2 dead rabbits today - possibly stomach rupture?

Help Support RabbitTalk:

TexGardenGirl

Member
Joined
Feb 9, 2015
Messages
6
Reaction score
0
Location
Texas
I have several meat rabbits (well, hypothetically meat, we haven’t actually slaughtered any yet) and before now have only lost one (other than babies under a week). That one had been losing weight despite eating well and had very sticky sweet urine at the end so I suspect diabetes, though I know it’s rare in rabbits. That was about a year ago. Other than that the most serious problem has been that most of them haven’t properly shed their fur this summer - the old coat is getting matted. None of them enjoy being combed but I have been trying for about a month to comb what I can and any time I’ve got my hands in a cage I try to grab a small mat if they let me. They live outdoors in cages in an old chicken coop.
Anyway, that’s just background. This morning two of them were dead. It’s been hot here - over 105 - and I usually put frozen water bottles in their cages in the afternoon but I forgot yesterday so my first thought was overheating and I was feeling terrible about it. One was stretched out in his cage, the other was just curled up like he went to sleep and didn’t wake up. But I decided to go ahead and cut them open to see if anything obvious was wrong. Sorry I didn’t think to take any pictures. Since I’ve never slaughtered one I’m not really familiar with how their insides should look, but I am a former vet tech, and I’ve both slaughtered and necropsied lots of chickens and seen lots of dogs and cats in surgery, so I am not entirely clueless on what to expect.
They both had very gassy intestines which were a weird shade of grayish green rather than the pink I expected. But perhaps the color was just due to being dead for a few hours. When I lifted the intestines out of the way the first thing I noticed was stomach contents spilling out of a ruptured stomach. On the first one I thought maybe I had somehow punctured it but looking back I don’t think that’s even possible without also getting the intestines but they stayed intact. And on the second one I was extra careful and I know I didn’t nick anything. In both cases the stomach contents looked like softened pellets but was a huge amount, and it smelled sour, much like sour crop in a chicken. It didn’t look like the stomach “exploded”, there was no splattering of the contents, just like a bag of wet food had split and spilled. Livers looked normal, gallbladder intact, no fluid in abdominal cavity but there was fluid in the chest cavity of the first one (I forgot to open up the chest on the second because by then I was pretty sure it was the stomach rupture.) I don’t know if maybe the chest fluid can develop after death? Heart and lungs looked fine on the one I looked at. In addition to the very gassy intestines, one had some diarrhea present in the rectum and evidence of a little diarrhea recently on his anal fur.
I hadn’t noticed either acting especially different lately. They eat manna pro pellets and a variety of grass hays.
One had seemed a little more wiling to be petted but I thought it might be the fact I’ve been combing him more lately. He was in a 24x24” cage alone and was 15-16 months old. He’s never eaten a lot of hay, but recently I put in some hay from our yard and he seemed to like it a lot better. He didn’t go crazy and eat it all, but ate significantly more than usual. I’ve been putting in some of that yard hay almost daily for about 10-14 days. His appetite for pellets seemed to go up in that same time although I also found a few pellets more than usual that fell through the wire. So either way he’s been digging through the feed more than usual. I have not observed him to be acting uncomfortable unless his allowing me to pet him more might somehow mean something.
The second one was 13 months old, in a 30x36” cage with a littermate. They get along well. I hadn’t noticed anything at all out of the ordinary with him, though it’s always harder to notice changes when they share a cage. They had access to the same hay from the yard. (All the rabbits have also had some timothy and/or orchard grass hay in addition to the new hay).
So we suspect that there is something wrong with the hay from the yard. It is just a wild-ish country yard, probably half Bermuda grass, with other weedy grasses and random weeds. The only weed I know of that I know to be toxic is the “field bindweed” (Convolvulus arvensis) and I usually can pick it out because even after mowing its vines stay pretty intact. I suppose I could have missed some. Also my husband just remembered that area had a fire ant mound which we treated recently (maybe 2 months ago) with fipronil. I had forgotten about that, but when buying the fipronil I felt ok about it because it’s whats in Frontline for dogs and cats. I realize that doesn’t make it safe for rabbits to ingest but at the time hadn’t planned on using that grass for hay. And they didn’t ingest any on its own, just residue that maybe absorbed into the grass or dirt that got mixed in.
So far all the other bunnies seem fine.
Does anyone have any ideas what might have happened? I’d hate to lose any more, and we are planning on slaughtering several in the near future - it’s just a scheduling issue. I’d rather not eat them if something bad is going on, but also if it’s just the heat then maybe we should push to harvest them sooner before the heat takes them.
Thank you!
Oh I almost forgot - the second rabbit, the one with no visible symptoms, had no visible testicles. The scrotum was clearly there, but empty. I’m pretty sure he had them before (also he’s been in a cage with at least one other male for his entire life and no babies have occurred) and I forgot to look for them internally after I opened him up, so I don’t really have complete information on that. Just thought I’d mention that weird detail in case it means something.
 

MaggieJ

Administrator
Staff member
Admin
Moderator
RabbitTalk Supporter
Joined
Dec 16, 2009
Messages
16,955
Reaction score
28
Location
South Eastern Ontario
I'm not going to be a lot of help, I'm afraid, but I wouldn't want you to think your problem was being ignored. So often we never find out what killed the rabbits.

I do know that the ugly greyish green of the guts is normal for rabbits. It grossed me out the first time I saw it too.

It's also possible that the stomach rupture was caused by gas build-up after the rabbits were dead. In extreme heat, things happen fast. I can remember someone else posting a similar situation, (ruptured stomach and gassy intestines) but it was a long time ago and I can't recall the details.

The temperatures you mention can certainly kill a rabbit. Some seem more susceptible than others and since you forgot to give them their ice bottles, it seems to me more than likely that it was the heat that killed them and the problems in the stomach and gut were postmortem.

I rather doubt it was the field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis). It is not a desirable plant to feed to rabbits, but a bit mixed in with other safe ingredients isn't likely to have such serious results.

Hope someone with more experience with this kind of sudden death can give you some definitive answers.
 

MaggieJ

Administrator
Staff member
Admin
Moderator
RabbitTalk Supporter
Joined
Dec 16, 2009
Messages
16,955
Reaction score
28
Location
South Eastern Ontario
I hadn't thought of coccidiosis. Michael and Ladysown, could you expand on your answers a bit, please? I take it this would be the intestinal variety of coccidiosis. It would be helpful to the OP to know more about causes, prevention etc.
 

michaels4gardens

Well-known member
RabbitTalk Supporter
Joined
Dec 6, 2013
Messages
2,650
Reaction score
10
Location
Piney Flats ,Tn.
MaggieJ":ygpmkxky said:
I hadn't thought of coccidiosis. Michael and Ladysown, could you expand on your answers a bit, please? I take it this would be the intestinal variety of coccidiosis. It would be helpful to the OP to know more about causes, prevention etc.

Coccidiosis is the most common problem in rabbits that are unthrifty, both intestinal and hepatic coccidiosis will cause "poor doing" , rough coat, listlessness, watery diarrhea, weight loss, high temperature etc. Intestinal coccidiosis, exhibits gassy gut, and bloating in addition to afore mentioned symptoms. Hepatic Coccidiosis, in addition to mentioned symptoms, will show "spots" on the liver at butcher.
It is almost impossible to "cure" your herd permanently , once you have it in your dirt, or rabbit area, so- once you have had it you will always have to watch for symptoms. The easiest solution for both types of coccidiosis, is to grow a patch of garlic chives and feed a little each day for a couple of weeks before weaning time and a couple of weeks after weaning time. This stress period is when the rabbits immune system is low, and the protozoa can get established.
 

TexGardenGirl

Member
Joined
Feb 9, 2015
Messages
6
Reaction score
0
Location
Texas
Thanks, all! It is reassuring that I probably didn’t poison them with hay, and while always confusing to know that heat stress is unpredictable as to who gets slammed by it, at least I know what steps I can take to minimize it, and beyond that it’s out of my hands (the heat issue, I mean.) Also good to know that the stomach rupture may have been postmortem - what an awful way to go if that were the cause. And good to know the color of the intestines is so bizarre.
I have a few questions about coccidiosis. I really didn’t consider it because I’ve never seen a case in a dog or cat after kitten/puppyhood. I was told that it almost only occurs in adults if they have an underlying immune problem. I suppose the heat stress could do that?
Also, I was unclear in the OP, but the diarrhea I saw in the one was nowhere close to watery — more like soft and unpelleted but still somewhat formed - and it appeared that the bit on his fur was also thick but not ongoing. I haven’t noticed any unusual droppings from either bunny. Again my experience from dogs and cats is that coccidia diarrhea is very watery.
Third, I did not see any spots on the livers, but I only cut into one lobe and it appeared normal. Are the spots usually visible on the surface or should I have cut into the various lobes several more times? I realize this may not have been the hepatic form but I’m curious for future reference.
And, would garlic chives be helpful at older ages than just weaning time? I can easily grow them and give as often as would be helpful, maybe every year when it starts getting hot.

Thanks again for your thoughtful responses.
 

michaels4gardens

Well-known member
RabbitTalk Supporter
Joined
Dec 6, 2013
Messages
2,650
Reaction score
10
Location
Piney Flats ,Tn.
In Hepatic..The liver spots are visible on the outside of the liver as well as under the surface.
In Rabbits ... , some rabbits with intestinal coccidiosis never have unusual pellets,or watery diarrhea, but will instead suddenly develop a high fever, or just start losing weight.... The symptoms of intestinal coccidiosis are so radically varied, that a set list of symptoms would be very inaccurate at times.
As you mentioned-- any kind of stress can lower the immune system, and let the protozoa get out of control.
Garlic chives [and most allium varieties] will control both kinds of coccidiosis in any age rabbit. It will also control, but not cure EC.
 

TexGardenGirl

Member
Joined
Feb 9, 2015
Messages
6
Reaction score
0
Location
Texas
Thanks for the additional info. I found my old patch of garlic chives this morning - I thought my husband had mowed it down enough to kill it but some is still there so I harvested some and fed it to the buns. Only one didn’t seem to like it, but I’ll try again, and plant some more in pots for the future.
 

michaels4gardens

Well-known member
RabbitTalk Supporter
Joined
Dec 6, 2013
Messages
2,650
Reaction score
10
Location
Piney Flats ,Tn.
TexGardenGirl":uyq7f5n8 said:
Thanks for the additional info. I found my old patch of garlic chives this morning - I thought my husband had mowed it down enough to kill it but some is still there so I harvested some and fed it to the buns. Only one didn’t seem to like it, but I’ll try again, and plant some more in pots for the future.

Best of luck...
 

Latest posts

Top