Can Rabbits Die From A Broken Heart?

Categorized as Bunny Facts Tagged

Last Updated on November 3, 2022 by Rei Garnet

This is something I’ve personally encountered. When I was 9, my parents and I moved away from our farm to a new house in the city.

My parents insisted that I pass on my rabbit (bunbun) to my cousin (who lives on a farm) because the house we would move into is small, so the rabbit would likely be caged all day.

Several weeks had passed when we got the news from my cousin that my rabbit had died. He said that it suddenly stopped eating a few weeks after we left.

Now I’m not sure whether or not my rabbit really died because I left him, but some part of me believes that it was the reason. There’s also a lot of evidence about this online from several rabbit communities that reported the same.

Rabbits are known to die from a broken heart due to being abandoned by their owner, the death of their rabbit companion, or when neglected for a long time.

The likely causes of why a rabbit would die from a broken heart would be stress and depression. Just like us humans when we get heartbroken, rabbits will experience stress and depression.

Stress and depression in rabbits can lead to all kinds of dangerous digestive conditions like diarrhea, GI stasis, and fatty liver disease that can kill a rabbit if it’s not treated.

Now that I’ve given you the gist of the article, read on as I explain in more detail how a rabbit can die from a broken heart:

How can rabbits die from a broken heart?

A neglected rabbit that is all alone on its cage

While a broken heart would likely not kill a rabbit all by itself, its effects can be detrimental to your rabbit’s health.

As an example, rabbits that are broken-hearted due to the death of their rabbit companion would likely get lonely.

Rabbits that are lonely will have the following symptoms:

  • Withdrawn
  • Destructive
  • Attention seeking
  • Hyperactivity
  • Loss of appetite

Loss of appetite is one of the symptoms of loneliness. This in turn could lead to conditions like GI stasis, hepatic lipidosis, and diarrhea, which are caused when a rabbit is not getting enough fiber.

Broken-hearted rabbits can also experience stress and depression. Rabbits that are stressed and depressed will also experience loss of appetite, which can lead to negative health consequences like diarrhea, GI stasis, and fatty liver disease.

All of which can kill a rabbit if it’s not treated immediately.

How to tell if your rabbit is broken-hearted?

A lethargic rabbit with its eyes closed.

You can tell that your rabbit is broken-hearted by looking for the following symptoms:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Nervousness
  • Over-grooming/not grooming
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Pacing
  • Seclusion
  • Tensed posture
  • Attention seeking
  • Hyperactivity

The symptoms above are the combined symptoms of loneliness, stress, and depression in rabbits. Most of the time, when a rabbit is experiencing one of these emotions, they’re actually experiencing them all at the same time.

If you notice any of these symptoms, call your rabbit-savvy vet right away. Waiting for more serious symptoms in rabbits is often a death sentence.

What causes broken heart in rabbits?

Two bonded rabbits smelling eachother.

The most common causes of broken hearts in rabbits are the death of their companions, abandonment, abuse, and neglect.

A lot of people from online rabbit communities have reported that their rabbits died following the death of their bonded mate.

It often happens when a pet owner did not give the surviving rabbit a chance to properly mourn the death of their companion by not showing the dead body to it.

As morbid as it sounds, you need to show the dead body of the deceased rabbit to the other rabbit in order for them to properly process what happened.

You need to leave the body for at least 4 hours before disposing of it.

Another reported case of a rabbit dying from a broken heart is when a rabbit owner gave away their rabbit due to unseen circumstances. The rabbit would then lose all of its appetites and stop eating altogether. This in turn would often lead to its demise a few days/weeks later.

How long can a rabbit survive before dying of a broken heart?

The amount of time before a rabbit could die from a broken heart would depend on the rabbit itself. If the rabbit suddenly stops eating and develops GI stasis, then it could die within 24 to 48 hours.

A rabbit that develops hepatic lipidosis due to sudden loss of appetite can also die within 24–48 hours.

It can also take a lot longer than this if your rabbit is not aware that it’s been abandoned for a couple of days or weeks.

But once the symptoms show up for the conditions that I mentioned above, they will likely have 1-2 days if they are not treated immediately.

How to prevent your rabbit from dying from a broken heart?

By following these steps, you can prevent your rabbit from dying from a broken heart caused by the death of its companion.

  1. Don’t remove the body. You must let the remaining rabbit see that its partner is dead so that they’ll know they have not been separated forcefully. If your rabbit died at the vet’s office, you can request to get the body for the other rabbits to see. You only need to leave the body for a few hours, or until you see the remaining rabbit sleeping next to the deceased rabbit.
  2. Interact with your rabbit. For the next few weeks, you need to increase the amount of time you interact with your rabbit. Show them that they’re not alone. Show them that you’re still here and that you love them.
  3. Provide treats. Treats can be a great motivator for rabbits because they’re suckers for anything sweet. Just make sure that your rabbit is at least 7 months old before you give them one. You should also limit the amount you give them to lessen the chance of triggering a bout of digestive problems.
  4. Keep a close eye. You must keep a close eye on your rabbit for the next few weeks to make sure it is eating right. You should also look for any signs of depression because it can be dangerous if not dealt with. Bring your rabbit to a veterinarian if you notice anything odd.

If your rabbit is broken-hearted because you gave them away, you can try visiting them every few days until they are fully accustomed to their new home.

Play with your rabbit together with the new owner so that they’ll bond with the new owner more easily.

When should you bring your rabbit to a veterinarian to prevent them from dying of broken heartedness?

As soon as you notice that your rabbit’s behavior or bowel movements have changed, you should immediately bring your rabbit to a rabbit-savvy vet.

Waiting for more serious symptoms can be the difference between your rabbit living or dying.

Conclusion

Rabbits that die from a broken heart often have digestive problems like GI stasis, diarrhea, and hepatic lipidosis. These conditions are often caused by loss of appetite, which is a symptom of stress, loneliness, and depression.

Cite this article:

Bunny Horde (December 8, 2022) Can Rabbits Die From A Broken Heart?. Retrieved from https://bunnyhorde.com/can-rabbits-die-from-a-broken-heart/.
"Can Rabbits Die From A Broken Heart?." Bunny Horde - December 8, 2022, https://bunnyhorde.com/can-rabbits-die-from-a-broken-heart/

By Rei Garnet

I’ve loved and cared for rabbits since I was 9 years old, and I’m here to share my passion for rabbits. My objective is to help rabbit owners give their rabbits the best life possible.