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Forum RAINBOW BRIDGE I can’t live with the guilt

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    • Kunik
      4 posts Send Private Message


        My baby starved to death with unlimited food. The vet couldn’t find a thing wrong with her… she just had absolutely no body fat.


        We have three rabbits. We had three rabbits.


        One of our rabbits was overweight and the other two were getting there, so we had them on a no-pellets diet for the past year our vet approved. We gave them each 3-5 handfuls of greens a night. They had unlimited hay.


        We switched from orchard to Timothy Hay after one of my rabbits was having some gas pain and needed more fiber. I saw each rabbit eating from the hay box so I thought they were fine with it.


        A week passed, and we went on a two week trip overseas. We had a rabbit sitter check in every day to feed them greens, check their hay and water, and play with them, and we had family check in on them to make sure they stayed stocked on veggies. We left treats for the sitter to give them when she played with them, and she sent us photos of them each eating their nightly veggies.


        But when we returned, we noticed our youngest and largest bunny looked skinny. Too skinny, but it was hard to tell. She was large in size and liked to sit in a little ball. Jet-lagged, I took a note of it and returned her to pellets, gave her some extra greens, and hay cubes. She ate them all.


        Then I noticed the hay box was a little too full for having been gone two weeks. I watched carefully for two hours and each bunny ate some.


        A few days passed, with no changes. She was still active, still eating at our nightly dinner check-in. Still too skinny.


        Then we found her, dead. It was… I can’t describe the guilt and grief. I asked our vet for a necropsy.


        We just got the results back and she had just … stopped eating anything except what I had visually seen her eat. It wasn’t enough. She didn’t like the hay, so she ate as little as possible, and she starved to death. She was a third of her previous body weight. She had no food in her stomach despite me seeing her eating her veggies the night before. She preferred romaine. She had no fat on her body, just loose skin and fluffy fur. She hated having her sides touched and being picked up, so I avoided it. If I didn’t, I probably would have noticed sooner, noticed more.


        I didn’t notice anything else. No abnormal bunny poop, just apparently less of it, which I couldnt tell the difference with three rabbits in the same free roaming room.


        I thought that with unlimited hay I had seen her eat she would never go hungry. I thought adding back in a little extra food would fix the weight loss I noticed, and if it didn’t, I’d have time to take her to the vet as long as she still had an appetite. I was wrong, and my neglect killed her.


        I love these rabbits so much. I hate myself for not taking it more seriously and taking her to the ER immediately. I hate myself for going on this stupid trip, for switching their food, for working too many hours and not seeing how little she was eating throughout the day. I hate myself for picking this precious animal off the street and not working harder to get her in a rabbit rescue. They were full, they said. You could foster, they said. But I fell in love with her and the thousands I spent on her medical care, the long hours over the year I spent bonding her to my elderly bonded pair, it all felt worth it. I felt like I could handle three, like I could give her a good home. And she f**king starved to death at two years old.


        She was beautiful, and she was weird. She was extremely particular with food, partially blind but incredibly adventurous. She was gentle, and loved being cuddled. She was so god damn happy, all of the time… two days after being spayed, she landed herself back in surgery because she popped stitches binkying. The night before she died, I sat on the floor with her, stroking her ears for an hour. She sat chattering, content.


        If I’m being honest with myself, I thought she was scary skinny, but I talked myself out of it. She was eating! She had energy, and an appetite, and no signs of pain. I’m not sure how to shoulder the guilt.

      • Bam
        16930 posts Send Private Message

          I’m very sorry this happened to you and your bun.

          Starvation is mainly a risk when you abruptly change a rabbit over to a hay only diet (leafy greens more of enrichment than an important source of nutrients). So I’m thinking your bun could have had a minor dental problem that made her reluctant to eat hay. Sometimes even the smallest molar spurs cause chewing pain so the bun stops eating stuff that requires a lot of chewing, ie hay. I had a bun who had the tiniest of molar spurs and his vets said they couldnt possibly be the reason why he wouldnt eat. After 3 weeks they gave him a molar burr bc they found nothing else wrong with him – a few days later he was back to eating like normal again. So these things can be difficult even for vets to detect.

          It is difficult to gauge an individual’s hay consumption when you have more than one rabbit. Rabbits are very fluffy, so it’s pretty much not possible to gauge their weight without weighing them unless there’s sudden radical weight loss. You could perhaps weigh your 2 other buns now to get a baseline weight for them – not bc anything like what happened to your lost bun is likely to happen to them, but so you feel more in control of things. It’s always good to weigh buns now and then (and write down the weight). It’s one of the few good health-assesment tools we bun owners have, rabbits will always do their absolute utmost to hide any hint of sth not being right.

          Guilt is often overwhelming when we lose a bun that’s not very old. It is very difficult to deal with. But you really tried to give you bun the best life. She seems to have been a happy girl. She was free roam with 2 bun friends -rabbits are happy when they have same-species friends. You didn’t starve her on purpose, there was always hay. A healthy bun that’s normally a good hay eater doesn’t just stop eating hay unless there’s something wrong.

          Binky free, sweet bun 💔


          • Kunik
            4 posts Send Private Message

              I really appreciate your response. Your words were probably the only thing that lessened the guilt a little. I’ve been giving 150% to my remaining two bunnies’ care since her death and I’m realizing there’s not much more I can possibly do above what I was doing for her without quitting my job. If I’m not home for all but 3 of her waking hours, I’m not going to see if she’s only eating hay a couple times a day. I purchased a scale, and that’s about all I can do. You’re right. Thank you.

          • Bam
            16930 posts Send Private Message

              Guilt is a part of grief when it comes to pets, I’ve found. It doesn’t equal guilty. It seems rather more a reflection of the thorough responsibility some -I hope most- of us feel.

              We are the caretakers of our buns. The buns we lose take a small part of our hearts with them. We learn from each loss, but we must take great care not to learn the wrong things.

              You never meant your bun any harm. Humans can only control so much. Even if we were to sit and watch our buns 24/7, we would miss some things, and our brains would accuse us of that after the fact. As they say, hindsight is always 20/20. It doesn’t mean we did wrong, it just means we did what we did with the facts that were available to us at the time.


            • DanaNM
              9038 posts Send Private Message

                I’m so sorry for your loss. 🙁 This is very tragic and honestly is very unusual (usually if a bun goes off their hay there are other symptoms as well). I agree it can be really hard to track things when you have more than 1 rabbit. The suggestion to weight your other buns regularly is a good one, I usually give mine a good feel as often as I can.

                Guilt is normal after a pet loss… I know I’ve second guessed nearly every decision I’ve made in the past, but it’s important not to be too hard on yourself. I agree there was likely something else going on with her, it’s very odd that she would be eating everything normally when you were watching her but not otherwise. Since you are away from home a lot each day, perhaps you could get a pet camera to check in on them more frequently throughout the day? They have come down a lot in price recently.  I got one for my cats because I wanted to make sure both of them were eating from their auto-feeder while I was at work.

                . . . The answers provided in this discussion are for general guideline purposes only. The information is not intended to diagnose or treat your pet. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or a qualified behaviorist.  

              • LBJ10
                16976 posts Send Private Message

                  I’m sorry for your loss. I think everyone feels some level of guilt after losing a pet. It’s normal. But as Bam said, feeling guilt doesn’t automatically translate to guilty.You feel guilty because you loved your bunny very much. I agree that there may have been more going on besides her simply starving to death. As Bam said, there could have been an undetected dental problem.

                • mrbunsthedutch
                  2 posts Send Private Message

                    Hi I’m so sorry for your loss

                    My bunny passed yesterday morning and was also very very skinny. He was 8 years old and I took him to the vet 3 months ago and he weighed 2.5 pounds. About 1 month ago, I took him to the vet again and he weighed only 1.9 pounds, which meant he lost 30% of his body weight. His vet ran labs, did xrays, palpated all his organs, and could not figure out why. They did mention the only thing they did not test for was any neurologic thing such as E. cuniculi or a brain tumor. They recommended I fed my bunny critical care daily to help him gain weight.

                    I couldn’t tell if he was losing weight due to being elderly or if there was something else going on, despite the vet saying everything seemed fine. My bunny also still was so excited to eat pellets and veggies everyday and followed me for hours straight begging for more food. It’s just so confusing to me as to why he was losing so much weight, even when he started the critical care daily, he did not appear to be gaining any weight.

                    I wish I had advocated for my bunny more and asked to test for the neuro thing. He was so skinny when he passed and I found him yesterday morning completely limp on his side and barely able to move. It was honestly really traumatizing for me. I can’t help but wonder if the weight had anything to do with his passing or if it was E. cuniculi or a brain tumor or if he was just old. The vet was unable to tell me when I took him there after he passed.

                    Anyways, what I’m trying to say is I completely understand your guilt. I wish I had advocated for my bunny more and took him to the vet again. I also thought my bunny was scary skinny (you could feel every bone on his spine and his hip bones popped out) but I also talked myself out of it. He was still eating and had no obvious signs of pain and still loved his pellets and veggies and I knew in my gut something was wrong but I just pretended nothing was. I too hate myself for not taking it more seriously.

                    Again, I am so sorry for your loss. It’s so difficult losing a bunny. You didn’t starve her on purpose, she had access to hay! Something that helps me when I am feeling super guilty is that, we are all busy people doing the best we can for our bunnies. It’s very clear your cared for your bunny and meant no harm. I too wish I could have sat there and stared at my bunny all day long figuring out how much food he ate, but unfortunately we are human beings with jobs and families and a million things to do. Your bunny knew you cared for her and gave her a loving home. Guilt is very overwhelming but please remember to be kind to yourself. Your sweet baby definitely would not want you beating yourself up over this!

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                Forum RAINBOW BRIDGE I can’t live with the guilt