Investigating the Mystery of Rabbits Dying With Eyes Open

Why Do Rabbits Die with Their Eyes Open?

It’s an unsettling sight. You go to check on your beloved pet rabbit only to find it lying motionless, with its eyes wide open. Why did this happen? It can be heartbreaking and confusing to face this situation and not understand the cause. Fortunately, there are several reasons why a rabbit might die with its eyes open.

This guide will provide an overview of the various possible causes and offer tips to help reduce the risk of a sudden death. Through understanding why rabbits can die with their eyes open, you’ll be better able to protect your furry friend and keep them safe.

Introduction to the Problem

It can be heartbreaking and confusing when a pet rabbit dies, especially if it has died with its eyes open. While this can be unsettling, it’s important to try to understand why the death occurred as it can help prevent a similar situation happening in the future. This guide explores the possible causes of why a pet rabbit might die with its eyes open and offers advice on how to minimize the risk of it happening.

Overview of the Causes

There are several possible causes of death in pet rabbits, some of which can cause a rabbit to die with its eyes open. These include natural instinct, disease, poisoning, trauma, dehydration, stress, poor diet, and neutering. Internal tumors can also be a factor in a rabbit dying with its eyes open.

Natural Instinct

Due to their natural instincts, rabbits may die with their eyes open. Rabbits in the wild will sometimes die suddenly due to a predator attack or other trauma that could cause them to die with their eyes open. In order to help put your rabbit to rest, try closing its eyes gently with your fingers. You may also wish to place something soft, such as a cloth, over its eyes.


Certain diseases can cause a rabbit to die with its eyes open, most notably pasteurellosis and myxomatosis. Pasteurellosis is caused by bacteria and can cause respiratory problems, fever, and shock. Myxomatosis is a highly contagious and deadly virus that affects the rabbit’s eyes, nose, and respiratory tract. If your rabbit shows any signs of being sick, seek immediate veterinary attention.


If a rabbit ingests a poisonous substance, it can die with its eyes open. Common signs of poisoning include drooling, seizures, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and body tremors. To help prevent poisoning, keep all chemicals, pesticides, and household cleaning products away from your rabbit’s area and check for any potential sources of contamination. If you suspect your rabbit has been poisoned, seek veterinary attention immediately.

Overview of the Causes

Rabbits can die from a variety of causes, though some of these causes can result in a rabbit dying with its eyes open. It is important to recognize the signs of an unhealthy or dying rabbit and take appropriate measures.

One of the most common causes of death in rabbits is infection, particularly pasteurellosis and myxomatosis. These are contagious diseases spread by contact with another infected rabbit. Signs include fever, loss of appetite, and discharge from the eyes and nose.

Another common cause of death in rabbits is poisoning. This can be caused by the ingestion of poisonous substances such as antifreeze, insecticides, and rodenticides. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and seizure.

Trauma is another cause of death in rabbits. Fright caused by loud noises, sudden movements, or other animals can cause a rabbit to go into shock, leading to death. External injuries, such as broken bones, can also be fatal.

Dehydration can also lead to death in rabbits. This can happen if the rabbit does not get enough fluids or if it has a loss of body fluids due to excessive heat or diarrhea. Symptoms of dehydration include lethargy, dry mouth, and sunken eyes.

Stress can also be a factor that leads to a rabbit dying with its eyes open. Stress can be caused by changes in environment, diet, or routine. The signs of stress include hiding, rapid breathing, or aggression.

Poor diet is another factor that can lead to death in rabbits. Feeding rabbits unhealthy foods such as candy, chips, or bread can cause serious health problems for them. Additionally, feeding rabbits hay or grass that is low in nutrition can cause them to become malnourished.

Finally, neutering or spaying can cause death in rabbits if done incorrectly. Neutering can be life-saving for certain rabbits that have medical conditions, but it must be done correctly and monitored closely. If a rabbit becomes dehydrated or stressed during the process, it can be fatal.

Why Do Rabbits Die With Their Eyes Open?

When a rabbit passes away, it is natural for them to have their eyes still open. This is due to the natural instinct of their bodies to protect themselves by keeping all senses intact. As humans, this might seem strange and unsettling, so it’s important to learn more about why this happens and how you can help your rabbit if it ever does.

Rabbit’s Instinctive Behavior

A rabbit’s instinctive response is to remain alert and aware of its environment in order to survive. When a rabbit is faced with danger, it will instinctively keep its eyes open in order to assess potential threats and respond accordingly. This same response happens when a rabbit is near death or passed away as the body is still trying to keep its senses on guard.

As owners, it’s important to remain aware of our rabbits’ behavior and look out for any signs of distress or unusual habits that might indicate a health concern. This includes checking their eyes regularly for clear vision and any other abnormalities.

Closing A Rabbit’s Eyes

When a rabbit has passed away, it is possible for the owner to close its eyes. This can be done by gently pulling down the upper and lower eyelids to cover the eyeball. This will help give the rabbit some peace and provide some closure for the owner.

  • Gently use an index finger and thumb to pull down from the upper eyelid.
  • Do the same with the lower eyelid and hold the lids shut.
  • Release and repeat this two more times.

It is important to perform this action with as much gentleness and respect for the rabbit as possible and handle the body carefully. This should be done as soon as possible after passing away as the eyes will start to dry out and fur will begin to fall down, making it harder to close the eyes.

When it comes to disease, two of the most common illnesses that can lead to a rabbit dying with its eyes open are pasteurellosis and myxomatosis.

Pasteurellosis is a bacterial infection that affects rabbits and can be contracted when they come into contact with small organisms in their environment, such as ticks, fleas, or birds. Symptoms include respiratory issues, weight loss, poor appetite, and depression. Pasteurellosis can quickly become fatal if left untreated, and death often occurs with a rabbit’s eyes open due to the shock associated with the disease.

Myxomatosis is another major disease that can lead to a rabbit dying with open eyes. This virus is particularly dangerous and is spread by direct contact with other infected rabbits or through insect bites. Symptoms of myxomatosis include eye inflammation, swollen lips, and internal organ damage, which can lead to shock and death. In this case, death can occur with the eyes open because the virus affects the nerves that control the eyes.

Although the cause of death cannot be determined in all cases, it’s important to be aware of common diseases like pasteurellosis and myxomatosis that can lead to a rabbit dying with its eyes open. If you notice any of these symptoms in your rabbit, it’s important to seek veterinary help right away to ensure your pet is receiving the best care possible.


Many substances can be toxic to rabbits, even common products like cleaning supplies. If a rabbit is exposed to such a poison, it can cause them to die with their eyes open. There are several signs that may indicate your rabbit has been poisoned: loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, depression, or difficulty breathing. It is important to be aware of potential sources of poisoning in your home and take steps to prevent exposure.

If you suspect your rabbit has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian immediately and bring a sample of what the rabbit might have eaten. There are treatment options, but they must be administered as soon as possible for the best chance of success. In some cases, a course of activated charcoal may be prescribed to help absorb the toxin.

To help reduce the risk of poisoning, make sure all dangerous materials are locked away, out of your rabbit’s reach. Always keep an eye on what your rabbit is eating, and remove any suspicious items. Additionally, do not change the type of food or water you give your rabbit suddenly, as this can lead to digestive issues.


Trauma is one of the most common causes of a rabbit dying with its eyes open. It is often caused by fright or external injuries, such as from a fall, a bite from another animal, exposure to high temperatures, or even a loud noise. To prevent trauma-related deaths, it’s important to keep your rabbit in a safe, secure environment to avoid potential accidents. Additionally, if you notice any signs of stress or fear in your rabbit, it’s a good idea to take immediate action to soothe and reassure them.

If your rabbit does suffer trauma, there are a few steps you can take. First, seek veterinary help immediately. If your rabbit has an external injury, clean the wound with warm water and gently apply iodine or antiseptic and a bandage. Make sure to monitor your rabbit for signs of infection and pain and contact your veterinarian if the condition isn’t improving.

In cases where trauma is caused by fright, try to reassure your rabbit by using a soft voice and gentle strokes. If possible, provide a hiding place or dark area where your rabbit can retreat and relax away from the source of their distress. Finally, it’s worth noting that some rabbits may be more prone to stress than others and it is important to understand your rabbit’s individual personality and needs in order to best care for them.

Dehydration in Rabbits

Dehydration occurs when a rabbit loses more fluids than it takes in, leading to an imbalance of electrolytes. This can be caused by a variety of things, including not enough drinking water, a poor diet, insufficient dietary water content, or heat stroke. Some of the signs that your rabbit may be dehydrated include dry eyes, dry nose, skin tenting, and a decrease in energy. If you suspect that your rabbit is dehydrated, you should take it to the vet or provide oral rehydration solutions.

There are several ways you can help prevent dehydration in rabbits. Making sure they have access to plenty of fresh water at all times is essential. Providing your pet with high-fiber vegetables and fruits helps increase their water intake as well. Additionally, keeping your rabbit in a cool and clean environment will help prevent heat stroke and other illnesses.

If your rabbit shows signs of dehydration, contact your veterinarian immediately and follow their advice. They may recommend oral rehydration solutions such as Pedialyte or even giving them small amounts of cool water. In some cases, the vet may need to give an IV infusion to rehydrate the rabbit. If you think your rabbit is having trouble drinking, you can offer it small amounts of lukewarm water on its nose or tongue.

Dehydration in rabbits can be a serious issue, so it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and take preventive measures. Providing your pet with plenty of fresh water, a good diet, and a cool environment can help ensure that it stays healthy and hydrated. If your rabbit does become dehydrated, it’s important to seek veterinary assistance right away.

Stress is a Common Cause of Death in Rabbits

When rabbits succumb to stress, they often die with their eyes open. It’s important as a rabbit owner to understand your bunny’s stress triggers and how to minimize them.

Although not all rabbits will react in the same way to stress, there are some common causes that can lead to a rabbit dying with its eyes open. These can include overcrowding, too much noise or activity in the house, or even just unfamiliar smells or objects in the rabbit’s environment.

It’s important to understand that rabbits are prey animals, so sudden movements or loud noises can startle them and cause extreme stress. Other signs of stress to watch out for include rapid breathing, loss of appetite, and reduced physical activity.

Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce stress in rabbits. A few easy tips include ensuring that the rabbit has plenty of space to explore, reducing the amount of noise and activity around the rabbit, and providing plenty of enrichment activities such as toys and hiding spots.

If your rabbit is exhibiting signs of stress, take the necessary steps to reduce them. If the situation persists, be sure to get in touch with your vet for advice on how to help your rabbit.

Poor Diet

Having a poor diet is one of the leading causes of death in rabbits, and can lead to them dying with their eyes open. Not giving your rabbit enough of the necessary nutrients can cause them to become weak, ill, and eventually die. A poor diet can also contribute to other issues such as dehydration, infections, skin problems, and more.

Some common items that should be avoided in your rabbit’s diet include chocolate, candy, sugary foods, popcorn, and processed meats. These items can be toxic to a rabbit and can cause serious health issues. Instead, substitute these items with fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and hay. Offer these items to your rabbit in moderation and ensure they are washed properly before feeding them.

Good nutrition is key to keeping your rabbit healthy. Ensure they are getting a balanced diet and are eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Monitor their weight regularly and adjust their diet accordingly. Make sure they have access to fresh, clean water at all times, and consult a vet if you have any concerns about your rabbit’s health.


Neutering is a procedure that involves removing the testicles of male rabbits. It helps to reduce aggressive behaviour and stops them from reproducing. Neutering can be life-saving as it prevents certain diseases such as cancer and testicular tumors. However, neutering can also have an impact on a rabbit’s behavior and overall health.

When considering neutering your rabbit it is important to understand the potential risks and benefits. After the operation, the rabbit should be kept in a quiet, comfortable place with access to fresh food and water. You will need to monitor your rabbit for any changes in behaviour or health. The operation will also change the balance of hormones, which can lead to weight gain, so it is important to adjust their diet accordingly.

Once your rabbit’s operation has healed, it is essential to look after them in the correct way. You should provide them with lots of exercise and stimulation to keep them healthy. This includes time outside of their cage as well as toys, hay, and safe objects to chew. Additionally, you may need to adjust your rabbit’s diet to ensure it is getting all the essential vitamins and minerals.

Neutering can be beneficial for a healthy rabbit, but it is always best to speak to your vet first to discuss the potential risks and benefits for your specific case. It is also important to research and learn about the correct care for a neutered rabbit so that you can ensure their health and wellbeing.

Internal Tumor

An internal tumor is a mass of abnormal cells that can develop from a variety of sources and appear in different parts of the body in rabbits. They are quite common in older rabbits, however they can also appear in younger animals.

Signs of an internal tumor can include weight loss, a lack of appetite, vomiting, and gastrointestinal problems. You may also notice a lump or swelling on your rabbit’s abdomen. If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to contact your vet as soon as possible.

Strategies for prevention include regular check-ups with your vet, making sure your rabbit is up to date with vaccinations, and providing a healthy diet. Additionally, it’s important to recognize that some breeds may be more prone to developing internal tumors than others.

If your rabbit does have an internal tumor, your vet will be able to offer advice on the best course of treatment. This can include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. It is important to follow your vet’s instructions carefully to ensure the best possible outcome for your pet.


Rabbits can die with their eyes open for various reasons, many of which are preventable. As a rabbit owner, it is important to be aware of the causes of death in rabbits and how to look out for signs of distress. Taking action early and providing a safe environment, a healthy diet, and regular check-ups with a veterinarian can help you protect your rabbit from dying with its eyes open.

Remember to monitor your rabbit’s behavior for any changes and always seek veterinary help if you are concerned about your rabbit’s health. With proper care and attention, you can help ensure that your rabbit remains healthy and happy for many years to come.


  • Q: What are the most common causes of death in rabbits?
    A: Common causes of death in rabbits include disease, poisoning, trauma, dehydration, stress, poor diet, and internal tumor.
  • Q: How can I tell if my rabbit has been poisoned?
    A: Symptoms of poisoning in rabbits include difficulty breathing, puffing or panting, seizures, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you think your rabbit has been poisoned, it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible.
  • Q: What should I do if my rabbit has suffered an external injury?
    A: If your rabbit has suffered an external injury, it is important to provide appropriate first aid and then take it to the vet for further treatment. Be sure to keep the wound clean and watch out for any signs of infection.
  • Q: How can I rehydrate my rabbit?
    A: To rehydrate a rabbit it is important to provide plenty of fresh water and all essential vitamins and minerals. Adding electrolyte powder to the water can also help hydrate the rabbit more efficiently.
  • Q: What type of diet should my rabbit have?
    A: A healthy diet for rabbits should consist of hay, vegetables, fruits, and small amounts of high-fiber pellets. Avoid giving them too many starchy foods such as bread, nuts, seeds, and dairy products.
  • Q: When should my rabbit be neutered?
    A: Rabbits should be neutered when they reach around five months of age. Early neutering can help prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce aggression.
  • Q: What are the signs of an internal tumor in rabbits?
    A: Signs of an internal tumor in rabbits may include weight loss, lack of appetite, excessive drinking, lethargy, and difficulty breathing. If you suspect that your rabbit has an internal tumor, it is important to contact a vet as soon as possible.

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