Updated: Feb 1, 2022
Rabbits have rapidly become a very common house hold pet here in the UK. A lot of owners don't realise quite how different they are to cats and dogs. They are complex wee creatures with very specific needs and if these are not met they can get incredibly unwell.
Incorrect and poor diet can lead to a life threatening condition known as gut stasis.
There are a number of causes of gut stasis including
Poor quality hay
Not enough fibre
Gut stasis can affect rabbits of any age and it can come on quickly. Swift veterinary treatment is vital as without it can sadly cause death within a mater of hours in some cases.
Symptoms of gut stasis
The early signs of gut stasis can sometimes be tricky to spot, especially if you have more than one rabbit. Important thing to look out for are
Reduced or stopped eating
lethargic and tired
Little or no faecal droppings
Standing in a hunched up position, painful tummy
Hiding and not playing
If your bunny is eating less or eating the wrong food there is not enough fibre to stimulate the guts to move the food along- this lack of movement is gut stasis where the guts stop doing their job. This then triggers a vicious circle and if the guts don't move the appetite is reduced and so it continues. As the semi digested food sits in the guts not moving it can start to ferment and produce gas, this gas production can cause bloating which is very uncomfortable.
If you suspect your rabbit has gut stasis phone your vet immediately and arrange and appointment for as soon as possible. Your vet will likely ask you questions about the bunny's diet, housing, toileting and signs you have noticed. The wee rabbit will be examined and the vet can use their stethoscope to listen to the rabbits tummy for 'gut sounds' these sounds signal the cut is working and things are moving along. A lack or reduced gut sounds is a sign of gut stasis and this causes great concern. Mild cases may be treated at home but others may need intensive hospitalisation. This can include
Injections of gut stimulants
Intravenous fluids- usually into the ear vein
Dental work if needed
Treatment of any underlying conditions causing stress/ dehydration
How to help prevent gut stasis
Fibre is the most important thing in a rabbits diet, a lot of people are unaware that a rabbit should eat a pile of hay the same size as them daily! Try to always provide good quality hay as it contains more nutrition and the bunnies find it tastier. Rabbit pellet quality is important too, the feeds that have lots of different coloured bits in can be selectively picked at sometimes and for these picky eaters the brown pellets are better as each pellet contains the same nutrition.
The correct environment and enough exercise are also important so make sure your rabbits home is large enough for activity and reduce stress. Toys and activities are excellent to keep them stimulated.
Lastly dental care is important so monitor for overgrown teeth, dribbling, problems chewing or picking up the food and if you notice any of these symptoms arrange a visit to the vets.
So what have we learnt..... the sooner gut stasis is noticed and treated, the better the prognosis so be super vigilant of your bunny and its behaviour and contact your vet if things don't seem right.