Necropsy or Not

Answering this question should not be left until you have lost a beloved rabbit, when the tidal wave of emotion has you in turmoil. It should be thought about and answered at the time you are getting your rabbits or at a time when you feel you can think rationally about this decision.

What is a necropsy? It is a procedure similar to surgery, where a veterinarian carefully opens an animal’s body and examines the condition of the various internal organs in an effort to determine the cause of death and factors contributing to the death.

Unless it is completely obvious why a rabbit died, a necropsy can do several things:

  1. It can bring closure to those who are grieving
  2. It can put an end to the futile, painful thoughts that there was something you should have done differently (such thoughts often plague people after they’ve lost a rabbit)
  3. It can provide valuable information to the veterinarian which may help rabbits in the future who have similar problems. In this way, you and your rabbit are giving a gift to other rabbits and their people

Because a necropsy can provide important information, some veterinarians do free necropsies on patients with which they have been working. This won’t include a histopath (microscopic study of the structure, composition, and function of diseased tissue) or cultures (growing bacteria for the purpose of identifying them) which are done by other specialists. Talk to your vet the next time you visit to see if their policy is to offer free necropsies on rabbits who die while under their care.

The body can be cremated with ashes returned to you following the necropsy. Or if you request it, the vet can suture the body closed before you take it. Retrieving the body should be done if you still need to leave the body with the surviving partner or if you wish to take care of the body yourself. Note:If the veterinarian needed to examine the brain, the head cannot be reclosed.

Although many of us feel the body is just the furry suit the bunny wore while with us, there are also those who associate the body so much with the bunny they loved that they don’t want it opened. This does not make a person a “bad bunny parent.” If these are your feelings, you are certainly entitled to them and no one should criticize you for your choice.

However, we can assure you veterinarians we recommend will treat your cherished bunnies with as much reverence after they have passed as they did when your bunnies were still with us. So think about this now, and determine whether you will request a necropsy for your bunny, should your vet think it is worthwhile when the time comes.