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When It’s Okay To Let Your Rabbit Go

Contributed by Christine Whetstone

Though I had grown up around multiple animals, Jessica was my first pet. I lived in a complex that didn’t allow animals so I needed something that was quiet and didn’t need to go outside, but still filled the void of not having four-footed creatures around. The moment I saw Jessica, I knew she had to be mine, and she did not disappoint. She would binky all over, play peek-a-boo behind the curtains, and enjoyed the breeze coming in from the balcony door. After a while, I decided she should have a friend, so Jake entered our lives via a bunny speed dating session.

The two lived in harmony for several years until one evening when Jake became seriously ill. His decline was sudden and, given the time of day when his symptoms presented, I had no options on emergency care until the next morning. We did all we could for Jake to get him through the evening – Critical Care and Pedialyte – but he did not make it. He had passed during one of my brief sessions of sleep, and the guilt crushed me – he had managed to make it to the litter box to expire.

I was heartbroken, wondering if there was anything else I could or should have done, and I felt like I had let Jessica down as well. She was mourning, and I felt like it was my fault. I silently told her I would always do everything I could for her. Eventually she returned to a normal pattern and we paired her with a second bunny of her choosing – Clyde.

About a year into that relationship, Jessica started having dental issues. She was, as the vet described to me, most likely an inbred rabbit as the problems she was having were typical signs. Her tooth had broken down below the gum line and its attempt to grow back caused an abscess that required surgery to drain. She had the abscess sutured open so we could flush it multiple times a day in addition to sub-cutaneous fluids and antibiotics. It was a rough road to recovery, but she came back strong. I was impressed by her resilience.

This was, unfortunately, just the beginning of her issues. Because the tooth had been so damaged during the break, the whole thing was removed and it caused a misalignment. She would always have trouble wearing down her teeth so we started having to monitor her more than usual and establish a routine of teeth trimmings. Eventually the teeth were growing at such a pace, and the monthly visits became so stressful for her, that it was necessary to pull them. Out came the top two front teeth and the smaller teeth behind them, as well as the remaining bottom tooth as well as a back tooth that was beginning to rot.

My poor girl was starting to fall apart, I thought to myself. The vet assured me that she could still live a perfectly normal life – with a few adjustments on my end. I would have to look for smaller sized pellets and chop up her greens smaller so she could eat by pulling food to her back teeth with her lips. I brought her home after her the surgery and immediately felt a little guilty. She didn’t have quite the same recovery as the abscess surgery. She was slower to heal, and her energy seemed to be depleted.

She came around, but she just wasn’t quite the same anymore. The vet told me I would still have to get her teeth trimmed, but now it was the back molars and she would have to be put under every time. That meant blood tests every time. The visits became stressful, and more frequent. I felt worse and worse about making the hour drive every three months with her and Clyde to go through the same process. The recoveries became slower and less light returned to her eyes each time… she began to run whenever we came into the room.

My husband and I discussed options for several months. I think I had come to terms with the inevitable decision long before he had. I had seen her discomfort. The pinnacle moment, for me, was a conversation with another bunny owner. I told her I hated to consider this decision, but that it seemed so right. She was miserable and the trips were expensive and stressful. I hated to even think about money playing into my decision with my pet. She said to me “Leave everything else to the side. Is she happy?”

“No”, I replied. Even uttering the words made me cry.

“You made a promise to her to take care of her, but you also made a promise to her that she would have a quality of life. She no longer has that, and you owe it to her.”

At that moment I realized I had been keeping her going more for myself than for her. She didn’t want this and she had been telling me as much. I let my guilt of Jake’s passing and my desire to keep her around trump my ability to see her misery and make a decision that was best for her instead of me. My fur-baby Jessica peacefully crossed the rainbow bridge on 8/3/2012.

Not a day goes by that I don’t regret pushing for those last few months with her. She became fearful of us and was uncomfortable which was entirely unfair to her. I’m sharing this with you so that you can know its ok to let go. We make the promise to care for our pets and it’s best to listen to them above all else, despite what we may want. My hope is that this helps you avoid the guilt that comes with a poor decision – your pet will tell you when it’s time and you will be ok.


About Christine Whetstone:  Christine has been an avid bunny owner since 2004. She owns Phoenix Pet Care (on facebook) and can also be found at



Note:  The above article was submitted by a guest author.  All articles written by guest authors do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of

  1. As hard as it was, you made the right choice. I know because I didn’t. I had a similar experience with my bunny, Fergal who ripped his jaw ligaments pulling on the wire of his cage. He lived almost two years after his accident but they weren’t quality years and where he loved me before he became afraid of me. He still loved me but I could tell he couldn’t understand why I was constantly “hurting” him by bringing him for tooth trims after which he would be in pain, give him endless shots when he got sick from stressing out about the tooth trims, giving him fluids constantly (with a needle under the skin), etc. etc. etc. He spent half the month drooling and chewing his teeth and the other half of the month recovering from the tooth trims. But then he would have good days, sometimes lots of them in a row, and I would think maybe it was going to be okay, that it was worth it, but looking back…no. I would never do that to another rabbit. And when he got so sick that I knew he was leaving I still hoped he would make it because I loved him so much, but when he struggled as I was trying to give him yet more fluids and the struggle turned into death throes and he passed away…looking back on the whole situation I realize I kept him alive for me, not for him. And I feel like I let him down and I think I always will. I would never take heroic measures to save a rabbit who will have to live a compromised life again…they aren’t like other more robust animals. When you have to cause them pain over and over in order to help them it changes your relationship with them. Better to let them go when you have the chance. In the end, I have to believe it is much less painful.

  2. Kate Hays Kate Hays

    Thank you so much for this story. You have helped me make a heart-wrenching decision. My Merlin has been tilted for several years, but it’s just recently that the joy started to leave him. I don’t have to like the decision; I just have to do what serves him best.

  3. Kim Szczypiorski Kim Szczypiorski

    Your story made me tear up. My first bunny had problems from day one.
    He had maloccluded incisors which I found out on his first vet visit. He needed teeth trims on a regular basis (sometimes less than once a month).
    Of course, he had more problems that popped up at random times. A few to mention: He got an abscess that he had to go in for a couple times. I noticed one day his eyes kept rolling around and his balance was off. They diagnosed it as nystagmus. We were able to treat that. Then his molars started getting bad…
    When he was almost 4 years old, he had his molars cut down for a 2nd or 3rd time (which requires anesthesia). After that very last time, he never got back to normal and started declining.
    He went downhill suddenly after this and was not showing his normal spirit and stopped using the litter box, and was just basically sitting in a corner all the time with no glimmer in his eyes anymore.
    Of course, I thought there had to be something I could do, or maybe there was something I wasn’t doing?
    When I took him to the vet, their only option was to keep him a few days and I just couldn’t bare the thought of leaving him there scared and confused and without me. And ultimately, I knew that if I went through with this, it might be the last time I ever saw him and I didn’t want those scary days to be his last memories.
    I made the decision that day and he went over the rainbow bridge. I still feel guilty for choosing to end his life that day, even though, in my heart, I know it was the right thing to do.
    It is really never an easy decision, and I wish we could be miracle workers and do more. I still cry when I think about him and his last moments.

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