Although Gastrointestinal Stasis is a fairly common issue for rabbits, you cannot make light of it.It can turn into a serious matter rather quickly.
One must always remember that since rabbits are prey out in the wild, it is a natural instinct for them to try to hide when they do not feel well.
When in the wild, a predator will seek out the sick or dying animals first.
They are not a challenge to kill, so they prefer to save their energy for when they have a fight on their hands trying to get food.
What is GI Stasis?
Gastrointestinal Stasis is when the digestive system in a rabbit slows down considerably or stops entirely. This can turn into a deadly matter. What happens is that the bad bacteria begins to build up and then releases gas into the system. This causes bloating that is painful to the rabbit, which in turn slows down their desire to drink water or eat any further amount of food.
When this starts to happen, the rabbit begins to dehydrate and will become starved of the needed nutrients and minerals, along with vitamins they need.
The more dehydrated the rabbit becomes, the more compacted the contents in the digestive tract become. This makes it difficult for the rabbit to pass any of the contents. The rabbit will not be able to eliminate any fecal matter. Furthermore, the compacted contents will begin to release toxins throughout the system which will make the liver work harder, the toxins will cause the liver to fail completely due to overwork.
Causes of GI Stasis
There are a few different reasons a rabbit could become affected by GI Stasis. The slowdown of the digestive tract can be caused by:
- A diet too high in starch
- Stress, for example a loss of it’s mate or a change in living conditions
- Pain from other medical issues or dental issues that have not been checked or remedied
- Living a Sedentary lifestyle
To begin, all veterinarians and breeders of rabbits will tell you that a rabbit needs to consistently have a proper diet. This diet must consist of 80% of a good type of hay, such as Timothy hay, they should also have some fresh greens such as spinach or kale, and minimal fruits or root vegetables. Some veterinarians will also suggest Rabbit kibble as a supplement since there is vitamins and minerals in that also. They should also have a very steady supply of fresh water.
Stress can cause all sorts of issues. Not just in rabbits, but humans also. For a rabbit to lose a mate that they were bonded to would be a great deal of stress. Rabbits are highly social animals and need to have a compatible mate. Sometimes a change in where the rabbit lives can create stress for them. For instance, if they go from inside a shed or barn to outdoor living, this will be stressful. They would start worrying about contact with predators.
If the rabbit has not had the proper amount of a good hay, this can cause dental issues which make it difficult for the rabbit to eat anything further. The Timothy hay helps to keep their teeth from being overgrown. When they gnaw on the hay, it will wear down the teeth. A broken tooth, inflamed gums, or any other medical issue can cause the rabbit to not eat or drink due to the pain they feel.
Rabbits are, for the most part, active creatures and like to jump, run and play. If the rabbit is in a hutch with very little room to move around, their life becomes sedentary. There is no movement that helps the digestive contents move through the system. When at all possible, you should be allowing your rabbit room to roam around.
A caged in dog run is perfect for a rabbit. It is a safe place for them to be in the open. The cage and wire will prevent any predators from reaching the rabbit. Of course you also should have a space where the rabbit could crawl in and hide if necessary. If the rabbit lives in the house or apartment, they need to be able to move about in at least one room to get the exercise they need.
Signs of Gastrointestinal Stasis
Like all medical conditions, there are signs of GI Stasis. Any good rabbit owner will study up and know what to look for and what to be aware of with a rabbit and it’s behavior. Some of these signs will include:
- Small to very few fecal pellets
- No sign of any fecal matter
- Lack of Eating any of its food
- Continuously in a hunched position
- Lethargic, as if he or she is tired.
If you notice any of these signs in your rabbit, you need to take your rabbit to a knowledgeable veterinarian immediately. The vet will then be able to examine the rabbit and will be able to determine if the issue is GI Stasis. If the veterinarian finds it necessary they will administer an IV to get fluids and vitamins into the rabbit quickly. They may even choose to keep the rabbit overnight for observation.
The vet will perform all tests needed to determine what is happening. They will administer the IV to help soften the contents, a medication to help pass the contents and possibly a pain medication for the rabbit. Antibiotics may be prescribed to help eliminate the bad bacteria in the system.
If the veterinarian finds it helpful, they will begin administering nutrition with a syringe, just to ensure that the rabbit is getting all that he or she needs. Even with all of this, fresh hay and some good greens should be near the rabbit just in case he or she gets the urge to eat. When treated with these methods your rabbit should be able to recover completely. Then he or she will be back to themselves.
Prevention of Gastrointestinal Stasis
It seems repetitive, but there are certain measures that you can take to prevent GI Stasis in your rabbit. To start, be sure to follow the recommendations of foods to feed your rabbit. Breeders, Vets and Animal hospitals are knowledgeable in regards to these animals. Everything they say is gold and highly important to remember and put into place when you take your rabbit home.
If it helps, hang a poster up that states what approved and recommended foods are. Stick to those and do not stray from the list. Also you need to keep your eyes open and watch the way your rabbit behaves, if he is eating and drinking and also if he is eliminating his waste.
Routine visits with your knowledgeable veterinarian are a must. The rabbit should be treated like your family, and you would certainly take your child in for routine check ups. Besides, a veterinarian may be able to notice some underlying health problems that you had not noticed. Remember it is the natural instinct of rabbits to hide when they feel ill or when they are in pain.
It is a survival instinct and it is strong. This is why you really need to know your rabbit. The veterinarian may also look for other causes such as dental issues or determine if the rabbit is in pain from something else.
Next, not to be continually repetitive, however, where your rabbit spends their time is highly important. A rabbit needs plenty of room to move around and jump and play. They like to play with each other, by chasing each other. This exercise also continues to keep the digestive tract moving so that there is no build up that hardens.
If it is possible, make a sort of a dog run, complete with a wired fencing over the top. Place a pile of har inside for a place of refuge for the rabbit. This will help if a predator flies over or walks around. It will also help them stay cool if it is too warm for them outside. There should be some form of routine for your rabbit where they can get out and move around. If this is not a total option, make sure that you have a larger cage with separate spaces for your rabbit to be.
Also, GI Stasis is fairly common amongst rabbits. It can become fatal if action is not taken quick enough. Most rabbit owners experience at least one rabbit who has had to have treatment for GI Stasis. If it happens to you and you have followed all recommendations, remember it can happen. It might have been something that was mixed in with the Timothy hay that was not seen.
Just know you are not a bad person or bad owner if your rabbit ends up with this fairly common issue, that can also become serious quickly. If you do notice any of the signs mentioned above, be sure to take a trip with your rabbit to the veterinarian as quickly as possible.