Gastrointestinal (GI) Stasis
DISCLAIMER: The following information is only intended to educate bunny adoptive parents about the signs, seriousness, and symptoms of GI stasis. In no way does this reference document replace licensed medical advice. Always consult with a Certified Exotic Veterinarian.
- GI Stasis: The Most Common Bunny Issue
Often, we will hear stories about how a bunny suddenly stopped eating and died; this is the fate of GI stasis. There are several different reasons a bunny could have GI stasis—stress, illness, pain, not eating enough timothy hay, not drinking enough water, etc.—but it’s important to learn how to identify and take action against GI stasis immediately.
Every minute counts with GI stasis, and the longer a bunny is in this state, the lower their chances of survival are. Bunnies can randomly go into GI stasis with seemingly no rhyme or reason, so it’s important to be educated, alert, and prepared.
- Routine Feeding Schedule
Bunnies have us wrapped around their little paws, which works to our advantage with combating GI stasis. Typically, we are alerted the moment we are late to feeding them breakfast, dinner, and snacks. As a result, we can use these rabbit tummy schedules as a clue for GI stasis. We recommend feeding your rabbit every 12 hours. Some people feed fresh veggies in the morning and pellets at night. Some people give a treat/snack at night—the choices are unlimited. However, you should become accustomed to your bunnies “normal” feeding preferences and behaviors. This is important because we are observing and monitoring their eating so we can more easily and readily detect when something is abnormal or amiss.
- Uh Oh…My Bunny isn’t Interested in Food
When you notice your bunny isn’t interested in their normal, regularly scheduled feeding program, this should be your first red flag. If after 10-15 minutes, they still do not want to eat, try enticing them with their favorite snack—the one that they’ll never turn down. If they still do not want to eat, then it’s time to contact a Certified Exotic Veterinarian. GI stasis causes the rabbit a lot of pain and discomfort, so they no longer are interested in food, snacks, or water. Their GI tract essentially shuts down, and this can be fatal if left untreated. A rabbit’s intestinal tract has to be functioning in order for them to live.
GI stasis is very painful for rabbits, so you may see the bunny hunched into a tight ball due to the pain. GI stasis makes bunnies bloated and have a lot of gas, so their normally squishy belly will feel very hard, like a balloon. You can also listen to their tummy and see if you can hear any “gut” noises. Their tummies are normally always active and loud, and we recommend you listen to their tummies to become accustomed to their normal gut noises.
Also, watch your bunny’s poop. If the bunny is not pooping at all or the poops are either small and hard or unformed and misshapen, this is a sign that there is a problem with the rabbit’s GI tract. The rule of thumb is if your rabbit doesn’t eat, drink, poop, or pee in a 12-hour period, it is an EMERGENCY and they should be taken to a Certified Exotic Veterinarian IMMEDIATELY.
- GI Stasis Medications and Supplements
There are lots of products available to address GI stasis at home and you’ll quickly learn which one works best for your bunny. Since GI stasis can strike at any time, please have some of these products and supplements readily available, and this will likely save you from an emergency’s vet office visit or worse. The sooner you identify that the bunny could be in GI stasis and take action, the faster the bunny will likely recover from the stasis.
GI Stasis Medications and Supplements
- Emergency Food – emergency food has additional nutrients in it to help combat GI stasis. Oxbow Critical Care and Sherwood Pet Health SarX Rescue are the most common emergencies food. Some bunnies willing eat emergency food, while others need it mixed in unsweetened applesauce and orally syringe fed it. Only force feed if the rabbit’s temperature is normal (102°F to 103°F) and a Certified Exotic Veterinary has advised you to do so. Rabbits can suffer from bloat, and force-feeding a rabbit with bloat can be deadly.
- Simethicone – Baby Gas Drops – gas drops are essential for gas relief. Gas can be so painful for a rabbit that the pain can cause them to stop eating. Helping them to relieve the gas by giving Simethicone and very gently massaging bunnies tummy can help to relief gas pain.
- Motility Supplements – to help keep the gut healthy, we recommend giving your rabbit Sherwood Pet Health’s Digestive Support supplements.
- Prescribed Medications – there are prescription motility drugs and pain medications available as well. Please contact your veterinarian and talk to them about their recommended treatments for GI stasis.
- Online Resources
You can read more about GI stasis on the House Rabbit Society and FUR’s website.
The information above is not a substitute for getting your rabbit proper, licensed veterinary care from a Certified Exotic Veterinarian.