My Dog Ate Dead Rabbit

Photo by Ben Sutherland on Flickr

If you discover your dog ate a dead rabbit, all you can do is wait and see.

It’s not a medical emergency and chances are your pet will be just fine even if he’s been feasting on a dead rabbit crawling with maggots.

There are, indeed, a few types of parasites your dog might be infested with, but the risks of him getting a serious disease are slim.

If you notice gastrointestinal symptoms that might indicate he got worms, go see a vet and get treatment.

Also, make sure your dog wears a flea collar if there are rabbits in your area and the dog might run into such animals, dead or alive.

One other thing, catching your dog eating rabbit poop can be pretty disgusting, but, as we’ll explain later on, those yucky pellets might actually be helpful for your pet’s digestion.

Why might a dead rabbit be a threat to a dog?

When a dog eats a dead rabbit or any other small animal for that matter, he’s only obeying his natural instincts.

Dogs are predators at heart even if we no longer see the wolf in them and treat them like cute house pets.

If the rabbit was already dead when the dog found it, it’s not much of a feat, but still the rotting carcass can be quite appealing to your quiet house-trained pet.

And, no, they don’t find the stench revolting, that’s just a human thing.

Here are a few of the health problems your dog might get after eating a dead rabbit. 


Let’s start with the grossest image possible – your adorable dog devouring a dead rabbit crawling with maggots. It’s enough to make you sick, but fortunately it won’t make your dog sick.

Maggots are not dangerous to dogs and they’re an excellent source of protein.

Maggots are nothing but fly larvae and they’re busy getting much needed nutrients off the dead rabbit.

At most, they might carry some parasite they caught off the dead animal, but your dog would get those anyway once it starts chowing on the rabbit.

If your dog gobbles down a lot of maggots he might get indigestion, though.

Maggots feeding off another animal are not a problem, but you should worry if they feed off your dog.

An open wound can become infested with maggots, especially during the warm season when flies are abundant, but that’s got nothing to do with the dead rabbit.


This disease is caused by a pox virus and in 99% of the cases it kills the rabbit.

This virus can be found in rabbit populations in North and South America.

In some parts of the world it was introduced on purpose, to control the rabbit population.

Since myxomatosis almost always kills the rabbit it is possible that the rabbit your dog ate had it. However, this virus doesn’t affect dogs, nor humans, so there’s nothing to worry about.


Rabies is usually transmitted through animal bites, but your dog might get infected while devouring the dead animal.

Also, the dog might get rabies by eating contaminated rabbit pellets.

This is very rare, though, and there’s nothing to worry about if your pet is up to date with his rabies shots.


Tapeworms are usually transmitted through flea larvae, but a dog can also get infected by eating a dead animal carrying this parasite.

Tapeworms are flat segmented intestinal parasites that attach themselves to the lining of the small intestine.

Adult tapeworms can grow up to 11in (30cm) long and it’s certainly something you don’t want to see crawling out your pet’s rear end.

Tapeworm segments or eggs can also be observed on your dog’s feces.


Tularemia is a fortunately rare disease also known as rabbit fever. It is caused by a bacteria called Francisella tularensis, which releases toxins in the infected animal’s blood.

A dog might get infected with this bacteria while eating a dead rabbit, but it can also be transmitted through contaminated water or flea and tick bites.

Healthy dogs will only get a mild case of tularemia, but the disease can be very dangerous for older or immunocompromised pets.

Fleas and ticks

Most rabbits will get fleas or ticks during summer, and if the dead animal had them they’ll gladly hop into the fur of a live host, like your dog.

This is something you want to prevent, not only because fleas and ticks cause so much misery to a dog, but also because they can also transmit various diseases.


Yes, we’re talking about bubonic plague, the terrible disease that killed half of the European population in the 14th century.

Rabbit fleas may carry Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes this disease. However, the disease is extremely rare nowadays.

In the US, there are no more than 15 cases per year. You don’t have to worry about your dog getting the plague, unless there have been such cases recently in your area.

What are the symptoms for a dog that has eaten a dead, diseased rabbit?

Since there are relatively few risks your dog will get a disease from the dead rabbit, it’s tapeworms that might be of some concern.

Here are the main symptoms indicating your pet might have tapeworms:

  • Scooting on the floor or other rough surfaces to relieve the itchiness around the anus
  • Unexplained weight-loss as the worms take up vital nutrients
  • Vomiting
  • Licking his but also to relieve itchiness
  • White flat worms or eggs in the stools

The good news is that tapeworms don’t pose a major health threat and your vet can prescribe a dewormer to rid the dog of intestinal parasites.

Tularemia presents itself with the following symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration swollen lymph nodes
  • White patches on the tongue
  • High fever
  • Enlarged liver and jaundice

All these signs indicate a serious disease, but it can easily be cured with a course of antibiotics.

What diseases do live rabbits carry that might harm a dog?

All the diseases mentioned above can be carried around by live rabbits. A rabbit can very well live with his intestines riddled with tapeworms, just as a dog can.

If your dog just had a glorious day and hunted down the rabbit you have to assume the animal might have had worms, fleas, ticks or some bacterial infection.

Look for the symptoms listed above and take your pet to the vet if you notice anything unusual.

Why might eating a dead rabbit be a choking hazard for a dog?

It’s highly unlikely that your dog will choke on a dead rabbit, although not impossible. A healthy dog won’t have a problem with the bones, especially as they’re raw.

Your dog might have a problem eating too much fur, and this can lead to a bowel obstruction, but a bit of skin with or without hairs should not be a choking hazard.

Unless, of course, your dog is in the habit of gulping down his food rather than chewing on it.

In rare cases, rabbit fur can get stuck in the dog’s throat and he’ll let you know of the problem by coughing and making gagging sounds.

If you cannot reach in and get it out, you should try feeding your dog some soft food like bread or banana slices to help the fur move on to the stomach.

Why might eating a dead mouse or rat be much more dangerous for a dog?

If you catch your dog eating a dead rat or mouse, that’s way more serious than him chowing on some dead rabbit.

The problem with dead rodents is they’re much more likely to be poisoned. Nobody likes rats and mice on their property, so when they have a rodent problem they’ll make sure to put poisoned treats all over the place.

A dog eating a dead rat might get secondary poisoning and virtually all rodenticides are dangerous to dogs. In many cases they can be lethal, so you should head to the vet straight away.

What breeds of dogs are most likely to eat dead rabbits?

All dogs might eat a dead rabbit if the occasion presents itself as such behavior is in their DNA.

However, dogs belonging to the hound group are much more likely to eat dead animals, especially small stuff like rabbits or badgers, as they were bred for this purpose for hundreds of years.

The breeds with an increased appetite for dead rabbits include basset hounds, Dachshunds, Jack Russel terriers and beagles.

Is eating rabbit poop dangerous for a dog?

Not really.

It’s a revolting thing to you as a pet owner, but dogs seem to enjoy eating rabbit poop quite a lot, for reasons that experts cannot really explain.

What you need to know is that there are actually two types of rabbit poop.

First you have cecotropes, which are soft and dark colored droppings, that the rabbit will eat again later on in order to get all the possible nutrients. Then you have the dry pellets which contain mostly indigestible fiber.

Since the rabbit makes sure to eat the cecotropes, a dog will more likely find fecal pellets, and these are actually good for him.

The pellets are rich in vitamin B and digestive enzymes. Even the fiber can help regulate bowel movements, as it’s not all indigestible to a dog.

There is, of course, the risk of parasites and you should certainly monitor your dog for telltale signs of tapeworm.

Rabbit pellets might also contain a parasite called coccidia, but it won’t affect your pet. Coccidia is a species specific parasite, which means that the type found in a rabbit can only infect another rabbit.

The canine version of coccidia can be a problem only if your dog comes in contact or eats another dog’s poop, which has been known to happen. 

Sarah Pulsen

Hello, I have been in love with dogs since I was a little girl. I became even more infatuated with them when I was told by my Mum that I couldn't own one. Since I left home there has rarely been a time in my life when I have lived without a dog. My current dog is a Collie Terrier cross, called Ian.