‘Gut Stasis’ is a phrase that should send shivers down the spine of any rabbit owner. This gastrointestinal disease can come on suddenly in a rabbit of any age and breed. Sadly, it can cause death in a matter of hours if left untreated.
The earliest signs of gut stasis are not always easy to spot and it takes a very keen observer to notice them. Things to be on the lookout for would include:
- Reduced appetite
- Reduced stool production or producing smaller stools
- Hiding away
- Moving less or standing in a hunched position.
Rabbits are quite unlike dogs and cats and do not tend to act obviously unwell, even when at death’s door. Due to this, any minor change in their behaviour or demeanour warrants a vet check (whatever the hour).
A rabbit’s gut can slow down for a number of reasons including pain, dehydration, lack of activity, stress and an inappropriate diet.
Keep in mind that your bunny’s diet should typically consist of about 85-90% grass or hay, an egg cup or so of pellets (depending on their age and size) and a small amount of fresh fruit and veggies. Avoid making any diet changes abruptly, as this can be hard for a rabbit’s digestive system to tolerate.
Treating gut stasis requires a prompt trip to the vet. The vet will be able to tell that the gut sounds are quieter than usual and may confirm their suspicion with an abdominal x-ray.
Commonly, treatment consists of:
- Medicine to get the gut moving again
- Fluids (which may be given intravenously or under the skin)
- Syringe feeding
- Pain medicine
Can gut stasis be prevented?
More often than not, this is a condition that we can prevent when the right steps are taken. We need to take a close look at how we keep our bunnies and what they are being fed. With an appropriate diet, the right environment and enough exercise, most can avoid this condition. It is also important to have our rabbits routinely checked over so that any underlying health issues (such as overgrown teeth or bladder stones) can be dealt with, before they put our rabbits at risk of gut stasis.
If gut stasis is diagnosed and treated early on, the prognosis is much better. Thus, it pays to be vigilant of your bunny and to have your vet on speed dial!