My daughter's pet adult rabbit died suddenly last week. He seemed fine early morning, then mid-morning looked a little wobbly and then within a couple of hours he was dead. What could be the cause of his death, and is it safe to buy another rabbit and put it in the same cage?
The cause of your rabbit's death cannot be determined with 100 per cent certainty without a post-mortem examination.
However, there are some common diseases that can result in a rabbit becoming ill and dying very quickly.
The most common cause is an infection with the rabbit calicivirus.
This virus has been released in Australia to kill wild rabbits and will move from wild rabbits into captive ones that are housed outside.
There is a vaccination to prevent infection with this virus and pet rabbits should be vaccinated once a year.
Rabbits have a complex digestive system and should eat predominantly hay and grass.
Rabbits that get grain or large amounts of other easily digested material such as some vegetables or any kind of fruit can have a severe disruption of their digestive tract, resulting in the overgrowth of bacteria that produce toxins.
These toxins can rapidly kill a rabbit.
If you get another rabbit, immediately take it to an experienced rabbit veterinarian who can advise you on how to properly feed it.
Given that your other rabbit may have died with the rabbit calicivirus, it is recommended that the cage be completely cleaned to remove all traces of the other rabbit using soapy water and then disinfected with one cup of bleach in four litres of water.
Soak the cage with the bleach and leave it on for 30 minutes and then rinse it completely.
Bleach can damage your skin and clothes, so wear gloves and other protective clothing.