TIP – This is a condition you have very little time to decide on what to do & if left untreated will most likely result in a severe painful death. Do not delay & take a course of action immediately. If in any doubt about what to do take your bunny to a vet immediately.
A rabbits guts are very delicate & are easily upset. This can cause:
- GI Stasis
All of the above are connected.
Gastrointestinal Stasis (GI Stasis)
This is where the digestive system slows down or stops. Bad bacteria builds up in the guts & because of the lack of motility it causes gas to build. This in turn causes severe painful bloat. If it is not treated your rabbit may die within 24 hours or less. You must see a vet immediately.
Causes of GI Stasis
- High starch & low fibre diet. Examples are a diet that is muesli based, a high fruit diet or not enough hay.
- An illness. It doesn’t have to be related to the digestive system.
- Stress. Could be a change in food or environment. Losing a bonded mate.
- Lack of exercise. The rabbit has a limited exercise area & housing.
- Temperature changes.
- Sudden change in diet or some new food added in a large quantity.
Symptoms of GI Stasis
- Not Eating.
- In Pain – sat hunched up & grinding the teeth.
- Small Faecal pellets or non at all.
- Cold Temperature.
It is worth mentioning that GI stasis can cause hairballs. The hair becomes compacted because the guts are not moving. Rabbits cannot vomit because the muscles at the top of the stomach close so tight that they will not open to allow food out. As you can imagine this significantly adds to the problem.
Get your rabbit to a vet immediately.
I have had a lot of experience of GI Stasis. Fortunately, through my experience I am able to recognize the symptoms early on. This means I usually catch them at the stage where their guts have started to slow, not stop & gas is just starting to build. In these cases I initially treat my rabbits at home by:
- Administering the correct dose of Emeprid, a gut stimulant.
- Administering the correct dose of Infacol. The dose should be obtained from your vet. I would only use Infacol if I didn’t have any Emeprid in stock.
- Administering the correct dose of Metacam. Erring on the lower side as Metacam can lower a rabbits temperature. The dose should be obtained from your vet.
- Immediately set up a basket in a warm room of the house. Not a hot room. Room temperature is usually between 18-20 degrees Celsius.
- The basket consists of a heat pad, hot water bottle if necessary, comfy blankets & a water dish. I use a water dish that can hook on to the side of the basket. Stops any spillages.
- I usually place a blanket/sheet around 3 sides of the basket to keep any drafts at bay & make the rabbit feel safe in a different environment.
- I make regular checks on the rabbit to make sure they are not getting over heated & are not deteriorating.
- Sometimes I gently massage the tummy.
Most of my rabbits after the above treatment have returned to normal within 3-4 hours. Some have taken a little longer but only an hour or 2 later.
If the rabbit was deteriorating then I would take it to the vets immediately.
I do not recommend you take my action if you are an inexperienced rabbit owner or have doubts about what you are dealing with. I am not a vet, I just know what I am looking for & know my rabbits well. It is not worth the risk of losing your bunny. This condition can accelerate at an astonishing speed giving you very little time. Rabbits can deteriorate so quickly so get to a vet immediately.
I have not always been so lucky with GI Stasis. Early one morning I had fed the bunnies & everyone was eating fine & looking good. When I returned several hours later after work one of my male rabbits called Parsley was ill. He looked very uncomfortable & when I picked him up his tummy was like a little barrel. The tummy was hard to the touch too. I immediately rang the vets & got him booked in but on the way he died in the car. I never found out what caused his GI Stasis but I do know that it killed him. At the time I was very shocked at how quickly things had progressed not having experienced GI Stasis before.
From my experience I honestly do think it all comes down to how quickly you spot it & what course of action you take.
Through my experience I know which of my bunnies is most likely to have a bout. At the moment Rumble is my only bunny who has the odd episode. I believe he is more susceptible because of his allergy. When his allergy gets bad it causes him to sneeze up to 40 times in one session several times a day, this in turns tires him out. It is then I find he is most likely to start developing the GI Stasis. So I watch him like a hawk so I can spot the signs early.
My First Aid Kit for GI Stasis
My hot water bottle is quite old but has served me well for the last 2 decades & suits my purpose. Nowadays you can buy hot water bottles specifically for pets.