If you’ve ever gone out to your rabbit hutch only to find your sweet bunny’s food dish full and hutch tray empty? It’s a good chance that your are seeing what GI stasis in rabbits looks like. Time is of the essence.
Keeping our rabbits GI system in tip-top shape is dependent on us feeding proper food, in the right amounts. In addition to the pellets you add to her feeder, you can give her fresh fruits and veggies.
However, if you are reading this because your rabbit has stopped pooping, I’ve got some good advice for you. (Note: If your rabbit’s not pooping and you don’t have any experience in helping your bunny through an GI stasis/blockage, please take her to a rabbit-savvy vet.)
Steps to Correcting GI Stasis in Rabbits
- When you notice that your rabbit’s not pooping or eating,, begin keeping a close eye on her. If she doesn’t eliminate or eat within 6-12 hours, there is likely a problem. Remove feed pellets from the hutch. Leave timothy grass available in hay feeder.
- Prepare lukewarm water/probiotic powder mixture and force feed rabbit with a plastic syringe. Use about ¼ tsp powder to a couple of ounces of water. Get as much of this mixture as possible into the rabbit.
- Leave free-choice green leafy vegetables in the hutch.
- Check hutch tray every few hours. If there is no change in elimination, try rehydrating with plain water (do not use more than the recommended amount of probiotic powder per day). Also, at this point, make sure to check your bunny’s bum to make sure there is no obstruction from fecal matter, which would also make it painful and difficult for her to eliminate.
- If there is an obstruction, make a warm water compress with a washrag and hold it on the area for a few seconds. Use a fine comb to remove fecal matter from the hair around the anal area. If there is fecal matter stuck in the anus, use tweezers to gently pull it out. Please be careful not to force a separation, which can tear her anal skin. Use the warm compress over and over until you are able to dislodge the fecal matter easily.
- Repeat hutch tray check and rehydration, as well as offering free choice green leafy vegetables until your bunny is eliminating normally, and her appetite has picked up.
- Return her feed pellets to her hutch.
My Personal Experiences with GI Stasis
I used to have a rabbit named Alice who was a Jersey Wooly, which is a cross between a French Angora and a Netherland Dwarf. Her wool was not quite as long as a French Angora, but it was longer than the average rabbit’s fur. Because of this, she was more at risk for wool blockages than other shorter-haired varieties.
The first time Alice had a GI “episode”, I used canned pineapple. In my research, I had found that because she is a long-haired rabbit, she could likely have a wool blockage. Research showed that pineapple helps break up such blockages. I made a “mush” from canned pineapple and syringe fed it to her. It worked well, which was a huge relief.
Pineapple is often suggested for GI stasis/wool blockages because it was believed at one point that the bromelain in pineapple would break up the wool blockage. The GI tract would then be free to move its contents through and out of the rabbit. It does work beautifully, but not for the these reasons.
After researching, I learned that the bromelain in the pineapple doesn’t break down the fibers that might be causing the blockage. More likely, the liquid in the pineapple mush rehydrated the contents in her GI system. This enabled its contents to pass more easily through her system. Still a win in my book, but I probably won’t use it again due to the sugar content of canned pineapple. Sugar can actually make a small problem bigger for your furry friend.
I have also used probiotic gel to help aid Alice’s GI system in moving “stuck” contents through, and this has worked fine. The idea is that this gel adds probiotics to your rabbit’s gut to rebalance intestinal flora.
Some rabbit owners have complained that when using these gels as a daily supplement, that their rabbit’s pellets worsen in condition. So while the gel is safe for daily use, and can work in a pinch to help your rabbit through a tough GI issue, I do not recommend using this daily.
A Walk-Through of a GI Stasis Episode
- DAY 1 – On a Saturday morning, I discovered an empty hutch tray in Alice’s cage. Went into action immediately. Syringe fed her some water/probiotic powder mixture. This rehydrated the gut contents and encouraged growth of good bacteria in the GI system. I also offered green leafy vegetables in the form of romaine lettuce to her (I had given this to her before and does not cause digestive upset for her.) Left free choice timothy grass in her feeder.
- DAY 2 – On Sunday morning, she had shown some signs of successful elimination, but it was such a small amount that I tried to administer the water/probiotic powder mixture again. She wasn’t at all interested in cooperating with the force feeding. Since it looked like she might be on the mend, I added the water/probiotic powder mixture to her free-choice in her hutch. More romaine was offered to her to continue to add water to the contents in her GI tract. By the afternoon and into the evening, she was eliminating a little more with each time I checked on her.
- DAY 3 – By Monday morning, she had a nice large pile of rabbit pellets in her hutch tray, and she was back to her sweet little self. I added the alfalfa pellets back to her diet that morning, which were a welcome treat for her. She has been fine since.
Gastrointestinal Stasis: The Silent Killer – Dana M. Krempels, PhD, University of Miami