What happened to my gut

What Happened To My Gut?
(A Story About What CAN Happen To Your Bunny If
You Don’t Feed It Right)
By Sharon Hollars, DVM
Nutrition is one of the main keys to keeping rabbits healthy. The first article, “I Know Bunnies Like Carrots, But What Should My Bunny REALLY Eat?” discusses what you SHOULD be feeding your bunny. This article covers some of the more common things that can happen to your rabbit if fed incorrectly. The most common is gastrointestinal stasis (GI stasis). The symptoms of GI stasis include a variety of symptoms, but a change in eating habits is the most common. The bunny stops eating something they used to eat (it can be the hay, pellets, greens, or treats). They may pick up and drop food without eating or eat less than usual. They may drool, nudge food without eating, or just gradually eat less and less. A complete lack of any appetite is a very serious sign and the rabbit needs to be seen by a veterinarian and treated immediately. Some rabbits may shift around as if uncomfortable or lay in odd positions compared to their normal habits. The stools of rabbits in the early stages of GI stasis may have stools that get smaller, sometimes are stickier, may be misshapen, can look similar to cecotrophs (night stools), but usually are more irregularly shaped. The stools often lose the “fibrous” look and become smoother on the surface, may even appear wrapped in slime or mucus. All of these symptoms are bad, but if the stools stop completely, it can be much more serious. The treatment for GI stasis is much more effective if started at the very first sign of any symptoms. Bunnies can become what we sometimes call “brick bunnies”. These are the bunnies that are so lethargic and depressed they are doing nothing. They sit hunched, sometimes shake or tremble, may grind their teeth, have dull eyes, unkempt fur, are reluctant to move, and may even stop drinking. These bunnies are in serious trouble and MUST be treated immediately to have any chance of survival. Treating GI Stasis can also become very involved and IV or SQ fluids are often needed, GI motility enhancers such as metoclopromide (Reglan), cisapride (Propulsid) are usually used along with simethicone (Infant Gas-X or Phazyme), pain medications and anti-inflammatories. Force feeding or syringe feeding is often required to get the gut moving again. Sometimes early cases can be started on oral GI motility meds and may or may not need force feeding or simethicone. If the bunny is still eating greens, making sure the greens are damp can increase fluid intake. Some bunnies will take Critical Care Formula readily and won’t need it syringe fed, just offered in a dish. Mixing 1 part vegetable baby food (like sweet potato, carrots or canned pumpkin) to every 2 parts of mixed Critical Care slurry can help coax bunnies to eat or make the mixture more easily syringe fed. Enterotoxemia is another GI problem than is a very difficult syndrome to treat. It is usually caused by certain types of bacteria that release toxins into the GI tract that are then absorbed into the rabbit’s blood stream. This happens either as the bacteria die from inappropriate antibiotic administration by mouth or if these bacteria get into an overgrowth situation where they overwhelm the more normal microflora that should be present in the gut. Rabbits with enterotoxemia often start with diarrhea, but can progress within hours to complete anorexia and “brick bunny” symptoms. The treatment for enterotoxemia can be very involved and often necessitates hospitalization, IV fluids, syringe feeding or tube feeding as well as multiple medications. It can be very expensive to treat and there is a poor prognosis even with extensive treatment. Dental disease is another common problem in rabbits that can look just like GI stasis and can even CAUSE GI stasis from the pain and stress. Incorrect diet will make dental disease more likely. Coarse grass hay will help the rabbit to wear the teeth in a more normal pattern. This will help to minimize dental problems as much as possible. There are certain breeds that are much more prone to dental problems – most of the dwarf breeds are more likely to get malocclusion (mis-alignment of the teeth) but it can happen in any breed. Dental disease can also look like an eye infection or respiratory disease. Dental changes can block the nasolacrimal (tear) ducts and cause excessive ocular discharge. Bunnies with dental disease often drop food, grind their teeth, may get lumps on the jaw or under the eye, often drool and have a wet neck, will often look unkempt, sometimes they will stop eating their cecotrophs, and they can turn into a “bunny brick”. Some rabbits get surprisingly mild symptoms even with severe disease, some get significant symptoms with only mild disease. I have seen bunnies w/tongue lacerations that were still eating and bunnies just starting to have points that were barely eating anything or had diarrhea from the pain. Respiratory Disease is very common in rabbits fed only a pelleted diet. It will usually cause nasal discharge which can be wet or mucousy. It can cause snuffling, sneezing, increased respiratory rate or difficulty breathing. Rabbits will sometimes lie sideways with a respiratory infection, but more often sit with the neck extended a little or a lot depending on severity of the disease. Sometimes they will have staining on the paws from grooming discharge off the face. They will often have decreased appetite or decreased grooming and may look unkempt. Rabbits often have MUCH more severe pulmonary changes than what you would expect from the symptoms, partly because rabbits are more likely to get walled-off granulomas, and not usually liquid-filled abscesses. Open mouth breathing only occurs in rabbits with SEVERE respiratory distress!!! It can be extremely difficult to clear advanced or chronic cases because they develop thick, granulomatous discharge in the sinuses or lungs. To minimize respiratory irritation, avoid cedar or pine bedding and use newspaper bedding or even better, use hay. Urogenital diseases are quite common in rabbits. They frequently get urine sludging when tiny crystals that normally form in rabbit urine reach excessive levels and thicken the urine to the point where it will not flow properly and instead it builds up in the bladder. Rabbits also get bladder stones that are too large for them to pass. These must be surgically removed. Both of these can be minimized by removing alfalfa from the diet. Some rabbits will still have sludging or stone problems, but it is much less likely with limited protein and controlled minerals in the diet. Urinary tract infections are fairly common and can cause discomfort during urination, frequent urination and bloody urine. Plant porphyrins (pigments) are often mistaken for bloody urine. These pigments often cause an orange or brown tinge to the urine. The porphyrins are harmless and will come and go depending on the rabbit’s diet. I hope this article will convince you to work hard at feeding your bunny the best possible diet. It’s one of the most important things you can do to keep your bunny happy and healthy. If you have any questions about the care and feeding of your bunny, please call us at Pepper Square Pet Clinic, 972-386-9688.

Source: http://www.hillsidevetclinic.org/am_cms_media/what-happened-to-my-gut-rabbit-nutrition-continued.pdf

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