While we all love our rabbits, we must accept that someday they will die.
This can be a painful time, and while you
are filled with emotions there are several issues you will face and decisions
you need to make.
It helps to understand the situation and prepare in advance..
If your rabbit had a mate, you should let the surviving rabbit spend some time with the deceased rabbit's body. In the right situation, you can let them spend a couple of hours together. You should give your bunny at least five minutes so that they can sniff their friend. They understand death and this will help the surviving rabbit realize what happened. They won't spend weeks looking for their mate and it will help them move on. One thing that you should be warned about, they will often start grooming their dead mate. That can be emotionally difficult to watch. If your rabbit is euthanized at the animal hospital, you can either bring the partner with you to the hospital, or bring your rabbit's body home.
Next you need to figure out what to do with your rabbit's body. There are several different options for you. You can bury your rabbit in your yard which will allow you to have a place you can easily visit. Some people put in a graveside marker and others plant a special garden. If it is winter time and the ground is frozen, you can place the body in the freezer until the ground thaws. Burial in your yard may be illegal in some communities. Apartment dwellers without a yard or people who want a more permanent location may choose to bury their bunny in a pet cemetary instead. Many are peaceful with pretty gardens and you can get a tombstone to mark the grave. Another common choice is to take your rabbit to a veterinary hospital for cremation. They will return the ashes to you which you can either store in an urn or scatter outside. Be sure to ask for individual or private cremation or your pet's ashes may be mixed with others. The third option is to take the body to a veterinary hospital for disposal. Some people are fine with this option, but it can be impersonal and lacking in comfort. Both cremation and veterinary disposal cost money.
If you are unsure what happened to your rabbit, you may want to get an autopsy. It can help you learn from, and sometimes find peace with the situation. This is a very personal decision and there is no right answer whether to get one done or not. When making this decision you also need to understand that some autopsies are inconclusive and do not provide any answers. You should discuss the situation with your veterinarian. There are different types of autopsies. A gross autopsy is just a look around the body while a full autopsy includes sending tissues samples off to a lab, which can be expensive. Your veterinarian can explain the different options help guide you with what to expect. You should take the body to the hospital as soon as possible, however if your bunny dies while the hospital is closed, place the body in the refrigerator until you can get to the veterinary hospital. It is important that you don't freeze the body as this will damage the tissues.
Next, deal with your grief. Have a good cry. Consider creating a memorial to your rabbit. Find a nice picture and write a tribute to your friend. You can light a candle. Many people find peace reading the Rainbow Bridge. It is a touching story about pets waiting for their owners to cross into heaven. The story can be found on our web site in the memorials section. Talk with some supportive friends. There are also pet loss groups on line that you might find helpful. Remember there people out there who understand what you are going through.At some point you may want to consider getting a new friend for your surviving rabbit. While most rabbits prefer to have a new friend, this isn't true with all of them. You also need to take into account your rabbit's personality, age and health. They also need time to grieve, and you will notice a change in their personality. Most rabbits are ready to find a new friend within a month.
Copyright 2005 Suzanne Trayhan
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