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Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 32737
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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Hello we have had a pet Rabbit called Domino. She just died

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Hello we have had a pet Rabbit called Domino. She just died today about 5 hours ago. She was 5 1/2 years old a Dutch english rabbit cross. She was a household pet domesticated healthy well looked after tlc. I went to make a coffee/tea at 14:00 Greenwich mean time when I heard her flop. I thought nothing of it as I briefly saw her as when I read on the Internet before that means when they flop as she did this but rarely and she had her paws in the air briefly this was going back 2 years go it means they're happy. My wife missed that happy moment so I assumed she was doing the same. I went to check on her and she wasn't moving just stretched out her eyes were closing told my wife something was wrong she was distraught. She was still warm at this point but we were purloining the inevitable! I can't understand it this morning she was her lovely self clawing at her cage dived on her breakfast when I fed her gave her straw water. When the coroner came she hadn't hardly touched her water and not much of her food. We only fed her a handful of pellets as the vet told her she needed to go on a diet as she was overweight but that was in May and she lost weight as the vet said handful of pellets lots of hey powdered water etc. she was an indoor domesticated placid loved rabbit away from predators never unsettled peaceful loved by her family. Even the coroner said she looked peaceful had a lovely family and my mother in law said she had a great life my wife said her eyes were open after she checked on her when we discovered she died which was strange. When the coroner took her away she had some gunk at her mouth. What could that have been? She was vaccinated checked over by the vet we had her on a pet health insurance plan bought her toys had. A good living room and kitchen to run around in for exercise which she loved running behind our new 3 piece sofa. Is there anything we could have done different like with the gunk as my wife said she heard her scratching and clawing at her cage but abnormality my wife looked at me but I didn't realise when my wife looked at me to think should I go check on her? I think my wife keeps beating herself up as not to think about it as she says if only I had gone to check on her but what if she went and died there and then in front of her I told her which would have been more upsetting like my wife did with our hamster which we suspect he suffered a mini heart attack! My sister said it could be a genetic thing like when the hamster died its parents could have died that way . Could that be possible with Domino? How long do Dutch/English rabbits live for in average? She was her absolute self in and out of her cage when I fed her in the morning she was leaping out if her cage going around the kitchen them jumping back in her cage going straight for her food and I put her hey in fresh water clean bowl as always. Just want peace of mind as when she flopped I thought nothing of it & thought she was her usual self I didn't even look up. I even beat myself up for not paying attention to her at that point as well as my wife saying she wished she went to check on her when her scratching at her cage but was louder. Even my mother in law said to my wife on the phone you're not going to check on her every time she made a noise! Just want to know was it a stroke a fit a seizure an amurism heart attack just want reassurance. I checked the kitchen all clean went to clean her out as hadn't done it for 2 weeks or so but we have left it that long before and she's been fine not all the time as we took pride in cleaning her like I said fresh food bowl hay water etc. we had a pet fish that lasted for 7 years and out beautiful rabbit Domino lived for 5 1/2 just seems suddedn. Heard rumours that the pet store we bought her from lie to entice people but pets i.e lie about the animal's ages so she could have been a year old when we bought her? So possibly 6 1/2? As they say Dutch/English rabbits supposed to last 5-8 years when you hear from people or read up on the Internet & seek advice. She never screamed or cried out in pain. I heard through my wife that apparently rabbits are good at hiding their pain? Kind regards Paul
Aloha! You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin
My condolences for your loss of Domino. To answer you directly, yes, a 5-8 years lifespan is expected. Documented extreme longevities aren't uncommon, however, for rabbits in captivity with 9, 10, and 18 years found in the literature.

To get to your main point, the most common cause of peracute (sudden) death in our rabbits, cats, and dogs is cardiac disease. Arrhythmias (irregular heart rates) such as atrial fibrillation and ventricular premature complexes have been identifed in pet rabbits with underlying cardiomyopathies (heart muscle disease). Such a disorder is likely to remain occult until sudden death occurs. Syncopal (fainting/"flopping" as you mentioned) episodes occur when blood pressure drops precipitously and may be life-threatening.

A stressor such as a loud noise or threat has been known to cause peracute shock and death in rabbits but upon reflection, there's likely to have been an undiagnosed pre-existing cardiac disorder in those rabbits. Because Domino would be considered an elder rabbit for her breed, cardiac disorders are even more likely to be responsible for her death. Unless an EKG and perhaps cardiac ultrasound were performed routinely as part of her routine physical exam - and nobody I know does this - you would never know that she suffered from a life-threatening cardiac disorder.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hi Dr Salkin. Thank you for your reply. I think that covers the whole situation. Sorry my previous query was long winded. Just something else I would like to clarify. We had her covered on a pet insurance health plan on the letter for renewal it stated she was an elderly/ageing rabbit would there have been absolitley nothing me and my Wofe could have done to revive/save her? When I half noticed her flopping as she used to do that as it meant when I checked online when they flop and her paws were in the air briefly it means they are extremely happy/relaxed in their environment. My wife missed that lovely moment or caught the end of it. I just thought nothing of it when I left the kitchen as was only half looking at her and when my wife said she wished she checked on her when she made her scratching clawing noise at her cage even louder but like my mother in law her mother said would you have checked on her every time she made a noise? Like I said she was fine on the morning coming out of her cage rummaging around the kitchen when I went to feed her and diving on her food and food bowl when I fed her in her platform which she normally does. I think she had some (but not many) adult pellet nuggets and straw but noticed she didn't touch her water? My wife reckoned when she was making her scratching and clawing noise at her cage louder was her fitting or whatever her cause of death was. She knocked her food an excrement all over her platform where her food bowl was. Would there have been anything we could have done by taking her to a local vet if we noticed these signs at the time or waited for one to arrive at the house? Sorry to keep going on its just my wife keeps saying if only I had checked as well as me thinking I was in the kitchen at the time she collapsed but didn't really pay much attention to her as like I said earlier I thought she was just resting or being happy. Thank you for paying your respects I appriciate it she was a really loving bunny rabbit and a woman at work even said it had affected me as I wasn't the same on Monday and she said its noting we had done wrong.
Kind regards Paul.
It believe it to be unrealistic for me to expect your being cognizant of syncopal behavior in a rabbit particularly because it can mimic other normal behavior as you mentioned. Keeping in mind that an underlying cardiac disorder causing such episodes is necessarily advanced and life-threatening, I might conjecture that cardiopulmonary resuscitation might have been temporarily helpful but ultimately futile. Hence, there's no reason for you nor your wife to be incriminatory in Domino's death. On the contrary, it sounds as if Domino were well-loved and cared for.

Please continue our conversation if you wish.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hi Dr Salkin. Thank you for your reply. Sorry for my belated reply. Just one more question before I give you the best feedback reply. We didn't clean Domino out for about 2 weeks or so I know you said that we were responsible for Domino's death which I feel reassured as my wife does now. She was an indoor Rabbit & I was house proud so nothing could have contributed towards her death there could it? I know you said it sounded that she was really looked after and well cared for which I appriciate that! But they live in the wild without vaccines, treatments etc so I don't think that would have been an issue. Also if she was 5 1/2 years old when she died what would that have equated to in human years? She might have been older because then who took her away after she died from the family business run pet crematorium said the pet store we got her from can lie about the pets ages so for all we know she could have been 6 1/2 years old as we got a gold fish from the same pet store that last about 7 years? Just seems strange that a small goldfish can out live a Rabbit even though you did mention about an undetected heart defect. They said she was a boy until we took her to the vet for the first time where we found out she was a girl!
Thank you. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Regards Paul
I believe that you meant to type "...not responsible for Domino's death..." No, I can't see any reason to incriminate you two for her death. Her age tells me that she was at the end of her expected lifespan of 5-8 years - 60-96 human years although I admit we've not compared their lifespans to humans as we do with dogs and cats!

I don't know what "we didn't clean Domino out for about 2 weeks" means. You didn't clean out her hutch? If so, that's not desirable but not lethal either. Please clarify.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Yes sorry correction! "Not responsible" for Domino's death! Hard typing on an iPhone. I went to clean her out on the day she died. It was about a fortnight or so since we last clean her cage. She was an indoor Rabbit & we kept her in the Kitchen as she had a lot to run around in the lounge and the kitchen which are fair sizes. We didn't want her as an outdoor Rabbit as we have dogs living on either side to us. We live near a field to. So we kept her away from predators cats and foxes. How often should Eabbits be cleaned out?
Regards Paul
There's no specific recommendation other than cleaning the hutch as often as necessary. Some rabbits are messier than others; in other words, don't "clean up after themselves" by coprophagia (stool eating). That's one of my better puns...
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thank you for everything Doctor Salkin. One more final question before I rate you. If we were to get another Rabbitt (For my Daughter's sake more than anything!) would you recommend another Dutch/English cross breed as the life expectancy is between 5-8 years or would you recommend any other breed types of Domino's species? Which is the longest living breed of Rabbits? Also would they be better as an outdoor or indoor Rabbitt or is it your own discression?
Happy New Year!
Regards Paul.
Happy New Year back atacha. I know that you were happy with Domino's characteristics and so another cross would make sense. You have quite a selection because rabbits are divided into over 60 fancy breeds and fur breeds. Take a look at the British Rabbit Council website ( for more information. As I mentioned earlier, the lifespan of rabbits in captivity averages 5-8 years. I'm not aware of a particular breed with an outlier lifespan. Yes, its your preference where you would prefer to house your rabbit. They can be given free reign of a house but the home should be rabbit proofed. They like to scratch objects found in a home; two of the greatest hazards are electrical cords and poisonous plants. Outdoor rabbits should be housed in properly constructed hutches that provide shade and shelter from wind and cold below 4C. I'm sure that any rabbit would be lucky to have you.
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