GI Stasis in Rabbits – A Bunny Slave’s Guide
GI stasis is a health emergency that all rabbit owners should know about. So what exactly IS GI stasis, and how do we prevent it in our rabbits? And how is GI stasis treated if your rabbit develops IT? Well, fellow bunny lovers, here’s GOOD INFORMATION for you to know!
What is GI stasis?
GI stasis is a condition that in which gut motility (peristalsis) decreases or stops all together.
What causes GI stasis?
A number of things can cause GI stasis. Stress, pain, dehydration, intestinal blockage, or improper diet can cause the condition.
How can you prevent GI stasis?
Make sure your rabbit is receiving a proper diet that is high in fiber. This means a small amount of timothy hay-based pellets for adult rabbits (dependent on weight), fresh, bunny-safe vegetables (red or green leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, kale, spinach, cilantro, parsley, etc.) and LOTS of hay. Hay should make up the majority of a rabbit’s diet, so make sure that your rabbit is getting his or her fill! There are plenty of types of hay that bunnies can eat, so if your rabbit doesn’t like one variety, try another! Some options to try are timothy, orchard grass, oat, or botanical hays. Alfalfa hay isn’t a healthy option for adult rabbits, so make sure you’re reading the label on your hay bag! Also, keep the number of treats that you feed to a minimum, and only use healthy options, like small pieces of fresh or dried fruit, or treats specifically formulated for rabbits. That means NO yogurt treats, or excessive amounts of sugary foods – keep those bananas and craisins to a minimum. WE know it’s easy to spoil your bun, but make sure it’s only in moderation!
Bunnies need exercise! Not only is this great for your rabbit’s health, but it’ll help keep his gut motility going strong. Rabbits should be housed in a 4′x4′ pen, MINIMUM, and should receive at least 4 hours of exercise outside of their enclosure daily.
Groom your rabbit frequently, especially during molting or if you have a longhaired breed. Cutting down on excess hair (which rabbits groom off and will ingest) will reduce the chance of buildup within the intestinal tract. Hair in the intestinal tract is normal in rabbits, and is usually only a problem if the rabbit becomes dehydrated or already has stasis, as the hair, food, and feces in the gut becomes a hardened mass that is difficult to pass. But grooming is always a good idea – better safe than sorry!
Keep fresh water available at all times so that your rabbit doesn’t become dehydrated. If you feel your rabbit isn’t drinking enough water, maybe change the container (from a bottle to a dish, or vice versa).
What are the symptoms of GI stasis?
- Lethargy or a lack of normal activity
- Teeth chattering or grinding – an indicator of pain
- Malformed feces – smaller pellets
- No feces for a period of 8-12 hours
- Anorexia – not eating for a period of 8-12 hours, even when offered treats or favorite foods
- Hunched or rounded posture
How is GI stasis treated?
If you are EVER worried that your rabbit may have stasis, even in the slightest, take him or her to a qualified exotics or bunny-savvy veterinarian IMMEDIATELY. Stasis can rapidly turn fatal, and it is truly an emergency. Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination, and will often do abdominal radiographs (xrays) in order to determine if there is an obstruction and/or gas present in the intestinal tract. Your rabbit will be placed on IV fluids to increase hydration, motility drugs, and pain medications. Your veterinarian may also draw blood for a CBC/Chemistry panel to determine if any systemic abnormalities are causing the problem. Your bun may have to be hospitalized, and even be syringe fed to receive critical nutrition (often Critical Care/pumpkin mix) and initiate gut movement. Abdominal massage may also be helpful in relieving discomfort and promoting motility.
So that’s the rundown of GI stasis, friends! Keep a close eye on your bun, and make sure you’re being the best bunny slave you can be by providing the proper nutrition, exercise, grooming, and attention!