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It’s something no one likes to think about, but there will come a point when sadly a beloved pet will pass away or need to be put to sleep to end their suffering. As pet owners you will undoubtedly do everything you can to help and prolong the life of your rabbit, but there are times when it’s unavoidable, and you will have to face the difficult decision. Reasons may include the diagnosis of an inoperable or untreatable condition, treatment isn’t working and they’re unlikely to recover, or by prolonging the animal’s life you are just prolonging their suffering.
The first thing to determine is whether changes in your rabbit’s behaviour are due to illness or old age. All pets tend to slow down as they age, and sometimes develop conditions such as arthritis, which may be treatable. However, you should consider whether prolonged illness or extensive surgery in an elderly pet will cause them to suffer unnecessarily as there’s no long term benefit. An animal who is sick or in pain is likely to sit hunched, be inactive and lose interest in food. If your rabbit is displaying any of these signs, take them to a vet as soon as possible to find out what’s wrong. Illnesses can sometimes come on quickly, or in the case of rabbits, because they are prey animals they will try to hide any symptoms so you may not obviously notice that something is wrong until it becomes more serious.
Living with a chronically ill pet can be emotionally draining, needing a lot of your time to fully care and look after them. If the diagnosis is terminal and the suffering is extremely bad, then you may need to make a decision on whether to keep treatment going. Veterinary treatment can be costly, but the most important factor is the rabbit’s quality of life. Severe pain or discomfort, inability to eat, difficulty breathing, painful sores that won’t heal, or incurable conditions with no chance of recovery are all indications that euthanasia may need to be considered. Talk over options with your vet, and the rest of the family.
Questions to Think About:
Don’t feel guilty or blame yourself about the decision, as you will have had your pet’s best interests at heart to prevent their prolonged suffering. The majority of procedures run quickly and smoothly with little distress to your pet. The animal is put to sleep with anaesthetic and will not feel any further pain. You should be allowed some time to say goodbye to your pet, either before the procedure or afterwards, if you wish to. It’s up to you whether you opt for cremation or a burial in either a pet cemetery or at home.
Treasure your memories and the times you spent together with your pet, talk to family and friends or contact a pet bereavement support service. It’s natural to feel upset, or sometimes angry, when your pet dies, as they are a member of the family. It can be a very emotional experience and it takes time to get over the loss of a loved one. It can be especially upsetting for children, so be sure to explain what is happening and keep them involved as much as you can.
Losing a pet is always a sad time, but if your rabbit had a companion, don’t forget that they will be grieving too, so you may need to show them some extra support and attention. Although it may be hard thinking about getting a ‘replacement’, you will need to find the remaining rabbit a new mate to prevent them becoming bored and lonely. Visit a rescue centre who will be able to help your bunny find their new rabbit friend.