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GI Stasis in Rabbits

presented by

Barbi Brown's Bunnies

GI Stasis refers to a slowdown or shutdown of the normal  movement of the intestines.  It has become a fairly common condition in rabbits.

This is one of the conditions that wasn't common or at the very least didn't have a name until recent years.  Those of us that have had rabbits for decades never knew there was such a thing.  Many breeders fed pellets only and the only hay our rabbits got was in a nest box when they had babies.  For those of us that raised wool breeds we were aware of the dangers of wool block and fed high fiber diets to prevent wool block.  But I thought it was just an issue of long haired rabbits. 

With the increase in popuarity of house rabbits and rabbits as pets in general there has been an increased awareness of the importance of diet and exercise.  These days rabbit owners generally accept the importance of coarse fiber in the form of hay to keep the gut moving properly in all breeds of rabbits.

Why then, do we see so many cases of GI stasis now?  Are we more observant and knowledgeable or is there something we are doing that is causing the high incidence?  If the cases were only related to a heavy molt where the rabbit was ingesting lots of hair I wouldn't be so puzzled but we see it in lots of variations besides molt related.

As I talk to so many people with problems with their rabbits this is a recurring theme so I decided to try to create a survey of owners and see if we can find a pattern.  The few books that speak to the issue of GI Stasis simply state it is caused by lack of fiber in the diet.

From my own experience of 22 years I only remember having issues of stasis with a particular bloodline of fawn Flemish Giants.  They had plenty of hay, measured pellets, limited treats and the same diet as the rest of the herd but only these animals would quit eating.  It made me nuts!  I ground up food and fed slurries of laxatives, gave Simethicone, withheld pellets, added more hay of various types etc., etc., etc. The same rabbits had recurring bouts.  I never lost one to stasis but finally gave up the line when I realized they had other issues such as sore hocks which seemed to indicate a genetic predispostion.  I attributed part of it to the sedentary nature of these big guys but why then didn't the other colors of the same breed have the same experience?

The diagnostic challenge, in part, is that it is hard to know whether it is simply an issue of " is the gut shutting down or being shut down by an obstruction"? There is a fine line between GI Stasis and wool/fur block. 

SO here's where I need your help.  If you have had experience with GI Stasis, I would really appreciate hearing from you.   Filling in the survey and adding any other pertinent comments may shed some light on the subject.  Many of the questions may seem irrelevent and maybe they are but please complete the survey as completely as possible.  Your response just may save some rabbits and their owners a lot of grief.  

I will post the results in a few weeks as the replies are received.  You may cut and paste and e-mail rabit3bs@aol.com or snail mail to P.O. Box 449, Lathrop, CA 95330  You can see the results we have received so far at GIStasis Survey

Abvoiusly, we need more data to arrive at any conclusions but I think you will find the various treatment options interesting.

GENERAL:

What breed of rabbit was it?

How old was the rabbit?

How long had you owned the rabbit?

Did you have more than one rabbit in GI stasis at the same time?

Did the rabbit recover?

Has this rabbit experienced more than one episode of GI Stasis?

Was the rabbit shedding when, or just before the gut shutdown?

How often do you groom your rabbit?

What type of brush do you use?

Did/does this rabbit ever experience bouts of diarrhea or chronic loose stools?

TREATMENT:

Was the rabbit treated by a vet?

  Was it given Cisapride or other gut motility meds?

  Was it given pain med?

  Was it given sub-q fluids?

  Was it given mineral oil?

  Did you force feed products such as Critical Care?

If treated without a vet what methods did you use?

  Did you use Simethicone?

  Did you use Tummy rubs?

Did you use Bene-Bac, Live culture yogurt or Cat-Lax?

Did you or the vet use any other treatments?

If so, what?

HOUSING:

Did the rabbit live inside or outside?

Did it live in a cage?

Did it have free run of the house?

Do you have carpeting?

Did your rabbit have cloth of any kind in it's cage to sleep on?

If so, did it chew on the cloth?

Did your rabbit use a litter box?

If so, what type of litter did you use?

Do you use a solid bottom cage?

If so, what type of bedding material did you use for the floor?

What else is in the cage?

Do you use bottle or crock for water?

Do you use crocks or j-type feeders?

Do you use a hay feeder?

What type of toys did your rabbit play with?

Exercise:

  Did your rabbit have a shelf or box in his cage to jump on?

  Did you rabbit run around the house or yard?

  If so, how many hours a week?

FEED:

Do you feed pelleted feed?

If so, What type (alfalfa based, Timothy base, alfalfa-Timothy combination etc.) brand, protein content, fiber content? (info is on the label)

If you feed pellets, how much do you feed per day?

DO you feed hay?

If so, how often?

What type of hay?

Where do you buy your hay?  Pet store, feed store, on line, farm etc.

If purchased from a store or on line, what brand?

How often do you feed hay?

Do you feed green vegetables?

If so, what types?

Do you feed fruits?

If so, what types?

Do you feed pet store treats such as yogurt drops, Healthy Bites, Honey sticks etc.?

If so, please list the types

Do you feed oatmeal?

Do you feed whole grains?  if so, what types

What types of "snacks" do you feed?  How much and how often?

Did your rabbit have a chew stick?  If so, what kind?

Do you feed dried fruit?  If so please list, papaya, pineapple etc.

Do you feed papaya tablets?

If you can think of anything I should add to this list please let me know.