Is your rabbit an eating and pooping machine? If you answered yes, that’s a good thing! Bunnies need to eat very frequently and poop very frequently – if you notice that your bunny is not doing either, that means there’s a problem.
Gastro-Intestinal Stasis (GI Stasis) is a common and potentially life-threatening problem in rabbits. When the GI tract is moving too slowly and/or stops moving at all, this is a very serious problem. Rabbits can develop GI stasis for a variety of reasons including an improper diet (high in fat, low in fiber or high in sugar or carbs), dental issues (pain in the mouth causing decreased appetite), stress, or another illness. If your rabbit has not eaten in 12 hours, this is an emergency situation.
Once your vet has diagnosed your rabbit with GI stasis, treatment usually involves prescription medication for your bunny to improve GI motility (gets things moving along!), antibiotics (“bad” bacteria can thrive when the GI tract has slowed down or stopped), sub cutaneous fluids (to hydrate your bunny) and a special diet that needs to be syringe-fed every couple of hours. Needless to say, it involves a lot of home-work for bunny owners, typically over a couple of weeks. While many rabbits can recover from GI stasis, it is a very serious ailment and in some situations, even with the hard work and effort of the owners and veterinary team, it can be fatal.
How can you prevent GI stasis? Diet is very important. The majority of your rabbit’s diet should be grass hay… all day, every day! Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, bok choy, etc should be offered daily and if you choose to feed pellets (they are not necessary, btw), limit to 1/8 to 1/4 cup per day. Do not feed dried fruits or large amounts of fresh fruit as they are high in sugar. High carb treats such as crackers, breads and cereals should be avoided as well. Dental health is another important preventive factor. Your vet will examine the inside of your bunny’s mouth at annual visits – checking for signs of overgrown teeth or pointed molars (causing sores and abrasions in the mouth), which could lead to your bunny not wanting to eat. Another important factor is hydration. This one seems pretty obvious but we’ll mention it anyway: make sure your rabbit has access to clean, fresh water at all times. If your bunny is not getting enough fluids in his diet and becomes dehydrated, this can lead to GI stasis. Tip: If your bunny is not a big fan of his/her water bottle, you can mist or soak his/her veggies with water prior to feeding them. On a final note, make sure your bunny gets lots of exercise on a daily basis. Not only is this important for overall well-being but it will also help things move along as they should in the GI tract.