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Gastrointestinal Issues

Rabbits are prone to a variety of gastrointestinal issues. The following are just a few of the most common problems seen in rabbits.

Download the PDF for instructions on emergency rabbit care for bunnies who are not eating. Also, see the section below on GI Stasis.

G.I. Stasis

Gastrointestinal stasis may be the most common reason that rabbits go to the vet. They often get gas, a partial blockage of the G.I. Tract or a full blockage and stop eating. Any rabbit who is not eating, is in immediate need of veterinary care.

Symptoms: What you may notice is a rabbit who is suddenly or gradually not interested in food, even when offered their favorite treats. If gas is the cause, even partially, you may hear very loud gut sounds. The rabbit will show pain by grinding their teeth and shifting their weight around trying to get comfortable. They may also sit hunched up, much like a human with a stomachache. If the blockage is in the stomach, the rabbit will show extreme pain, they will stretch out trying to avoid putting pressure on their stomach. They will move around. They may also make a yawning motion, seemingly trying to remove the pressure. Rabbits cannot burp or vomit to relieve the pressure. A stomach blockage is often referred to as bloat, it is life threatening.

What the Vet will do: A vet will take the bunny's temperature. Often times with bloat and stasis, they lose heat quickly. When temperatures plummet, they are at risk for shock. They will palpate the abdomen. Many times, bloat can be felt as a bulging of the stomach.  A hardened lower abdomen indicates an intestinal problem. They will listen for bowel sounds. Lots of sounds means gas, lack of sounds may indicate a blockage. They will take x-rays of the G.I. Tract. If the rabbit has bloat, they may need to remove the pressure by placing a siphon tube down the rabbit's esophagus to remove any excess fluid and gas. The most common blockage is hair. This is why brushing your bunny is life-saving and important. After the blockage is removed, they will be given motility meds and you wait to see if they start eating on their own. Never force feed without asking the vet first. Critical Care is an excellent source of emergency food.

Treatment: If it was a stomach blockage and a procedure was performed, you will wait and see if they start eating and massage the abdomen very gently. Keep the bunny warm, you can buy heated disks to place in their carrier under a towel. You can also keep them on a towel next to you on top of a heating pad. Never place the bunny directly on the pad or leave them unattended with a corded pad. The vet will give them a few meds, some to be given for several days. The motility meds Reglan (Metoclopramide) and Cisapride (propulsid) are common choices. Cisapride works on the lower G.I. and Reglan works on the Upper G.I. Tract. Meloxicam helps with pain management. Cerenia is an injectable that relaxes the abdominal muscles, and it helps with pain. The vet will direct you as to whether force-feeding is needed. Do not start feeding without a vet visit.

For Lower G.I. blockages or gas. Treatment is similar to above, though recovery may be faster since they likely did not have a procedure. Massaging the abdomen helps the rabbit, as does keeping them hydrated. The vet may have given subcutaneous fluids. Cisapride or Reglan may be given, as well as Meloxicam. Baby gas drops may be given. They are over-the-counter and very safe. Simethicone is the active ingredient. You may have to find a compounding pharmacy for Cisapride--but they can make it banana-flavored. You are looking for the bunny to start eating and pooping. Pellets are often restricted during this time since you want them to eat lots of fiber, like hay. Recovery can take days before they eat normally. If they aren't eating on their own in a couple of days or get worse, take them back to the vet immediately.

Vet costs: Visit $50-75.  X-rays: $90 per view. Procedures: Over $200 Meds: over $100 for all.


A good article on GI Stasis may be found here.


"Psst--this is my belly!"


The black spots at the bottom of the abdomen are gas pockets in the intestines.

Intermittent Soft Cecotropes

Intermittent soft cecotropes are fairly common in rabbits. It can cause messy bottoms and large piles of messy cecotropes in their cage. Rabbits should be eating their cecotropes, but if they are unformed or there are too many, they will not eat them. This can lead to a bacterial imbalance in their gut, though the rabbit may appear healthy. They are not indicative of true diarrhea, which is rare in rabbits.

Symptoms: Runny or poorly formed cecotropes with pudding like consistency. They should resemble bunches of grapes and are rarely seen in healthy rabbits as they are ingested. They should still be producing normal stool.

What your vet may do: They may run bloodwork to check for liver problems. X-rays may be taken to rule out tumors.

Treatment: It is most often caused by poor diet, although antibiotics can produce these symptoms, especially if they are on them for a long time. An increase in hay is usually called for and a decrease in pellets, some vets may have you remove them altogether. Occasionally, some greens can cause digestive upset, if you have added anything new, try removing it from their diet. Probiotics may help as can cecotropes from a healthy donor bunny. If your bunny is producing too many cecotropes, eliminate all sugar. No fruit at all, no treats. Ask your vet before making any major dietary changes other than eliminating sugars.

For further information check out these articles Disorders of the Cecum and Intermittent Soft Cecotropes


True diarrhea is rare in rabbits. There are many causes including toxins, antibiotics, clostridium, E. Coli and Coccidia. It is an emergency and veterinary care needs to be sought immediately.
Symptoms: True diarrhea is an emergency in rabbits, they will become dehydrated quickly. Unlike overproduction of cecotropes, you will not see any normal stool and the stool you see may be watery.
What Your Vet will do: Your vet may do bloodwork, take the bunny's temperature, test their stool, take an x-ray and give sub-cutaneous fluids.

Treatment: If they were given the wrong antibiotics or had a reaction to rabbit approved antibiotics, Flagyl may be given. They may also prescribe Loperamide or Cholestyramine. Cholestyramine has been shown to reverse diarrhea caused by Clindamycin toxicity in rabbits (Clindamycin is deadly to bunnies and no rabbit vet should ever prescribe it).

Coccidia is a parasite that can be seen through microscopic examination of a stool sample. It is commonly seen in outdoor rabbits and is the most common cause of stool problems in baby rabbits. Antiparasitics will be prescribed. Ponazuril is very effective.

For further information, a great article can be found here.


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