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Rabbit GI Stasis Danger

Know the signs of gastrointestinal stasis in rabbits.

By Rabbits USA editors

rabbit
© Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio
If a rabbit refuses to eat for more than 12 hours, it could be suffering from gastrointestinal stasis, which is an emergency.

Rabbits are very good at hiding illness. Your pet rabbit can’t tell you when something is wrong — but, oftentimes, its body can. It’s up to you to know what signs of illness to look for to know if your rabbit is sick.

Gastrointestinal Statsis (GI Stasis)

Signs Observed
Lack of appetite, refusal to eat for 12 hours or longer and/or audible stomach rumbling

What It Might Mean & What To Do
Gastrointestinal Stasis (GI Stasis) — With GI Stasis, the gastrointestinal system begins to shut down, causing its contents to accumulate into a mass of food, hair (from the rabbit grooming itself) and mucus. Because the stomach is slow to empty, dangerous gas begins to build up, which causes the rabbit pain and discomfort, leading to anorexia (refusal to eat). The slow down in gut motility allows bacterial toxins to begin to form in the stomach and small intestines. If GI stasis isn’t treated at the first sign of symptoms, it is often fatal. Immediately take your pet to a rabbit-savvy vet if it hasn’t eaten within a 12-hour period.

GI stasis is often the result of a diet lacking sufficient fiber or diets high in fats, carbohydrates and sugar. Feed your rabbit unlimited amounts of hay, which will help keep its GI tract moving, as well as a balanced diet. GI upset can also occur due to a hairball (the fiber from generous amounts of hay will help deter hairball formation) and/or ingestion of foreign materials, such as carpet or plastic. Make sure the areas your rabbit is allowed to explore are free of dangerous materials. 

Wool Block

Signs Observed
A swollen, “doughy” abdomen, often with the presence of hair in the fecal droppings (droppings strung together with hair), lack of appetite.

What It Might Mean & What To Do
An accumulation of hair in the GI tract due to hair ingestion (wool block), or a slow down of the GI tract (gut stasis), which allows hair to accumulate in the GI tract.

Wool block can be the result of insufficient fiber in the diet and/or ingestion of excess amounts of hair either during self-grooming or in a dominant rabbit that pulls and chews the hair of subordinates. Like cats, rabbits meticulously groom themselves. However, unlike cats, rabbits cannot regurgitate/vomit the ingested hair. This excess hair can develop into a stomach blockage and GI upset, which can be fatal if left untreated.

Long-haired breeds are more susceptible to wool block as are rabbits that don’t eat large enough quantities of fiber (hay) or lack a balanced diet. Be diligent about brushing/grooming your rabbit to keep hair ingestion minimal. Long-haired breeds, such as Angoras and American Fuzzy Lops, generally require daily or at least biweekly brushing. Offer your rabbit a high-fiber diet that includes a plentiful supply of hay. Check with your vet for safe hairball remedies.

Change In Droppings

Signs Observed
Change in size and consistency of droppings

What it Might Mean & What To Do
Smaller and/or less frequent than usual droppings may indicate that the rabbit is not eating as much, or has gastrointestinal stasis or blockage. Larger or less well-formed droppings can signify the start of gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea. Rabbits can get diarrhea from parasites, changes in the gastrointestinal flora or during the administration of antibiotics. If you notice the above changes in your rabbit’s droppings call your vet.


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Reader Comments
Jamey, So sorry for your loss.
Marylou, Irvine, CA
Posted: 8/13/2013 1:25:21 PM
Our little Angel passed away this evening. Skye unfortunately became victim to GI Stasis. My daughter and I took her to the vet this afternoon because Skye wasn't eating much at all. After being examined the doctor started talking about GI Statis. She left the room and came back with this mixture she is called "Critical Care". She showed us how the feed Skye with a syringe. Hopeful and after paying $100 for 2 small bottles of the mixture we took Skye home. We followed the instructions and loved her up. I also did some reading on GI Stasis and learned that it is very painful. I read that simethacone helps with the pain. I was saying goodnight to my girls and checked on Skye. She had taken a turn for the worst. Her head was bobbing and she couldn't get up. We took her out of her cage and rubbed her tummy and gave her pineapple juice with a syringe. She appeared to be getting increasingly uncomfortable. I decided that I would go to the store and get some simethacone to try and make her more comforable. Skye was gone before I returned. She passed away in my daughters arms. Ugh...I was heart broken. Skye and her brother Mirphy came to us about 2 months ago. We loved them right from the get go. Skye was a very very sweet girl. We will miss her!
Jamey, Elmira, NY
Posted: 8/12/2013 8:42:11 PM
Hello from heaven!
>
> My name on earth was Snow. My mother rescued me 2 years and 4 months ago, I was already grown up. Since I arrived home, my parents said that I was the best bunny ever. I was the last bunny being rescued; I was part of a big family.
>
> I was very happy with my new family. I had the opportunity to run free, to watch TV on the couch, laid down on the bed, eat veggies, be married, adopt 2 bunnies, have plenty of hay, food and have a clean house, sadly, I did not have the chance to receive appropriate and compassionate medical care....
>
> ...and this is my story....
>
> On Thursday, April 18, 2013, when my mother went to feed us, she realized that I was not ok, something was wrong. It was 10pm, she gave me metacam, but, she did not have enough, so she called the closer emergency hospital to explain what was happening. I was in pain, no eating, a little lethargic, in a crunchy position, and breathing really fast.
>
> When I arrived there, Dr. James Chenoweth checked my teeth, my ears, and palped my stomach so deep that I complained. I started to collapse, and said that I had a neurological problem; my mother contradicted him saying that I had a GI problem, and that I was in a lot of pain. She asked for more pain med, and x rays. He insisted that the problem was neurological, and mentioned Pasteurella. Asked if I had discharge, My mother answered no. Then my mother asked him why he tought I had a neurological problem, so he grabbed and put me on the floor, my mother put a towel on the ceramic cold floor, and them he flipped me over my back, moving me from right to left. My mother grabbed me and I collapsed. She desperate said, he is dying, Dr. answered not he is still breathing, and continuing talking about pasteurella. She said again almost screaming he is dying can you do something?, CPR?. He said ok.
> He took me inside. My mother went behind him some seconds later. He was not doing anything, when he saw my mother, he asked the technician to prepare 2 injections, I do not remember what were those, and he put them in my heart, checked my heart and said, he is dead. They told my mother the amount to pay and a casket box for me. My mother put me in the towel and took me home, driving with me on his lap.
>
> Next morning, she took me to a regular clinic to perform a necropsy, and it shows that I had GI problems. GI problems in rabbits are extremately painful and when they are handling excessively is deadly.
>
> Two days later, she called him to let him know about the necropsy results and he said, that that was good so the other bunnies were not infected with pasteurella.
>
> My parents are very sad. Now, she is looking a way to prevent that he sees more creatures like me. Should be justice for me, even if I am a rabbit.
Pina Stocking, Battle Creek, MI
Posted: 4/24/2013 2:04:29 PM
Cocos terrible Gi Stasis Experience
( but he's better now! )
It all started one day when jaden was trying to play with coco.He usually
runs around really fast everywhere getting into everything.Then I (Jaden) noticed that he laying around,which was weird. He wouldn't eat or touch his food. He wouldn't even eat his special treats and he always wants one! Also, whenever my Dad comes in coco runs away and is scared of him. This time, coco wouldn't run away from him. Also, he wasn't pooping at all! Right when I noticed something was wrong I ran down stairs and told my Dad. He thout coco just wasn't hungry and was tired. I knew better. We went on the Internet and looked up what it could be. GI STASIS!!!!!!! Gi stasis can happen to a bunny from lack of exercise or his diet. This was serious!!!!!!!!!!!! You want to get to a vet as fast as possible. Don't wait over night! The bunnys stomach will explode and it will die. Daddy and I got in the car at 11p.m and drove to concord vetineray hospital. I was scared...really scared! When we arrived, the vet took coco for x-rays. We had to wait for a while. The vet said that the bunny might die. It was a 50/50 chance. The only thing we could do is give coco fluids and force feed him to get things moving again. It wasn't easy...but it worked!! Now coco is eating tons of veggies running around and pooping a lot! I LOVE COCO!!!!!!!! THE END (not for coco)
Jennifer, Keene, NH
Posted: 7/19/2012 4:48:57 PM
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