A guide to rabbit GI stasis for the average owner.
You come to hang out with your rabbit, and you find it hunched in the corner, not wanting to move around, and refusing to eat. You know your rabbit is sick, so you do a quick Google of its symptoms and think it might have GI stasis. But what is GI stasis in rabbits and what should you do?
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Basics of GI Stasis in Rabbits
First things first, if your rabbit isn’t eating then you need to call the vet and get your bunny seen as soon as possible. GI stasis can very quickly become life-threatening. If a rabbit stops eating or going to the bathroom for more than a few hours this is a medical emergency, and your rabbit needs to be taken into a rabbit-educated exotic vet immediately.
GI stasis is basically when a rabbit stops eating and its digestive system stops moving and working how it’s supposed to. Because of the way a rabbit’s digestive system is set up, this is a major deal. A rabbit’s stomach and intestines should actually never be empty.
If you want to read even more about rabbit medical care, a great book I recommend any rabbit owner have on hand is Rabbit Health in the 21st Century by Kathy Smith. I’ve read it several times and reference it as needed if I have a bunny health issue I’m dealing with.
Symptoms of GI Stasis in Rabbits
The most telling symptom that your rabbit has GI stasis is that it won’t want to eat anything. It also will likely not want to move around much. Your bunny may also stop pooping or have extremely runny poop.
Your rabbit might show signs of being in pain – grinding its teeth and staying hunched up in a ball, unwilling to move. You will probably notice an overall change in your rabbit’s behavior, and they’ll seem much more lethargic.
A healthy rabbit stomach may make quiet gurgling sounds. In a rabbit with GI stasis, you may hear loud gurgles or even nothing at all. Sometimes having a stethoscope on hand can help you hear your bunny’s stomach sounds better.
You know your rabbit best, so you’ll be able to tell when something is off. If they don’t come out for veggies one day or aren’t coming out to play at their normal time, then be sure to check on your bunny to find out what’s wrong.
What Causes GI Stasis
It can sometimes be difficult to figure out what caused your rabbit’s GI stasis.
Pain can be one cause because it may make your rabbit reluctant to move around to eat and drink. This interferes with the normal constant movement in your rabbit’s digestive system. It will be important to determine what is causing the pain, so the GI stasis doesn’t continue to happen.
Stress can also be a cause. Rabbits can actually become stressed quite easily, but some common causes could be recent travel, a vet visit, a change in environment, or bonding. Once you get your rabbit through the stasis episode, they likely will settle back into their usual routine unless the conditions that caused the stress are still there.
There is a misconception that hairballs can also cause GI stasis – but usually, stasis causes a hairball. However, if your rabbit gets a blockage in its intestines, it can definitely result in stasis. This is kind of a back-and-forth situation because GI stasis can cause a blockage (like a hairball), but a blockage could possibly cause stasis as well. A blockage could also be caused by your rabbit eating something it shouldn’t.
Your rabbit may also have another underlying illness that is causing it to have GI stasis issues. If it has another illness or injury that is causing it pain, then it may not want to move around to eat or drink. Some illnesses can also make your rabbit dizzy, which could be another cause.
Regardless of the cause of the stasis, it’s important to get your rabbit’s digestion moving again as soon as possible. Let’s move on to talking about treatment options.
Treatment for Rabbit GI Stasis
As I mentioned before, the first thing you want to do if your rabbit isn’t eating is call the vet and get them in as soon as possible. There are treatments your vet will do that you can’t do at home. They will likely get your pet on IV fluids and may do x-rays or other tests to try and determine the cause of the stasis. They will also likely give some medications to try and get your rabbit’s gut moving again.
There are some things you can do to try and help your bunny before getting them to the vet. I highly recommend putting together an emergency kit for your pets, so you have items on hand in these types of situations. You can check out an example of an emergency kit here.
First, you need to keep your rabbit eating. If they stop eating, then their digestive system can shut down. If they are not wanting to eat on their own and you can’t entice them with veggies or treats, then you’ll have to hand feed them using an oral syringe.
There are different types of recovery food on the market to use for this purpose (my favorites are Sherwood and Small pet Select). Recovery food is a powder that you mix with water to create a liquid to syringe feed to your pet. Syringe feeding can be a bit scary if you’ve never done it before, but you basically just put the syringe into your rabbit’s mouth and feed them little bits at a time. Be careful not to feed too much at once so they don’t choke. And make sure to also syringe feed your rabbit water, so they don’t become dehydrated!
The other thing you can do is try and treat them for bloat. True bloat is nearly impossible to treat, but sometimes there is just some gas trapped in your bunny that needs some help getting moving. I keep infant gas drops on hand for GI stasis situations with my rabbits. You can get these over the counter and give them to your rabbit using an oral syringe. The dose for a bunny is 2cc for the first three doses, which can be given every hour. After that, drop the dosage down to 1cc every 3-5 hours.
Final Thoughts on GI Stasis
GI stasis in rabbits can be very scary, but it can help to know the symptoms and what to expect for treatment. If you suspect your rabbit has GI stasis, call the vet to get them an appointment and then do what you can to keep them comfortable!