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The Lucky Rabbit

Supportive care helps a rabbit overcome a mysterious illness.

By Jerry Murray, DVM
Posted: December 1, 2010, 3:15 p.m. EST

© Courtesy Judy Rossman
A rabbit that exhibits pain in its abdomen could be suffering from one of several ailments, including gastrointestinal stasis or a foreign body in the GI tract.

Here is the good news rabbit case that I promised last time. At the beginning of the month a chocolate-colored rabbit came in to the clinic. This bunny had the vague signs of not being as active as normal and acting like he was in pain when he was picked up. The bunny was still eating some and his pellets (feces) were normal. Overall he appeared normal, and his physical exam revealed no abnormalities. His diet was made up of hay, greens and rabbit pellets. His haircoat was thick and unmatted, and he did not groom excessively. There was no known trauma or injury to the bunny. At times like this, I wish animals could talk and give me a clue as to what is wrong.

Because the rabbit acted painful in the abdomen when he was picked up, a radiograph was taken of his abdomen to check for any signs of a foreign body, hairball (trichobezoars) or gastrointestinal stasis.

Gastrointestinal stasis is a common problem in rabbits and can be a fatal condition. There was no gas accumulation seen in the stomach or intestinal tract. Gas accumulation is common with foreign bodies or hairballs causing an obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract and in cases of gastrointestinal stasis.

An area of this rabbit’s intestinal tract appeared to have an impaction, but the stomach appeared normal. Impactions can be caused by an over accumulation of normal ingested food or from a foreign material. Common examples of foreign material includes items like towels or blankets used as bedding that the rabbit might chew on or carpet fibers that the rabbit might ingest when the bunny is out of the cage for playtime. Impactions from food can be from anything that causes the motility of the GI tract to slow down. This can include dehydration, low-fiber diets, diet change, excessive carbohydrates and psychogenic stress.

This bunny was started on a high-fiber supplement (Oxbow’s Critical Care) that was syringe-fed to him. He was also started on a medication to promote gastrointestinal motility and given subcutaneous fluids. Fortunately, the bunny responded to this treatment and is back to his normal self.

See all of Dr. Murray's columns>>

Posted: December 1, 2010, 3:15 p.m. EST

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Reader Comments
GI Stasis ain't no fun for rabbits or their owners. I also had to feed critical care via syringe to my bun. Thank god bunny responded and got better. Never want to deal with this again, poor bunny.
RB owner, Australia
Posted: 9/22/2011 6:04:33 AM
poor rabbit
Breanne, london, ON
Posted: 4/28/2011 5:35:37 PM
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