A couple of weeks back, I made a trip to visit a cousin that I have not seen for a long time. He has a couple of dogs that I love playing with.
Over dinner, he told me that he saw one of his dogs, a Cairn Terrier, discovered a rabbit’s nest in his garden and swallowed a baby bunny whole. He was a lot more graphic in his description which sorta put a dampener on my appetite.
That got me thinking about my own dog and our near misses with regards to eating a wild rabbit. But is it fine for dogs to eat a baby rabbit?
Dogs can eat baby bunnies as they are carnivores and rabbits are part of their natural diet. Although most dogs can handle eating bay bunnies, there is always a risk of catching parasites or diseases from the wild rabbit. Dog owners should also look out for adverse effects after the dog has ingested the rabbit.
As traumatizing as it may be to all the bunny and dog lovers out there, it is important for you to know the risks involved when your dog eats a couple of baby bunnies and what you should do about it.
Why Did My Dog Eat A Rabbit?
There are times when I look at my dog when he’s being a clutz at home and wonder how is this even a skilled predator?
In spite of the countless times my dog has drank out of the toilet bowl and gotten himself stuck on a bean bag, lies dormant a natural skillset that comes to life when his primal instincts are awakened.
Our dogs are carnivores, which means that in order to thrive, they need to eat animal meat. Domestic dogs have evolved from wolves which are the apex predator in their environment.
They hunt in packs and are always on the lookout for fresh meat.
Through the process of domestication, there isn’t much of a need for our dogs to hunt for their food. Everything is served to them on a silver platter when it’s meal time.
So why did my dog still eat a baby rabbit?
Your Dog Has A Prey Drive
All dogs have a prey drive regardless of dog breed but there are some dog breeds that have a much more intense prey drive which I will touch on later.
The prey drive in your dog causes it to transform from a toilet bowl drinking pooch to a natural-born killer or hunter.
When your dog spots a small critter like a baby rabbit, squirrel, chipmunk, mouse, etc, it will trigger off its prey drive which causes the dog to stalk, chase, grab and bite the other animal.
It is also common for dogs to bite and kill their prey for a meal. Hence it is completely natural for dogs to eat baby rabbits if given the chance.
I do feed both my cat and dog rabbit meat which I buy from the butcher. I find it healthier meat than chicken but it is a lot more expensive as well.
What Dog Breeds Have A Strong Prey Drive?
As mentioned earlier, all dogs have a prey drive but there are some dog breeds that just can’t resist a good chase or hunt.
These dogs are usually bred and used to hunt small game and herd farm animals. Their strong prey drive propels them to track, hunt and chase after the target.
Dog breeds with a strong prey drive are:
- Golden retrievers
- Chihuahuas (ain’t joking)
If you have one of the above dog breeds, it can be hard to keep your dog calm if it happens to spot a rabbit or other animals on its prey list. The words ‘chase’ and ‘bite’ are frantically flashing in your dog’s brain.
Is It Safe For Dogs To Eat Bunnies?
If we are talking about feeding your dog cooked or properly prepared raw rabbit meat, then yes. Rabbit meat is in fact very healthy and nutritious.
It is considered white meat which makes it lower in saturated fat and it even has more protein than chicken per 100g.
I feed both my furkids raw rabbit meat a couple of times a month and they both polish up their food bowls each time without any problems.
Do Rabbits Carry Diseases To Dogs?
If you buy your rabbit meat from the supermarket or butcher, the risk of contamination is low. I know of many pet owners like myself who have been feeding their pet dogs rabbit meat for years without problems.
However, if your dog loves to hunt rabbits and eat them, there are a couple of health risks that your dog is exposed to.
Intestinal parasites are basically worms that take up residence within the host’s intestinal tract and leech off the food in there.
Rabbits can get infected by an intestinal parasite called tapeworms. They are called tapeworms because of the way they look, like a long piece of measuring tape.
Wild rabbits can get infected by tapeworms when they accidentally ingest the fecal matter of another animal that already has it.
And when your dog eats the infected rabbit, the tapeworms will then attach themselves to your dog’s intestinal wall and feed off the food.
Dogs with tapeworms will have these symptoms:
- Unexplained weight loss
The easiest way to spot a tapeworm infestation in your dog is to take a look at its stool and anus.
You will be able to see white specks in your dog’s poop and also around its anus. They may or may not be moving hence it’s best to bring a stool sample to your vet to be certain.
The best way to kill off these parasites will be to give your dog a dewormer tablet once a month until all the worms are dead.
Coccidia is an organism that can infect younger and baby bunnies. The infected rabbit will have symptoms like diarrhea, weakness and weight loss.
The most common way of transmission between rabbits is when they eat the poo of an infected rabbit. And when your dog kills and eats said rabbit, it will also be indirectly consuming rabbit poop.
Dogs with this parasite will also start to have diarrhea, loss of appetite and general weakness.
The vet will also need a stool sample to test for this parasite and treating it will require medication like sulfadimethoxine.
Tularemia is also known as ‘Rabbit Fever‘ and it is caused by the bacteria, francisella tularensis. This bacteria is commonly found in animals like rodents, rabbits and hares.
Dogs that are infected by this bacteria will show symptoms like:
- Lack of appetite
- Mild fever
Tularemia can be diagnosed by running a blood and urine test on your dog. A course of antibiotics will be required completely cure your dog.
If you have a big dog like a husky and it eats a baby bunny, that wouldn’t be too much of a problem to pass through your dog.
But if you have a small dog, even a baby rabbit is big enough to get stuck in your dog’s intestines. Especially objects like rabbit fur and on bones.
A blocked digestive system is bad news for your dog as it can cause canine bloat which is very painful for your poor dog. It can even be fatal in severe cases.
If your dog has a bloated stomach, drooling, panting and seems to be gagging, you need to take it to the vet right away. Some dogs will even stretch their necks and look up to relieve the pressure in their stomach.
An x-ray will have to be done to check for any obstruction and surgery is the best way to remove it.
How Long Does It Take A Dog To Digest A Rabbit?
Dogs have a rather quick digestive system. It can take most dogs between 4-12 hours to fully digest a rabbit it just ate.
When I mean digest, I am referring to the time it takes from consuming the rabbit all the way to eliminating it in its poop.
The speed of digestion also depends on the dog’s breed and the type of food that it ate.
My Dog Ate A Dead Rabbit
If your dad has eaten a rabbit that has been dead, it may or may not pose a health threat to your dog.
Your dog’s body is able to handle meat that isn’t very fresh. It has enzymes in its saliva that can kill bacteria and most nasty bacteria don’t stand a chance against your dog’s stomach acid.
Even if your dog has eaten something that its body doesn’t agree with, it will regurgitate the food to prevent poisoning.
The one concern I have is if the rabbit died from eating poison. There are people who use rabbit poison like pindone to control the rabbit population in an area.
Your dog will have to eat a lot of poisoned rabbit to experience the effects of pinion but it is hard to tell if your dog is extra sensitive to the active ingredient.
There are dogs that can suffer from rodenticide poisoning just by holding a dead mouse in its mouth.
If your dog is showing any symptoms after eating a dead rabbit, please take it to the vet right away.
I am pretty sure it can be visually and emotionally scarring for dog owners to see their dogs eat wild bunnies.
The cuter the animal, the more traumatizing it will be.
But this isn’t your dog’s way of being evil or terrorizing the small animals that live in your area. It is doing what comes naturally to it.
Even though our dogs can handle eating from such a food source, you will better peace of mind if you train your dog to ignore them. It might not be easy but it can be done with proper training.