9 Reasons Why Rabbits Dies Suddenly with Eyes Wide Open

Losing a pet can cause so much pain for rabbit owners. However, not knowing what the reason it can be heartbreaking. This guide will tell you all about nine reasons why rabbits die suddenly with eyes wide open.

Why do Rabbits Die with Eyes Wide Open?

why did my rabbit died with eyes open

Rabbits die with their eyes open. It’s the most common way for animals to die, even humans. It boils down to one component of the body: muscles.

Muscle is the one responsible for closing the rabbit’s eyes. It’s a controlled motion, so if the rabbit dies while its eyes are wide open, it will stay like that as the rigor mortis sets in.

However, rabbits that undergo euthanasia can have their eyes closed. The injection induces sleep, triggering the muscles in the eyelids to close.

With humans, dying with eyes wide open is not a good sign. Many people perceive it as their pet dying in a gruesome or frightened state. However, death with eyes wide open is normal and expected.

What are the Causes of Sudden Rabbit Death?

Rabbits are susceptible to sudden deaths. They are known to die without any symptoms. There are many reasons for this, such as parasites and viral infections.

1. Myiasis

my rabbit died with eyes open

Myiasis or flystrike is a parasite that clings to the rabbit’s fur. The flystrike will stick to the skin and lay eggs on the rabbit. Once it has infested the rabbit, it will eat it inside out.

It can be hard to notice as there can be few common symptoms with other rabbit illnesses. Diarrhea and itchy skin are not only found in myiasis cases. Sudden death with a foul odor and dirty anal region can be attributed to a flystrike infestation.

2. Insufficient Milk

For the first month of their lives, kits or baby rabbits rely solely on the milk from their mother. However, if the mother rabbit does not produce enough milk for the litter, it can cause some of them to die from dehydration.

Insufficient milk can be caused by many reasons, such as lack of nutrition and bad health of the mother. Seeing baby rabbits dead with their eyes open is not uncommon, especially in the wild.

If you notice that some baby rabbits are not getting enough nutrients, it’s essential to step in. although rabbit milk supplement is not that accessible, kitten milk replacer is a good start. It’s also the supplement commonly used with kits that do not have a present mother.

3. Poisoning

rabbit died stretched out with eyes open

Rabbits are curious animals. They love to forage around and search for their food. Even if it’s advantageous in the wild, their foraging capabilities can also have downsides.

Rabbits can ingest poisonous plants and chemicals when left unchecked. Many plants and flowers, such as onion, potato, and tulips, are unsuitable for rabbit consumption. Being poisoned by plants can happen overnight or for a month.

For example, rhubarb leaves have oxalic acid that can cause kidney failure. However, feeding them with a small number of rhubarb leaves can cause no harm to the rabbits. It’s the frequency and amount that can trigger an adverse effect.

If you have plants nearby your home, make sure they are rabbit safe. Putting dangerous chemicals in rabbits’ safe places is a great idea to steer them from being poisoned.

4. Ingesting Improper Objects

Rabbits are pretty curious animals. They will sniff and forage from their surroundings. It has become a vital part of their behavior as herbivores and grazing animals.

However, it can become detrimental when they are domesticated. Many human-made objects such as plastic bags, glass, and wood chips, can be ingested by rabbits. Although rabbits do not always have adverse effects when they eat small inedible objects, sharp things can tear the intestines.

Rabbits might suffer from internal bleeding when they ingest sharp objects. You can look out for common internal bleeding symptoms such as loss of appetite and bloody discharge at the rabbit’s anus.

5. Dehydration

rabbit died with eyes open

Dehydration is pretty common with rabbits. Rabbits can suffer lethargy and dehydration if there are existing sicknesses or ailments. Loss of appetite to eat and drink are the most common symptom of a viral or parasitic infection of rabbits.

The warm climate and summertime are also prominent reasons. Rabbits are susceptible to temperature changes, so water is a crucial component to ensure that rabbits will now suffer from heatstroke.

Dehydration can be a sudden cause of death when left untreated. It’s often accompanied by diarrhea so that the body will be out of water in just two to three days.

This cause of death is especially vital for kits or baby rabbits. They need the proper nutrients and water to sustain their growing bodies. Ensure that the baby rabbits have the right amount of milk from their mother.

6. Temperature Change

Sudden temperature changes have many adverse effects on rabbits. Some rabbits can acclimate to warmer or colder temperatures depending on the breed. However, if the rabbit is raised indoors, there is an excellent chance that it’s not trained to acclimate to temperature changes.

Heatstroke and sudden death caused by high temperatures are very common in rabbits in the summertime. If they are not provided with the right amount of water, the rabbit might succumb to dehydration or stroke.

This can also apply to colder temperatures. Rabbits are prone to hypothermia, even with cold water. That’s also why rabbits are not allowed to be bathed with water.

Even though they are not allowed to be bathed, it does not mean that they should not be soaked. Dry baths and spot cleaning are great ways to clean your rabbits without endangering them.

If the rabbits are left unattended, they can get into a small puddle of water and get wet. If they are not dried immediately, the coldness of the water clings to their fur and causes hypothermia.

7. Shock or Heart Attack

bunny died suddenly

Alertness is essential for rabbits in the wild. With that said, it can be detrimental to their life as domestic pets. Rabbits are prone to death by shock and fright.

Although rabbits are mostly quiet, they can shriek and scream when frightened. Their scary state can cause a heart attack and shock the system, causing death.

If you have a rabbit, refrain from suddenly picking it up. This can trigger the response that they develop in the wild. When a predator is about to eat a rabbit, the most common attack spots are the neck and back.

If it’s new to your home, keeping it away from larger household pets can be a great way to keep them safe from predator animals.

However, sudden heart attacks can happen naturally. Stress or genetic abnormality can cause it. Heart disease is also a viable cause of premature death as they are not detected most of the time.

8. E. Cuniculi

Rabbits can be carriers and victims of parasites. The most common parasites in rabbits are e. cuniculi and coccidiosis. Parasite infestation is not only passed from adult rabbits to one another. Mother rabbits can also give parasites to their kit as soon as they are born.

In the USA, almost fifty to seventy percent of the rabbit population are a carrier of the e. cuniculi. These parasites can infect the rabbit without any symptoms. The asymptomatic rabbit can infect other rabbits without owners and handlers knowing that they carry e. cuniculi.

The fatal thing about e. cuniculi is that most infections are undetectable until too late. Most victims of the parasite will die within two to three days. There are no specific treatments veterinarians can do to help the rabbit.

To fight against these infections, it’s best to quarantine and provide vaccines to new rabbits. Stray cats and dogs can also carry the virus. If you ever encounter or rescue these animals, it’s safe for them to be tested to ensure they are not carriers of any disease.

9. Gastrointestinal Stasis

rabbit died suddenly

Gastrointestinal stasis or GI stasis is a rabbit’s digestive tract condition. The slow down of the ingestion and absorption of nutrients in the rabbit’s digestive tract. When the digestive process is slow, the food particles get stuck much longer.

Bacteria from the food can cling to the gut and cause bloating and lethargy. Although gastrointestinal stasis is a widespread ailment in rabbits, leaving it unchecked can negatively affect the rabbit’s body.

Since its gut is not working correctly, the rabbit might not eat enough to sustain itself. The animal does not perceive that it needs to eat and drink. It can affect its immune system in the long run.

Gastrointestinal stasis can also be very painful and uncomfortable for rabbits. If left untreated, it can cause premature death by malnutrition or dehydration.


Death with the eyes open is familiar with animals. However, some sudden causes of death may attribute to the state of the rabbit. We hope this article about why rabbits die suddenly with eyes wide open answered your questions.

35 thoughts on “9 Reasons Why Rabbits Dies Suddenly with Eyes Wide Open”

  1. Hi I was searching this website in search of something that might help me with why my rabbit suddenly died, I’m so confused as she seemed absolutely fine the night before, the following morning I found her lay in her litter tray on her side dead, she only 2 years old. It broke our hearts as she was a very much loved house rabbit,

    • I’m really sorry for your loss. My baby rabbit just died today he was very much loved and I couldn’t stop crying.

    • Mine just passed today. Also by his litter box. Eyes slightly opened. Changed his litter box last night and he was just fine. Eating and drinking. Using the bathroom normal.

    • A similar story to what’s happened to our baby. At only the age of 1 years old!
      He was absolutely fine the night before. Found her laying there and our other one licking him 😔
      Wished I new what happened!

      • My daughter lost her 1 year old bunny Feb 21st. Suddenly and no explanation. These responses are truly setting my heart a bit at ease as we are first time bunny owners and baffled as to what we did wrong. She was an amazing, beautiful little creature that we loved so dearly. I hope your heartache is less every day.

    • I’m sorry I understand. My sweet bunny died without warning 2 weeks ago, after having him for 5 1/2 years. It hurts my heart. I miss him so much and I just wish I could let him know I won’t forget about him.

  2. My bunny passed away. It may been old age. I think he was about 7 years old . But not sure he was an adult when I got him in 2017.
    We was watching TV / playing video games. Be fore bed. We heard thumping then screaming. Found him laying in his pee. We took him to the couch. ( As he still alive) shaking, not moving, heart racing. We called vets. It was at 7am so not all was open. Then no one took Bunnys. Tell (8am) one the hospitals open, in Louisville would see him.
    By then he had another episode. He go backwards. Then he would go forward. Running in to any thing. Or lading on his side. On our way to the vet he had one more episode. This time passing.

    I don’t know what caused this but he didn’t show any symptoms be for this. Now I’m scared I missed something and didn’t catch it.
    Have good thought that he has all the bunny donuts as we what’s. ( Those was his favorite)

  3. My poor bunny died when I was at school and I try not to cry and he was just 10 months old but so small and the old bunny (his dad) who is 8 years old is very sad

    R.I.P my baby

  4. A similar story to what’s happened to our baby. At only the age of 1 years old!
    He was absolutely fine the night before. Found her laying there and our other one licking him 😔
    Wished I new what happened!

  5. I feel devastated. My bunny of 6 years old just passed away. I found him dead lying on his side in his litter box with open eyes this evening when I came back from work. He was completely fine when I left this morning. He was eating, drinking and very relaxed as usual. I don’t know what happened to him.

  6. My bunny Busta Brown went to heaven today. He was fine one moment and gone next. I don’t know how to explain what happen. I’m trying to trace all of my steps. I cried because he was a part of the family. We love Buss.

  7. Hello everybody so sorry for your loss, we lost our Louie today he was 12 years old, he was drinking and eating moving around, then my grandaughter noticed he was layed on his side in the conservatory,(his favourite place) i think he went in his sleep, i told him earlier this week he was just the best rabbit we all love him, we are gonna miss him so much.

    • I am so sorry for your loss of Louie. Losing a beloved pet is never easy. In this blog post, we explore the possible reasons why rabbits may die suddenly with their eyes wide open. It’s important to understand the various factors that can contribute to a rabbit’s health and well-being, in order to prevent any unexpected loss of these precious animals.

  8. Hello everyone, I lost our lovely clever young bunny, biscuit, the other day, she was booked in to be spayed at the local vets, however after 2 hours at the vets I received a call saying she had died due to a reaction to the anesthetic, and they could not revive her, I feel totally devastated and traumatised by this and also feel guilty as I arranged this, thinking this was the right thing, struggling to come to terms with this.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your loss, sometimes even with the best intentions, unforeseen circumstances can arise.

      Rabbits are very sensitive to anesthesia, and an adverse reaction can lead to sudden death. It’s important to choose a veterinarian who is experienced in rabbit anesthesia and to ensure your bunny is in good health before undergoing any procedure. It sounds like you did everything you could to give Biscuit the best care possible, and her sudden passing was not your fault.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about biscuit. ❤️‍🩹
      I lost my Henry on Tuesday, very similar. He’d just had his surgery a few days before and I was taking him in to be checked. He wasn’t happy that I was taking him in.

      The vets office called me and said he died just as I was going to pick him up.

      His eyes were open and he had a piece of hay in his mouth. It didn’t look right to me. Now I am feeling so heartbroken and guilty for taking him. He was licking me before we left to go to the vets. But when we got there, he turned his back to me. He was upset with me. 😪

      It is hard. My heart goes out to you.
      I feel like my little Henry thinks I abandoned him and left him there to die.
      Today is day 3 and I cannot stop crying 💔

      • Oh god mine just passed away without any symptoms my heart is broken 💔 I can’t stop crying I can imagine how you are feeling

  9. I lost my boy tonight. He was fine earlier this evening then lay with his head flat on the floor. I picked him up and cuddled him until he went. He was my absolute pride and joy, Im currently struggling to understand what happened. Doesn’t help that most vets won’t see rabbits to provide a diagnosis

    • I’m sorry to hear about the sudden loss of your bunny boy. It’s unfortunate that many vets don’t have the expertise to diagnose and treat rabbits, which can make it difficult to find answers and closure.

  10. My 2 and a half year old rabbit Baby Kilpatrick (BK) has died today I feel like my soul has left my body rest in peace and my heart ❤️ 💙 💜 💖

  11. Our 18 month old plush mini lop died unexpectedly Tuesday. She was fine Monday night and Tuesday woke up in pain and wouldn’t eat. We took her to the vet and she was given fluids, antibiotics and critical care. Sadly she died later that day. Our family is devastated. She was a member of our family and loved so much.

    • Hello, I’m truly sorry to hear about the sudden and unexpected loss of your plush mini lop. Losing a beloved family member like her is never easy, and it’s completely understandable that your family is devastated.

  12. My Flash stopped eating yesterday afternoon. Called around for a vet but no openings. Looked up a way to supplement pineapple juice and gave her baby gas drops until I could get her to the vet this morning. She drank about 6ml of pineapple juice in two sittings via syringe. She wouldn’t take water or hay still: She let me carry her from her dayroom to the living room. I kept her snuggled in a towel to make her warmer and more comfortable. She seemed tired and scouted around on the floor mostly or hopped only short distances to get to a wall or corner to press her bottom or side against. This morning she was hoping around her day room with more energy. I check the camera and saw her sitting. This was around 7:52am- 8am. I did an online class, got ready to leave and when I went to get Flash at 9:33am she was lying on her side by the wall, eyes open, limp with stiffened back legs. I scooped her up and drove her to yhr vet as a emergency walk in. The closet exotic animal vet was 30 mins away and when I got there the rabbit doctor was not in. I asked the receptionist to please have someone help me. In what seemed about 7 -10mins, the veterinarian brought Flash back to me, completely swaddled in the towel I had her on, with her head coverd and told me she had passed. I asked for a surgery or something because she was just alive. She wet herself in my lap while I drove her there. Her eyes were open and she still felt warm. The vet told me she has no heart beat and showed me her lips turning blue. She told me Flash was already going into rigor-mortis. I just stood there and cried.

    • Hi Tenisha,

      I am truly sorry for your loss. Losing a beloved pet is heartbreaking, and it can be especially difficult when it happens so suddenly. It’s clear that you cared deeply for Flash and did your best to provide comfort and seek medical help in her time of need.

      It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of Flash’s passing without a thorough examination, but rabbits can be susceptible to various health issues that can result in sudden death. The change in behavior and lack of appetite you noticed in Flash could have been indicative of an underlying health problem. Unfortunately, rabbits can hide their symptoms well, making it difficult for owners to recognize when something is wrong until it’s too late.

      Please know that you did everything you could for Flash in her final moments, and your love and care surely made a difference in her life. Grieving the loss of a pet takes time, and it’s important to allow yourself to process this difficult experience. If you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here to help and support you.

  13. I am very sad too as one of our wild baby bunnies – we have many in our backyard – was attacked by the neighbors cat and seem to have gotten a very bad cervical injury. I was able to save him from being eaten alive by this cat and brought him inside, left him on a pillow and blanket in hopes he would recover. But he is right now immobilized from the neck down, his eye open. This is so sad, not sure he will survive.

    • Hi Belle,

      I’m truly sorry to hear about the unfortunate situation the baby bunny is in. It’s always tough to see a helpless creature suffering. It’s important to take the bunny to a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible. They are trained to handle such situations and can provide the appropriate care. In the meantime, try to keep the bunny comfortable, calm, and warm (but not too hot). Don’t attempt to feed or give water to the bunny as it could worsen the situation. Remember that wild animals can carry diseases, so ensure you’re careful and safe while handling it.

  14. Chip was my first and only pet, he meant a lot to me and had these attitudes just like a real human being.He would turn his back when he’s mad at me and keep grudges with me, he would act jealous if he saw me playing with my friends pet . He was very shy, loving and decent. He started using his litter box the minute I got him. He dint show any symptoms the day before, but I realized he dint eat his food overnight before he died suddenly , I also found a mini injury on the tip of his tail. I never knew I could love like this, I’m so sad and I’ve been crying but I know I will be fine. My condolences to the lost bunnies


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