One of the most common problems we see in rabbits is a condition called gut stasis, which can be fatal if left untreated. Gut stasis is when the digestive system slows or stops completely, leading to a build-up of gas-releasing bacteria which causes painful bloating and toxin release. Many health issues can cause gut stasis, including ear infections, urinary tract infections, diet changes or diets low in fibre, stress, limited exercise, and pain. When gut stasis occurs rabbits experience further pain and stop eating completely, exacerbating the condition and creating a vicious cycle.
Signs of gut stasis include a reduced or absent appetite, a reduction in the number of faecal balls, quiet and withdrawn behaviour, rapid breathing, and a hunched posture. Gut stasis is an emergency condition so it is important to take your rabbit to the vet as soon as possible so we can identify and treat the underlying cause, give medications to get the gut moving again, and administer intravenous fluids and pain relief.
In order to prevent gut stasis ensure you following the following tips for your bunny:
- Feed a diet high in good quality hay
- Allow plenty of room to exercise for most of the day
- Provide a relaxing environment, with hiding places, easy access to food & water, and items to chew on
- Take your rabbit to the vet for regular (twice yearly) check ups to assess their general health and to be vaccinated
Key point: If you notice your bunny has a reduced or absent appetite, contact a vet immediately.
Dr Caroline Wood