Posted: July 10, 2014, 3:50 p.m. EDT
© Courtesy Candace Raio
Rabbits need to healthy and slim enough to bend freely so they can eat their cecotropes with no problem.
Q: I have a rabbit that is about 5 to 6 years old. Recently I noticed more of an odor coming from her, and her stool pellets are caking on her backside. What can I do about this?
A: Having pellets caked or smeared on a rabbit’s rear side is not uncommon. There can be many reasons why this occurs. Usually, it is not the normal fecal pellets that are caked but actually uneaten cecotropes, which are nutrient-dense pellets the rabbit produces. There can be many reasons that cecotropes stick, but I will go over some of the more common ones.
First, rabbits always want to eat their cecotropes as there is an automatic response that compels rabbits to ingest cecotropes as soon as they are produced. Cecotropes will accumulate on the rear end of a rabbit if it does not ingest them.
One reason for non-ingestion is pain. If a rabbit has back pain, it becomes impossible for the rabbit to bend and turn around and ingest pellets. The most common form of back pain is from spondylosis of the vertebral column, a condition that can occur as the rabbit ages.
Another common reason for non-ingestion is obesity. Rabbits that are very fat are not able to turn around and reach their rear end to ingest cecotropes.
Another common reason for non-ingestion is any form of illness. When rabbits do not feel normal, they may sit in their enclosure and not move. These rabbits can feel so bad that they do not even turn around to ingest the cecotropes.
In all of these cases, there is nothing wrong with the digestive system and normal amounts of cecotropes are being produced, it is just that the rabbits cannot or will not turn around to ingest the cecotropes. As the cecotropes accumulate over a period of days to weeks, they build up along the rear of your rabbit and eventually become very smelly and unsanitary.
Consult a veterinarian to determine the reason for the non-ingestion and develop a treatment plan.
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