I often write about the fun ‘adventures’ Scamp has. This one isn’t so fun, but I like to be educational too -sorry. Don’t worry though, he’s fine in the end!
Every rabbit owner should know about stasis, because sooner or later you’ll probably come across it. Gut stasis is when food stops moving at it’s normal speed through a rabbit’s gut. It’s often associated with another problem i.e. something makes your rabbit feel unwell (pain, bad teeth, stress etc.) and they stop eating and then the gut stops working. Sometimes though there is no identifiable cause.
Scamp (who is fine now) had a couple of months ago and I thought I’d share in case it helps someone else in future.
1. It starts with not eating.
The story starts when I pop down to the kitchen and find Scamp stretched out in his litter tray. Not his usual napping spot but I presume he’s just laying in wait for someone to open the baby gate so he can sneak past. Except he refuses the ‘well okay you look cute I suppose you can have a treat’ pellet I offer. Then he refuses the piece of carrot. Uh Oh! If you don’t already know a bunny not eating is a sign of something not right.
I pop him out to see how he moves and he starts doing the classic ‘my tummy hurts’ press ups. If you haven’t seen them it looks like your rabbit is going to lie down and relax but they get up again, and then go to lie down again and generally fidget like they can’t get comfortable. Your bun might also sit huddled up – although they do nap like this sometimes normally so if you are worried poke them or offer a treat before panicking! The other sign of a problem is a lack of poop, because if food isn’t moving through the gut, it’s not coming out the other end. So the next thing to do is clean out the litter tray so you can monitor poop production.
2. When it happens, it probably won’t be office hours.
Did I mention it’s 1.30am? Most vets are open 8-6 Mon-Fri and maybe Saturday, if you are lucky. That means there is a 65% chance when your rabbit decides to stop eating they’ll do it when your vet isn’t open. Depending on your vet practice that means calling a vet at home to meet you there (Hi, I know it’s 11am on Boxing day but my rabbit is choking on a bit of rabbit food – Christmas 1998) or your practice might have a deal with a practice that specifically offers emergency care. Phone your vet’s normal number and there should be a answerphone message with instructions. Even better find out right now where you can take your rabbit in an emergency… go on I’ll wait for you, no time like the present.
3. It will cost you a small fortune.
Our vets have have a choice of emergency practices you can use when they aren’t open. The nearest one is 20 minutes away (as opposed to our normal vet which is closer to five. Still, it’s better than it used to be, at once point the emergency practice was 40 minutes away!
If it’s after 11pm at night it costs £120 to walk through the door. Then there is the consultation fee of £38. So that’s £158 spent and you’ve seen the vet. Of course, then you have treatment costs e.g. drugs another £54. For my readers in the US that converts to $340, although prices vary a lot by area so do find out what it would cost in a practice near you.
If you don’t have a plan for how you would lay your hands on that amount at 1.3o am in the morning then now is a good time to think about it. You might have insurance – check whether your vet still wants a deposit up front, having a savings account (do you have access to a cash machine) or a credit card (don’t forget you have to pay those back).
After seeing the vet and getting stuck with quite a few needles (painkillers and drugs to encourage the gut to move) Scamp came home again. Probably because his notes from when he was little and had stasis (after spending the night rooting around the bin and munching raw potatoes – the wild things we get up to when we’re young!) said he got really stressed out and wouldn’t play ball with the nurses. It quite common for a rabbit to be kept in for fluids, particularly the longer they haven’t been eating, and this will add even more to your bill.
4. Getting a rabbit eating again is really important
One key reason for a vet trip is confirming your rabbit hasn’t got a physical blockage that’s stopping gut movement rather than just a lack of movement. A blockage could be something they’ve eaten (not too common in rabbits as they chew their food well) but also just where fur and food has formed a dried up lump in the guts where it isn’t moving through. If there is a blockage, adding more food can make things worse.
Once you’ve confirmation there is no blockage it’s time to work on getting your bun eating again. Scamp was sent home with recovery food – which is basically powdered pellets (which you can use if you can’t get hold of the powder). You mix it with water to make a lovely gooey green slurry and then attempt to suck it up a syringe and squirt it into your rabbit’s mouth. A few tips:
1. Use a 1ml syringe – the bigger ones just get jammed.
2. Chop the end off the syringe.
3. If you pull the syringe up and it appears empty, keep it in the mix and tap it on the base of the container to clear the block.
4. Put a towel down first, you will get messy.
5. Aim the syringe just behind the front teeth, pointing across the to opposite side of the mouth, not down the throat, to avoid choking.
6. Little and often is most effective.
7. Any they have to clean off themselves afterwards still counts as eaten.
8. Have tasty food to hand afterwards, they often feel more like nibbling just after having some recovery mix.
I’m pretty good at pinning bunnies down so Scamp, much to his disgust, did eat some recovery food – 4-5 syringes every three hours (cos who needs sleep!). Scamp started munching dandelion, something he’s not usually that fussed about, once he got home from the vets (a vet trip often ‘perks’ a rabbit up).
Rabbits often have odd preferences when they are unwell so try and offer a wide range of options, turning their nose up at one thing doesn’t mean they’ll do the same to all. In addition to the dandelion, Scamp’s initial list of acceptable foods were: raspberry stalks (but not the leaves), parsnip. strawberry leaves (but not the stalks) and seed heads from oat hay. Pellets, which like most bunnies he usually loves, he completely turned his nose up to.
As he felt better, he gradually increased the variety and volume of food but it took him a couple of day until he was back to his usual self and eating anything edible (and some things not) in sight.
He’s still having a little trouble with a skin reaction to one of the injections, but it’s not effecting his binkying and hopefully it will clear up soon