So, there you are in your backyard playing catch with your dog when suddenly your dog bolts after a rabbit and catches and kills it! Your initial thought is, “how sick is my dog going to get!?”
While dogs killing a rabbit is more normal than you think, and the overall risk of your dog getting sick isn’t high, there are some diseases to keep an eye out for.
If you think your dog may be sick from killing the rabbit, there are signs to look for, as well as helpful tips to get your dog back on the mend and understand why your dog went after the rabbit in the first place.
Will my dog get sick from killing a rabbit?
Whenever your dog attacks and bites a wild animal, there is always a risk they can catch a disease.
Even though rabbits may appear to be clean animals, they can carry disease just like any other animal.
It’s not just the animal themselves but the ground and territory they cover that can have hidden bacteria and disease.
Rabbits eating wild plants and grasses is often how they contract these diseases. So, what kind of diseases should you look out for that can leave your dog at risk?
While rabies is not a massive factor, it is something to look out for. Rabbits don’t usually carry rabies, and if your dog is up to date on their vaccine, there is little concern.
A lot of wild animals carry tapeworm, including rabbits. If your dog has ingested any rabbit, keep an eye out for possible tapeworm infections. A common sign of tapeworm is white spots in your dog’s stool.
Also known as “Rabbit fever”, Tularemia is a rare bacterial disease your dog could catch, particularly if they ingested any rabbit.
Fleas and Ticks
Another common parasite rabbits may carry are fleas and ticks. Your dog contacting a rabbit could leave them vulnerable to either fleas or ticks.
Killing a rabbit can bring health risks for a dog, but eating a rabbit increases those chances for any sort of health risk.
If you are ever unsure about your dog’s health after killing a rabbit, it is best to take your dog to a vet to get them checked out, especially if they show signs of sickness.
How likely is it that my dog will get sick?
When wondering how likely your dog will get sick after attacking a rabbit, you must consider a couple of things first.
Did your dog eat the rabbit, or did they just kill it and leave it in the yard?
Do you know if the rabbit was alive, to begin with?
This could be a key factor, especially if the dog was eating the rabbit. Figuring out how the rabbit died could be vital to your dog’s health, particularly if the rabbit was poisoned or sick.
Grabbing the dead rabbit (with protection like gloves) and bringing it to the vet would be important to determine if any disease has been passed on.
So how common is it that dogs contract diseases from killing or eating a rabbit?
When referring to the diseases we discussed above, fleas/ticks and tapeworm are by far the most common diseases your dog is at risk of contracting from any rabbit.
Rabies and Tularemia are the more dangerous diseases to look out for.
However, rabies is rare for rabbits to have, plus if you have your dog up to date on vaccines, that should help protect them from rabies.
Tularemia is another serious bacterial disease for concern, but that is also rare to find in rabbits. As always, if you are unsure, take your dog to see the vet out of precaution.
What are signs to look for when deciding if my dog needs to see a vet?
There are many warning signs that will tell if your dog should see a vet after attacking a rabbit. To be on the side of caution, it is always best to take your dog to the vet.
Loss of appetite
One of the symptoms that could indicate that your dog is suffering from an illness from attacking a rabbit is losing appetite.
Has your dog lost interest in its regular meal routine? Are they eating less from their bowl than normal? This could be a sign of illness.
If your dog goes to the bathroom more than expected after their run-in with the rabbit, it might be wise to check their stool.
If the texture of your dog’s stool has changed considerably, mainly becoming runny, this could also be a sign something is wrong.
This symptom is usually apparent when your four-legged friend isn’t feeling well.
Be sure to keep an eye out when you send your dog outside for the bathroom, at least for a few days after the rabbit attack.
Some dogs are good at getting outside, so they don’t throw up in the house. Checking around your yard for vomit might be wise for a while, mainly if you see your dog eating a lot of grass.
Loss of energy or usual behavior on a day-to-day basis
If your dog isn’t acting like its usual self, a few signs might be not as playful as normal. They might not be as interested in a catch or going outside to play or even for a walk.
Is your dog sleeping more than usual? Sleeping excessively, or during odd hours when they are generally awake, should let you know that your dog isn’t feeling well.
All these signs are essential to look out for in the following couple of weeks after your dog attacked the rabbit.
If your dog is displaying one or more of these symptoms, you should take your dog to see a vet.
Why did my dog attack and kill a rabbit?
It can be unnerving to experience watching your loving dog kill a rabbit, especially if they’ve never exhibited this type of behavior before.
The first thing to remember is this behavior can be entirely normal for your favorite pet. Many dogs have natural traits that go back hundreds of years when it comes to hunting.
These traits make them want to chase and tackle wild animals like rabbits, squirrels, and even birds.
While your well-behaved dog may not act on these urges a lot of the time, sometimes it may be too hard to ignore.
However, these long inherited traits should not be a cause of concern if your dog isn’t aggressive in other areas of its life.
Just because your dog attacked and killed a rabbit doesn’t mean they will become aggressive in other areas of your life.
Often, your dog will think they are actually playing with the rabbit they just caught! Unfortunately, they will be too rough for their newly found friend and accidentally kill the rabbit.
It is important to remember that this is normal behavior for your dog, and you shouldn’t punish your dog too harshly.
They are acting on instincts and possibly even had good intentions for playing with the rabbit.
How to prevent my dog from killing rabbits?
Lucky for us, dogs are brilliant animals, and there are training techniques for teaching them how to behave and erase almost any unruly behavior.
Stopping them from killing rabbits is no exception.
Teaching strong and very specific commands is the best way to reduce the chances of your dog killing a rabbit.
Training as puppies
No matter what purpose you are training your dog for, it is always most effective to train them as early and as often as possible.
Training your dog early in their lives instills good learning habits and makes them more responsive to what you’re teaching them to do.
Numerous methods for teaching dogs
There are several different teaching methods for teaching your dogs to kill or chase rabbits.
- Look at me method– This method is very useful for excitable dogs in stressful situations. Looking at their owner assures them and diverts their attention.
- Sit method– Using treats as a lure teaches your dog to sit in place and not chase.
- Stay method– Teaching your dog to stay by increasing the number of seconds they have to keep before you release them is a great way to condition them to listen to your commands.
Getting rid of squeaky toys in the house
Believe it or not, squeaky toys are actually made to mimic the sound of a screeching animal that a dog has caught.
That is why dogs get so excited when they hear this noise; it brings out their instinctual behavior. Getting rid of these toys may lessen their behavior, but probably minimally.
Really the best way to control your dog from killing rabbits is a combination of all these training techniques.
Being patient with your dog and starting training as young as possible will help reduce the odds of them chasing after rabbits.