Bunny Health Alert !
There has been an increase in gut stasis incidents in the last three weeks. A cause has not been identified, but a local distributor recently recalled salmonella-contaminated lettuce.
“Rabbits are extremely more susceptible to salmonella than humans. Lettuce with a level of toxins that wouldn’t hurt a human - and therefore would not be recalled - could be fatal to a bunny,” Joy said. She reminds us to always wash our greens by thoroughly rinsing them under running water. Wash them even if they are bagged and “pre-washed.” Gut stasis is a serious matter. In fact, it’s a life-or-death matter to a bunny,” Joy said. Afterward, a person might say, “My bunny stopped eating, and then she just died.” Gut stasis is a slowdown or stoppage in the muscle contractions that push food and liquids through the intestines. Bacteria then proliferate and emit gas that causes severe pain. The liver, whose job it is to detoxify poisons, is overloaded. Liver damage is often the ultimate cause of death.
Buy and keep on hand: Infant gas drops (Walmart’s Equate-brand is fine at about $3.60 a bottle); Metacam for pain or Bayer orange-flavored children’s aspirin (Metacam is great for pain relief. You can only get it from a veterinarian. It is good to buy a small bottle of Metacam to keep at home; price may be about $25); 1cc syringe and 10cc syringes (you can buy them from your vet or possibly a pharmacist); child’s thermometer with a flexible tip (no glass) that will read a temperature in 8 to 10 seconds; lubricant to apply to the tip of the thermometer; food to give only if your vet instructs you to syringe-feed your bunny (a jar of baby food squash, baby food applesauce, a can of 100% pure pumpkin (not pie filling), Critical Care from Oxbow. Your bunny may prefer one of these over another, or a combination. If you use pumpkin or Critical Care, use a 10cc syringe and dilute to a runny, drinkable state. Bunnies won’t accept a chewy glob.
Always watch your bunny for the signs of gut stasis: Bunny isn’t eating as much or stops eating altogether; bunny rejects a favorite treat; bunny is producing very small fecal pellets or none at all; bunny may crouch in pain and grind his teeth or bunny may be quiet and not moving. Call your vet, but take immediate action yourself.
Emergency Steps. Do immediately and continue until your vet advises you:
Break up the painful gas: Infant Gas Drops (simethicone): The book, “Rabbit Health 101”, recommends giving a 1 to 2cc dose every hour for three doses, then 1cc every three to eight hours. Simethicone changes gas in the gut into bubbles that a bunny can pass. It is essential for gas relief and safe to give, even as a precaution, according to the authors.
Pain Relief: We give 1cc of Metacam and a second dose 12 hours later. (Note: This is not a normal veterinarian-recommended dose but, as bunny owners, we have noticed that gut stasis seems to respond better to a short-time high-level dose.) If you don’t have Metacam, use Bayer orange-flavored children’s aspirin (orange-flavored dissolves the best). For bunnies 5 pounds and more, dissolve one tablet in 1cc of water, draw up in a syringe, insert the tip of the syringe in the side of the bunny’s mouth and gradually empty the syringe. For bunnies less than five pounds, use one-half tablet.
Water: Give water through syringe to hydrate bunny. Give as much as bunny will accept. Go slowly so bunny doesn't choke.
Warmth: If your bunny feels cold, seems cold or his temperature is below 101°, warm a towel in the microwave or clothes dryer and wrap around bunny to raise his temperature. Keep repeating until body temperature is normal – 101° to 103°. Hypothermia or shock can kill quicker than a fever.
Massage: With bunny wrapped in warm towel, place him on your lap with tail facing you. Very gently, massage bunny’s underside, starting at his chest and ending at his tail. This may help him pass gas.
Do the above and your bunny may show improvement within a few hours or by the next day. Your bunny may be alert, eating, drinking and producing fecal pellets. Continue with gas drops and Metacam throughout the next day to relieve residual pain. If bunny has not improved within 12 hours, definitely keep your vet appointment because bunny might need IV or subcutaneous fluids or might have a blockage.
There are many reasons why a bunny’s intestine slows or stops moving (gut stasis): stress, dehydration, pain from molar spurs, bladder problems or infection. Gut stasis happens to bunnies that don’t eat enough fiber. That is why we want bunnies to munch on timothy grass hay all day long. If your bunny ignores hay, you may be giving him too much pelleted food. Gut stasis happens when bunnies eat something that produces gas. Vegetable advice below was taken from carrotcafe.com/f/veggies.html (an interesting read). Because gut stasis is common and must be tackled immediately, prepare your bunny emergency kit with the items we’ve suggested and include a copy of this article in your kit.
What vegetables should I feed my bunny? (Beware of gas or soft fecal poops when introducing any new food.) Many vegetables you can find in your local grocery store are fine for rabbits. The following are a few exceptions (1):
Can cause gas or are very sugary: do not feed
Green beans, White and red potatoes, Beets, Fresh corn, Fresh peas
Dangerous, contain compounds that destroy nutrients: do not feed Sweet potato, Cassava, Bamboo shoots, Maize, Lima beans, Millet, Bracken fern, Tea leaves,
Dangerous, contain toxins: do not feed Rhubarb leaves, Raw lima, kidney or soy beans, Onions (2), Citrus peels
Can cause impaction Whole seeds, Nuts, Grains, Dried corn, Dried peas
Things to watch out for Carrots and root vegetables are high in sugar and may cause cecal problems or gas in some rabbits. Celery and rhubarb stalks contain strings that should be removed before feeding. Alternatively, cut the stalks into small pieces. Iceberg lettuce has a reputation for causing diarrhea in many animal species. I do not recommend iceberg be fed to bunnies.
(1) Much of this was taken from a post by HRS Educator Sue Smith, Ph.D to a private mailing list.
(2) Toxic to horses, assumed to be toxic to rabbits (Also toxic both raw or cooked to dogs and cats.)