Keeping your rabbit healthy and happy is the number one thing you should strive to do as a rabbit owner, but sometimes things happen that we don’t have control over, but we can help solve!
Rabbits can get sick, tired, and lose their appetite every once in a while. Sometimes, the cause for this can be as simple as eating something they shouldn’t have, but other times it can be a bit worse.
With rabbits, you want to make sure you notice right away when they lose appetite and how you can step in immediately to help.
In this article, we will tell you when to check in with your rabbit to see if it’s doing okay and how you can help it feel healthier and more like itself in no time.
If you own a rabbit, you know just how much they love to eat. They love to spend their days eating and grazing off the hay in their cage or whatever else you give them. But sometimes, they eat things that can seriously affect their stomach, causing gastrointestinal problems called ileus.
Ileus is very common in rabbits and can happen to them quite frequently throughout the course of their lives. Because of this, it is crucial to monitor their eating patterns constantly and whether or not they have slowed down with their consumption of food.
Ileus is when the contractions in the intestines of the rabbit that push the food through their body slow down or stop altogether. This causes the gas in the stomach to build up, creating quite a bit of pain for your rabbit, therefore causing them to stop eating.
But unlike humans and other animals like cats and dogs, rabbits can’t vomit, so it’s up to us to help them through ileus with medications and stimulation.
Gastrointestinal (GI) Stasis
Gastrointestinal Stasis (GI) is another gastrointestinal problem your rabbit can get at any time throughout its life. Much like ileus, it is also the cause of slower intestinal movement and can result in normal stomach bacteria becoming out of balance.
You can spot GI in your rabbit if you notice lethargy, loss of appetite, a hunched posture, diarrhea, soft stool, and grinding teeth.
One of the many causes of GI can be the lack of fiber in their everyday diet. It is essential to make sure your rabbit is getting enough hay in their meals. Unlike pellets, hay is not filled with potentially harmful ingredients and instead is an incredible and natural source of fiber and beneficial bacteria for your rabbit.
It is important to note that not all bacteria are harmful, and some bacteria are imperative for the normal function of your rabbit’s stomach functions. Giving them hay throughout their meals can provide this helpful bacteria, keeping them as healthy as can be.
Another reason your rabbit can stop eating altogether and become lethargic is due to overgrown teeth. Did you know that a rabbit’s teeth never stop growing? Amazing right! But this can cause issues throughout its life if its teeth are not properly cared for.
Keeping a rabbit’s teeth trim and in shape is extremely important for their overall health and wellbeing. If the teeth get too long, it can cause infections and serious diseases in the gum and internal organs.
With 28 permanent teeth, rabbits need quite a bit more oral care than other pets. Be sure to check the back of their teeth, especially the molars, as they are much harder to see and can be the biggest source of disease and pain out of all the teeth.
This is simply because we don’t notice them all that often, so they go untreated for more extended periods, unlike their front teeth which can be easily seen and cared for.
If your rabbit seems to be lethargic, has a loss of appetite, and has inflammation around its bottom, your rabbit could very well have an intestinal parasite called a pinworm.
If you didn’t already know, rabbits like to eat their own feces and the feces of other rabbits, which is how pinworms can get into their systems and why it can be challenging to get rid of.
Pinworm travels through the feces of rabbits, so once they eat their own poop, they can become infected and continue to stay infected by continuously eating their own poop, even during treatment.
Although it might be difficult to clear your rabbit of pinworm, it is not impossible. Luckily, with the proper medication and cage cleaning regimen, you can get your rabbit back to its happy and healthy state in no time.
Believe it or not, rabbits can get affected by environmental stressors just like we do! If you change a rabbit’s environment too rapidly, or they are fearful of something around them, they can become stressed, causing them to lose their appetite and become lethargic.
Stress can come from several factors for a rabbit. They can come from repetitive loud noises, being exposed to too many people (social stress), which causes them to feel uncomfortable in their environment, or excessive heat/light.
Always check in with your rabbit to make sure it is comfortable in its environment and feels safe. If too many people are playing with your rabbit and it seems to be getting scared, bring it somewhere quiet where it can relax on its own.
Also, make sure it isn’t exposed to too much heat or light and feels uncomfortably warm throughout the day. Making sure your rabbit is in ideal conditions is key to keeping it healthy all year round.
When you begin to notice a lack of appetite in your rabbit, be sure to bring it to the vet as soon as possible to get it properly looked at by a professional. Sometimes even waiting a few days can be lethal in a rabbit.
But, while you wait for the appointment with your vet, there are a few things you can do at home to try and treat your rabbit and bring it back to its best self.
Although your rabbit might hate it at first, force-feeding your beloved pet might be the only way to give it the nutrients it needs during its loss of appetite period.
An excellent home remedy that can help your rabbit is mixed vegetable baby food in a syringe. You can find this type of baby food at nearly any grocery store, and it is an affordable and healthy way to help your pet.
Hold your rabbit tightly but comfortably, and feed it directly in its mouth with the baby food-filled syringe. Be sure not to overfeed it, as this can also cause issues.
Making sure your rabbit has food is imperative in its survival. Without food, a buildup of gas can lead to extreme pain, and in many instances, death in rabbits.
We recommend always keeping some of this baby food on hand just in case you ever notice a loss of appetite in your rabbit. By always having some around, you can make sure to step in immediately without too much worry.
A Stimulating Massage
Once you’ve given your rabbit its vegetable baby food, we highly recommend massaging its belly to help the food work through its stomach.
Not only does massage help relieve the bunny of any pain it might be in due to a buildup of gas, but it can really help work the food through any potential blockages.
Be sure not to massage it too hard as it might be in a bit of discomfort in the beginning. Lightly knead its stomach, starting from the top to bottom and on its sides.
We also encourage exercise during this time to get the food moving. After the massage, try to stimulate it with fun playtime to get some much-needed movement into its body.
Hydration is Key
Keeping your rabbit hydrated is vital during this time. The chances are, if your rabbit does not want to eat, it might not want to drink either.
Keep a nice clean bowl of water in their cage at all times and a clean bottle of water on the side for them. Having plenty of water options in their immediate vicinity at all times is key to keeping them hydrated.
If you’re noticing your rabbit is not driving any water on its own, you can use another syringe filled with unflavored Pedialyte to give them the extra boost of hydration their body desperately needs. Be sure to get the unflavored version so as not to cause more issues in their stomach than what is already occurring.
During this time, avoid feeding your rabbit pellets at all costs. Pellets can cause even further blockage and pain in your rabbit’s stomach.
Instead, opt to feed them other fresh greens like celery and lettuce, as well as fresh hay, to get them to begin eating once again.
The fresh greens and hay will help move food throughout their system without causing any more backup for the rabbit. It will also help to provide essential nutrients that they might be lacking at this time.
Recovery for GUT/GI in rabbits can be very slow, lasting anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on its severity.
To help speed the recovery time, be sure to satisfy your rabbit as much as possible by keeping it hydrated, encouraging it to eat fresh hay, hand feeding, and giving pain-relieving massages after meals or throughout the day.
You should see a vet as soon as you begin to notice a lack of appetite or lethargy in your rabbit. Waiting can become fatal to your rabbit.
If you cannot see your vet within 48 hours, try some of these home remedies to help reduce pain and discomfort in your rabbit or to help remedy whatever is going on in their stomach.
We also recommend hopping on the phone with your vet during this time of home remedy if you cannot go in right away. If your vet suggests, you might need to take your rabbit to the emergency room if your rabbit is exhibiting dangerous symptoms.
Either way, try to wait as little as possible and get your rabbit checked out as soon as possible so you can return it to its best self in no time.
We know you love your rabbit, so keeping it happy and healthy every single day should be your number one focus as a pet owner.
Make sure you are adequately taking care of your rabbit and doing proper research into your pet’s health. If you notice anything is off, do not wait it out. Consult your vet as soon as you can.
Rabbits can be tough and feisty creatures, but underneath all of that, they can be sensitive too. Always pay attention to your rabbit because although it can’t tell you how it’s feeling with words, it can show it in its everyday actions if you just look close enough.