Baby rabbit killed in pet attack, another injured

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

Two eastern cottontails and a northern mockingbird were among the 93 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a limpkin, an osprey, a loggerhead shrike, and a Florida softshell turtle.

The eastern cottontail rabbits were brought in by a woman whose dog discovered the nest. One baby was killed outright but the woman believed the other two nestling rabbits were OK, so she placed them back in the nest.

The woman monitored the nest but feared the mother rabbit hadn’t returned for two days; at that point she brought the two baby rabbits to the wildlife hospital for care.

When staff examined the young rabbits, it was apparent they hadn’t been fed. One baby also had two lacerations behind its front left leg that were contaminated with dirt and had become infected over the two days the baby remained in the nest after the dog attack.

The injured baby was immediately started on an antibiotic, pain medication and electrolytes. The uninjured baby required electrolytes as well since both babies were dehydrated.

The following day the injured baby’s condition was stable enough to be anesthetized so our vet could debride the leg wounds.

A young rabbit has its leg wounds cleaned while under sedation.

After receiving twice daily wound treatments, twice daily antibiotics and pain medications, and four formula feelings per day, the injured rabbit is healing.

Whenever a dog or cat attacks a wild animal we need that animal to come to the hospital for evaluation. The injuries caused by a dog or cat bite can quickly become infected and can result in death if the animal doesn’t receive appropriate medical care.

Many people don’t think any damage has been caused when their dog or cat catches an animal because they don’t see any blood but the exact opposite is more likely. Cat teeth are like tiny needles, you may not see blood but the animal is often severely wounded. Dogs can apply a strong amount of pressure, even if you think your dog has a “soft bite.” That pressure can cause internal damage and bleeding.

What You Can Do

Please, if you rescue an animal that has been in your dog or cat’s mouth bring it to the wildlife hospital for professional medical assistance.
The best way to prevent injuries to wildlife from dog and cat attacks is to monitor pets when they are allowed outside. Never underestimate the keen sense of smell and hunting instinct most pets possess — they are alert to the presence of an animal or nest long before we have a clue.

Recent Releases — 38 Animals Return Home This Week

  • 9 eastern cottontails
  • 1 cattle egret
  • 3 common grackles
  • 2 mourning doves
  • 7 Virginia opossums
  • 7 royal terns
  • 1 gray catbird
  • 1 chuck-will’s-widow
  • 1 common yellowthroat
  • 1 great horned owl
  • 1 American bittern
  • 1 grey squirrel
  • 1 pileated woodpecker
  • 1 brown thrasher
  • 1 ovenbird

Wildlife Volunteers Needed

Many part time visitors to Naples are leaving just as the wildlife hospital enters our busy spring and summer season leaving us in need of additional volunteers. Volunteers are vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s wildlife.

Joanna Fitzgerald is director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Call 239–262–2273 or see

Click the icons below to find us elsewhere: