad sign.
4) They behave abnormally – any animal that’s facing death will act out of character. You will notice behavioral changes like, being very fearful or aggressive. If a rabbit is generally passive, they may act very aggressively. The opposite could be true for a dominant rabbit, who will suddenly become passive. In the minutes leading to their death, a rabbit may suddenly release his bowels and urinate uncontrollably.
5) Their breathing becomes agitated – your rabbit’s breathing will alter dramatically, it will sound agitated. This is commonly known as the ‘death rattle’. At this point, you will want to get close to your rabbit, being a comfort to him in the remaining minutes you have together before he passes.
If your bunny displays any of the above signs but is still breathing, you must take them to the vet as soon as possible.
Your vet can confirm if they are dying or if they are suffering from a treatable disease. Either way, you must prepare for the inevitable.
If your rabbit is dying, you mustn’t panic. You must remain calm and do all that you possibly can to make their last moments as comfortable and peaceful as possible.
Hold your rabbit close to you and pet them gently, this will help them to relax and feel comforted. Avoid loud noises, don’t touch them excessively and do not make any sudden movements, this will only add to their stress.
How Do You Dispose Of A Dead Rabbit
After your pet rabbit has died, you must think of the practicalities of dealing with their dead body.
In the immediate realm of time, following death, it is a good idea to cover your rabbit up and place them in an airtight container. Paper bags, towels, shoe boxes etc are good options here. You’ll want to do this to stop flies from getting to their body. It will also prevent the body from smelling, decomposing and for you needed to see them dead.
At that point, you can speak to your vet about cremation. Many will be able to provide this service for you. You will be given your pet’s remains in a container of your choice. If you are looking for something more special, you can even purchase your own urn and take it to the vets. This is a beautiful urn available on Amazon for a great price.
If you wish to bury your rabbit, you must consider that you may not be allowed to do so in a park, or a communal garden if you live in rented accommodation.
Your vet may be able to recommend a funeral service for your pet, but if you can’t afford that service, you can bury your rabbit in your back garden. Do make sure that you dig a hole deep enough so that large animals like dogs, won’t be able to dig him up. It is also strongly advised to place them in a biodegradable casket. This will enable you to provide a dignified funeral service, and will prevent any risk of an animal digging them up (which is very upsetting).
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You can ask your local utilities office to mark your yard, so that utility lines won’t be able to pass through.
Some states have strict rules regarding the burial of a pet, and home burial may not be permitted where you live. In that case, you must contact your city sanitation department and check if they offer animal disposal services.
You might be able to find a local pet cemetery who will bury your rabbit. You must buy a plot for burial and you need to check with the cemetery if visitation is allowed. Some allow it on certain days, while others don’t allow it at all. This option is generally quite expensive. This is why a burial at home is usually a better option.
Give yourself time to grieve your rabbit.
Losing a pet can be devastating and then having to look at the options of disposing of their body straight after, can add to the stress of it all.
Planning for your rabbit’s passing in advance, although sad, will prepare you to say goodbye when the time comes. It will allow you to properly mourn your beloved rabbit and ensure a dignified, loving send off.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.