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What is it?

Euthanasia is the process of ending a rabbit’s life peacefully, to relieve pain or suffering. The word literally translates to ‘good death’; it is also known as ‘putting to sleep’.

Why is it important?

Although it can be a difficult decision to make, we as pet owners often have to make this end-of-life choice for our pets in the interest of their welfare and comfort. This decision may be made in many different situations.

Why do we have to do it?

Euthanasia is often appropriate for animals whose quality of life has decreased below an acceptable level and as a result their welfare is affected. Frequently this can be elderly animals with progressive and often incurable issues. It may also include those that have experienced injury or disease which, for various reasons, either cannot or will not be resolved or managed to an acceptable level.

What happens to the rabbit?

This depends a little on the situation, your veterinary practice and the individual vet. All decisions are made to ensure that this last experience for you and your pet is as stress-free and pain-free as is possible.

An intravenous catheter may be placed into an ear- or leg-vein in the rabbit - this may be done with you or away from you. Often the rabbit will be wrapped in a towel so that they feel safe and secure but in some they may need some medication to calm them first – they are the priority.

The rabbit may be given anaesthetic gas to inhale (breathe in) or some vets may choose to give an injection under the skin which will cause the rabbit to fall asleep, in order for the injection to be administered.

A final injection will be given – this is an overdose of anaesthetic drug which causes the animal to fall asleep then slows and eventually stops the heart. It is peaceful and pain-free. Once the injection has been given the process is usually fairly quick – less than a couple of minutes.

How do you know what’s going on?

Your vet and/or nurse should support you along the way and keep you informed through the process. Please feel free to ask them any questions that you may have either before or during.

What can be done?

Situations where euthanasia is considered can’t always be anticipated – it may be in an emergency situation or it may be scheduled. In the times where it can be anticipated we encourage you to speak with your veterinary team in order to be aware of the options available to you and your pet when the time does come to say goodbye. This includes what will happen when they’re being put to sleep, what to expect during the process and your options for your pet afterwards. Most practices will offer cremation options and may help you organise this, or you will have the option to take your pet home for burial. Sometimes you may not want to or be able to be present when your pet is put to sleep, if you wish to see your pet after they have been euthanased your veterinary team should be able to help arrange this for you.

What can I do to protect my pet?

End of life will come to all animals eventually. However in the absence of disease, your pet’s life can be healthy and lengthy if you make every effort to provide the optimum husbandry requirements for your rabbits. If the time does come to make a decision remember your veterinary team are there to help and support you.