The life of a dog owner is never short of surprises.
You could be out at the park letting your dog run free and enjoying the day when your dog comes happily running back to you with a baby bunny in its mouth.
It’s natural to be concerned about your dog and baby rabbit. You don’t wish for your dog to pick up any transmittable diseases and you want the baby rabbit to be fine.
What should you do if your dog has caught a baby bunny?
This guide provides crucial steps for dog owners in the event their pet encounters a wild rabbit, prioritizing safety and advocating harmonious co-existence with wildlife.
Are Dogs Hunters?
There are times when I look at my dog when he’s being a clumsy ball of fur at home and wonder how is he even a skilled hunter.
I’m sure many dog parents can relate to this too.
In spite of the countless times my dog has drank out of the toilet bowl and gotten himself stuck on a bean bag, there lies a dormant natural skillset that comes to life when his primal instincts are awakened.
Our dogs evolved from wolves which makes them carnivores. This means that they need to consume animal protein to thrive.
Your Dog Has A Prey Drive
The prey drive is an instinct that directs your dog’s behavior to locate, pursue and capture prey.
It’s a key survival mechanism, hardwired into the canine genetic code from a time when dogs had to hunt wild animals to survive.
Through the process of domestication, our dogs no longer have to fend for themselves but that doesn’t mean the prey drive has been dulled.
If you’ve ever noticed your dog locking onto squirrels, cats or wild rabbits with laser-like focus, you’ve seen this prey drive in action.
Your dog’s head might start to get warm due to its excitement and happiness.
It doesn’t necessarily mean your dog intends to harm those baby bunnies.
For many dogs, the fun part is in the chase.
This is also why many dogs have a bad impulse to chase cars due to their prey drive instincts.
What Should I Do If My Dog Catches A Baby Rabbit?
It’s easy to panic when your dog has just caught a few baby bunnies. But staying calm and focused can help ensure the safety of your dog and baby rabbits.
Ensuring Your Dog’s Safety
Your dog’s well-being should be your first priority.
Many wild animals will defend themselves when threatened, potentially injuring your dog in the process.
Baby rabbits look all small and cuddly but they are still feisty and ferocious when fearful or threatened.
The baby rabbit might not inflict major injuries but it can still claw or bite your dog’s eyes or face.
Get your dog to drop the rabbit immediately and lead or carry your dog away.
Keeping your dog separate from the baby bunny will minimize the risk of further harm or stress to both animals.
Assessing The Condition Of The Bunny
Once your dog is away from the baby bunny, try to assess its condition to the best of your ability.
If it’s uninjured and moving around, the best course of action is to return it back to the nest or leave it as it is.
A mother rabbit often leaves its young unattended for hours at a time but they don’t abandon them.
Baby bunnies survive well without needing their mothers around all the time.
Do not try and provide care for the rabbit unless it looks as if it has been injured by your dog.
An injured bunny may exhibit signs such as:
- difficulty breathing
For such cases, it would be best to call your local wildlife rescue center or rehabilitator so the next best course of action.
Handling A Rabbit Correctly
If you need to move the baby bunny it’s crucial to do so correctly. Wild animals are very susceptible to stress and mishandling can cause more harm.
It would be best to put on protective gear such as gloves or a piece of cloth to pick up the rabbit.
This helps to prevent any injury to yourself and prevent the transfer of your scent onto the baby rabbit.
Hold the bunny gently yet securely, with one hand under its body and the other hand supporting its backside.
Please do not pick up the rabbit by its ears or the scruff of its neck.
That is very painful for them and can lead to more stress and injury.
Limit handling and keep the bunny in a warm, dark, quiet place like a box.
Should I Be Worried If My Dog Catches A Rabbit?
I wouldn’t be too concerned about my dog’s safety if it catches a rabbit. Dogs have immune systems that can protect them against catching something nasty from wildlife.
A rabbit under pressure will bite or scrape. If a rabbit scratches or bites your dog, it could develop a reaction or infection.
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:
- Throwing up
- Unexplained weight loss
The easiest way to spot a tapeworm infestation in your dog is to take a look at its stool and bum.
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 get rid of 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.
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 series of lab tests on your dog. A course of antibiotics will be required completely cure your dog.
What Do Dogs Do When They Catch A Rabbit?
When a dog catches a rabbit, their response will largely depend on their individual temperament, breed, and training.
There is a lot of wildlife around my area and in the parks. My dog tends to be more curious and aggressive towards them.
His modus operandi is to smell, lick and try to be their best friend.
I once had a foster dog that brought me a baby chick that had fallen out of the tree.
She held it in her mouth and was so gentle with the chick.
Some dogs might not always be so friendly towards a rabbit.
There will be dogs that will be happy to chase rabbits and even cause them harm.
It is important that you teach your dog to respect wildlife from the start.
Your dog should learn to realize that other animals are not playthings and should not be disturbed or harmed in any way.
What Should I Do If My Dog Ate A Baby Bunny?
This isn’t something that any dog owner would want happening to say the least.
But it can occur if your dog has a strong prey drive and isn’t trained to not chase wild animals.
Keep a close eye on your dog for the next 1-2 days.
Look for any signs of distress or illness, such as lose stools, loss of appetite, lethargy or unusual behavior.
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.