Their fur usually protects them very well, but they lose that shield when they are wet. For this reason, rabbits will often have severe skin irritation that could even lead to an infection. Rabbit skin is also delicate enough when wet that it can tear more easily. A small cut can turn into a large wound very quickly.
This can be extremely traumatic for a rabbit and can put them into shock; many rabbits have died from this kind of trauma. While you may have heard of rabbits who like to swim, most rabbits do not tolerate being submerged in water, and the shock of it can be deadly.
If your bunny gets wet, it puts her at risk for possible disease, freezing and perhaps even death, so don't take the matter lightly.
Rabbit is limp, floppy or cold
These rabbits are very, very sick and may be close to death. The common end point of dehydration, shock or sepsis is a weak floppy rabbit, often with cold ears. They tend to sit hunched in a corner and 'feel funny' when you pick them up.
You can help your rabbit calm down by covering their eyes with your hands. During this time, you'll want to speak gently to your rabbit. If your rabbit is familiar with you, then they'll also know your voice. Speaking gently can help your rabbit to understand that there is no danger, and will help them to calm down.
Bathing them can even be harmful, since they tend to panic in water and may fracture a limb or their spine if they thrash around. Wet rabbits can also catch a chill and suffer from pneumonia, respiratory infections, hypothermia, and other life-threatening conditions.
Rabbits should never be bathed in water. In fact, rabbits should not get their fur wet if it can be helped, as rabbit fur takes an extremely long time to dry. Wet fur has been linked to many causes of death in rabbits. Among other things, wet fur can cause hypothermia and skin infections.
While your rabbit can die of shock if not treated, they will surely die from the added stress and time that transportation (if more than 15-20 minutes) to a vet will take.
It's not a good idea to let the rabbit's body air dry, since the longer the rabbit is wet, the higher the risk of a problem developing. Use a hair dryer on a warm, low setting (not the cool or hot setting) and make a few passes over the wet part of the rabbit's behind. Continue until the fur there is completely dry.
The most common symptoms of a dying rabbit include a lack of appetite, a loss of strength, and erratic movements. Other signs will vary depending on the cause of death, and sometimes you will not notice any symptoms before a rabbit passes on.
Signs that a rabbit is near death include refusing to eat, an unusual level of lethargy, difficulty breathing, or a sudden change in vital signs. A rabbit should have a body temperature between 100 degrees Fahrenheit and 104 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as a heart rate between 180 and 250 beats per minute.
Be aware that rigor mortis, the stiffening of the joints, typically begins within 10 minutes to three hours after death and can last as long as 72 hours. Again, temperature will affect this process.
The trapped air in a rabbit's fur helps insulate it, keeping it warm in cold temperatures. There is a limit to how much a rabbit's fur and body can protect it from cold and rainy conditions. Rabbits try to avoid getting wet.
Rabbit skin is very delicate, and their fur takes a very long time to dry completely – so try to avoid soaking all the way through to the skin. Instead, keep the dampness as close to the surface of their coat as possible, and use a blow dryer to finish helping them dry out.
Rabbits lose heat through their ears, so misting them might help to keep your bunnies cooler. Fill up a spray bottle with cool (not icy) water, and then gently spritz the fleshy parts of your rabbits' ears – making sure not to get water into the ear canal itself.
It is important to remember that rabbits are sensitive animals that can easily feel vulnerable. While it is important to be firm, remember that rabbits can quickly become traumatized by shouting and angry behavior. If you truly frighten them, they will remember this and may no longer trust you.
If your rabbits look tucked up and quiet with their chins tucked in and noses not twitching this can be a sure sign of them feeling unhappy or stressed, as this is not a normal position for a rabbit. Moving or running away. Your rabbits may turn and move away from you (or each other) if they're unhappy.
Although rabbits can be happy singles if they have enough companionship from humans, a rabbit that has been used to living in a pair is unlikely to ever be completely happy on its own again. A bereaved rabbit will sometimes accept a new partner very quickly, even the day after its old partner has died in some cases.