accumulation of a large amount of gas in the abdomen. There are undoubtedly a
number of causes which produce this disorder. It may be produced by feeding an excessive amount of fresh young Lucerne or clover, and it has been suggested that young white clover will always produce the condition, although this is not proven. The condition is certainly not infectious, but there appears to be, in some cases, an inherited predisposition.
The rabbit sits huddled in a corner and is very inactive. The coat appears dull and the eye glazed. In some cases the rabbit is exceptionally thirsty and will consume quantities of water, although all food is refused. The abdomen becomes swollen with gas and the animal often grinds its teeth in pain. Death
usually results after a day or two from excessive pressure on the lungs and heart. In some cases the stomach may rupture. A second form of the disorder is known as mucoid enteritis, and in this form a quantity of mucous is produced in the intestines and forms a gelatinous mass. Although a considerable amount of research has been carried out, the causes of the disease have not been traced, and no reliable treatment has been discovered. The rabbit will benefit if made to take exercise, and massage with a good liniment which produces a slight irritation on the belly has been found to help. The most reliable treatment, which has been efficacious in more than half
the cases in which it has been tried, is the use of an enema of soft soap and water. Pure green soap is dissolved in warm water, and the solution injected carefully into the anus with a rubber bulb ear syringe.
The recent use of antibiotics has been found to reduce the amount of bloat greatly, in some cases by as much as 75 percent.
A rare disease, which has as its main symptom, the production of bloat is enterotoxaemia, which is a bacterial disease in which the kidneys become soft and pulpy. This trouble almost always occurs when animals arc being grazed in Morant type hutches and in cold weather. The eating of frozen food appears to cause some damage which enables bacteria to gain entrance into the intestinal wall. No treatment is available for this condition.
bloat (not to be confused with stasis/ileus – reduced motility of the intestine,
or the presence of some gas in the digestive system caused by food) is a dreaded
condition in rabbits, with poor prognosis. True bloat is probably the most
painful disorders that a rabbit can suffer from, and rabbit savvy vets often opt
to humanely put the rabbit to sleep, to spare it more suffering.
is due to an abnormal collection of gas that leads to an extreme distension of
the stomach, and/or or cecum. The stomach feels hard and the rabbit looks like a
“balloon”. It can make noised like a “waterfall”. The rabbit shows signs of
terrible pain and has difficulties to breath properly. When bloat reaches a
certain point in rabbits, it becomes irreversible. This is due to the facts
that the stomach wall of rabbits is not as elastic as in many other animals.
The distended stomach (its volume can double) will compress the main blood
vessels that lead blood to and from the heart. Blood flow becomes irregular,
and rarely blocked, causing disturbances of the cardiac rhythm. At this point,
the condition is fatal.
of bloat remain unknown. It may related to overeating, exercising immediately
after eating are suspected in most animals, lack of fiber in the diet, change of
diet, excessive drinking or stress, or result from a pyloric blockage or other
fully bloated, most rabbits do not survived longer than a few hours to a day
after diagnosis. Opioid pain drugs, fluids, antibiotics and simethicone bring
little to no relief. Putting the rabbit on its side may help. A handful of
rabbits were saved by intubation with a rubber catheter and aspiration of the
content and gas of the stomach. The majority died within 24 hours after relief
of pressure on the stomach. Rarely, when intubation is difficult, excessive
vagal stimulation caused a rapid death of the rabbit.
in uncertainty about bloat, if the rabbit is hypothermic or not, refrain from
feeding it, to avoid overload an already distended stomach, a compromised
digestive system, and contact your vet asap.
Bloat is a condition where the stomach becomes stretched by
excessive gas content. The gas is caused by the bacteria in a rabbit's stomach
multiplying excessively as a result of incorrect feeding. This may be because
the rabbit has eaten wet green food or grass clippings, mouldy hay or simply as
a result of irregular feeding.
- hard, swollen stomach
- shortness of breath
Bloat can be fatal within a very short space of time and can
only be treated by a vet.
Avoid feeding your rabbit wet green food and keep to a regular
feeding pattern with lots of hay. Never feed your rabbit grass
of the most disturbing conditions any bunny parent will face is GI Stasis. This
condition usually develops gradually, is marked by a slowdown in GI motility,
and now offers a good prognosis since a proven medical protocol has been
established. The best advice I can give anyone is to follow Dana Kremple's
guidance in her article, "GI
Stasis: The Silent Killer." This article provides crucial and
lifesaving information for anyone helping their buns through this ordeal.
I contend there is an even greater threat, and one that is more difficult to
recognize: Bloat. My husband and I faced this frightening ordeal with our
5-year old minilop Pokey in July 2002. One day he was fine and the next day he
almost died. Since then, I have made it my focus to learn everything I can
about this poorly recognized and usually fatal condition. I have seen more buns
succumb to bloat in the past year, making me realize how important it is to
educate as many people as possible. I have conducted a literature review,
albeit limited, and spoken with many people in an effort to understand and try
to make sense of this condition. The only mention of bloat in the literature is
from the UK, most notably by veterinarians Paul Flecknell and Frances
Harcourt-Brown. I have based this paper on this literature, but have also taken
some liberties based on my personal experience, and my professional education
and training. The rabbit's GI tract is subject to many threats by its very
nature. It remains my belief that bloat is an entirely different phenomenon from
GI Stasis, one that requires immediate veterinary intervention. Here's our
day, our minilop, Pokey, was eating, drinking, eliminating and playing normally.
The next morning we noticed he had not eaten his 11PM salad from the night
before. He was hunched up in the back of his room and didn't want to come out
and run which was very unusual for him. I immediately checked for bowel sounds
(which were diminished), gave him some simethicone that he did not respond to,
and called our vet. Our vet examined Pokey that same morning and confirmed my
suspicions of GI Stasis. Pokey's temperature was 99.4F with an ear thermometer
(this was a significant finding, but was not addressed at the time). His
abdominal x-ray revealed an overly distended stomach with a huge, well-defined
gas bubble inside the stomach. In comparison, this x-ray was a lot different
looking from Pokey's previous x-ray during an episode of GI Stasis. I had never
seen anything like this in rabbits despite looking at years of rabbit x-rays in
my vet's office. And it developed overnight! Pokey was sent home to reduce the
stress of being at the vet's. We gave him subcutaneous fluids, simethicone, and
limited his food intake to just hay and water.
continued to lie around for a few more hours and then we heard his teeth
chattering. It was such a loud noise, I didn't realize what it was at first. I
grabbed him out of his room, took his rectal temp, which was 97.7F, placed him
on a heating pad, and called our vet. Within minutes we were sure Pokey was
going to die. His eyes were dull, he was having trouble regulating his
temperature, his breathing was fast and labored, and the pain was overwhelming
him. My husband and I rushed him to the vet, wrapped in towels. They were
waiting for him and immediately gave him a shot of Torbutrol (butorphanol) for
pain. His rectal temp had increased to 100F. That's when my vet told me if Pokey
were a dog, she would think he had bloat. This condition is a medical emergency
that many dogs and cows succumb to. The prognosis is poor in
and rather miraculously, with continuous at home care aimed at relieving the
symptoms, Pokey recovered. Other buns have not been so lucky. I believe this is
because most vets in this country do not realize or understand that bloat exists
in rabbits. Pokey's story is not unusual. Since his bloat episode, many people
from across the country have contacted me with similar stories. After 2 foster
rabbits developed bloat and died within hours of its onset in September 2003, I
realized how imperative it is to get this information
GI Stasis VS Bloat:
cared for many rabbits through the years, I have witnessed GI Stasis and Bloat.
There are subtle differences between the two conditions, but prompt recognition
and treatment determine the outcome. Whereas GI Stasis has a prognosis of fair
to good, the prognosis for bloat is poor to guarded.
GI Stasis develops
slowly, and it is usually several days before you suspect that something "isn't
right" with your bunny. You may begin to notice that he eats his food more
slowly, or may even leave his food and come back to it later. Food preferences
may change and you may find him preferring hay to his usual meal of pellets and
fresh veggies. By the time this happens, your bun is most likely on his way to
developing stasis. In my experience the first real indicator that your bun
"isn't right" is in his litter box. Subtle changes in fecal pellets, that is, a
smaller size, a change in shape from perfectly round to oval, a change in
consistency or quantity, often indicates a disruption in digestion. This is the
reason it is so important to know what is "normal" for your bunny. It helps you
identify the "abnormal" more quickly. While there are many reasons for GI Stasis
to develop, you usually have time to get to the vet and initiate medical
treatment of subcutaneous fluids, simethicone, analgesics for pain, and possible
motility drugs if there is no indication of an
GI Stasis, bloat happens suddenly and without warning. One minute your bun is
eating, drinking, eliminating, and playing normally, the next minute he is
depressed, moribund, and stops eating, drinking, and playing. Just like that. A
bunny rapidly decompensates with bloat, and immediate veterinary intervention is
crucial to his survival. A lower than normal body temperature (under 100F)
usually occurs causing the bun to go into shock. Current literature from the UK
reveals bloat is caused by a blockage or obstruction in the GI tract, that may
be due to a foreign body (carpet) or tricobezoar (hairball). During postmortem
exams on rabbits whose cause of death was GI Stasis or bloat, Dr. Paul Flecknell
found an obstruction at the exit to the stomach (pylorus or duodenal flexure).
The tissue at this site was often dead (necrotic). He also found instances in
which the lining of the stomach had eroded with bleeding present. While not
specifically documented, this creates the possibility that ulcers and/or scar
tissue could be precursors to bloat. A study by Hinton (1980) showed 7% of all
rabbits necropsied had gastric ulcers. Considering the nature of rabbits as prey
animals, it makes sense that rabbits could and do develop stress ulcers. It is
known that gastric ulceration in rabbits can develop form pain and fear due to
catecholamine (epinephrine) release, and also with reduced gut motility such as
repeated episodes of stasis. I realize this is mere speculation on my part, but
believe this is possible and that more research is needed.
physical exam, symptoms of bloat include dehydration, an "abnormal" feeling
abdomen, that is, distended from an accumulation of gas (tympany), and a low
body temperature. While blood work may be also be done, an abdominal x-ray is
the most diagnostic tool. X-rays carry a significant risk in bloat because the
rabbit is often on the verge of cardiovascular collapse due to the pressure the
gas places on the chest cavity. Care must first be taken to stabilize the rabbit
with fluids and pain meds. It is my experience that rabbits often become
non-responsive due to the electrolyte imbalances, pain and shock associated with
this condition. Harcourt-Brown states electrolyte imbalances may cause the
rabbit to experience twitching, blindness and convulsions in the terminal stages
of this condition.
x-ray of a rabbit suffering from bloat reveals a hugely distended stomach
located in the upper abdominal area, and may also reveal gas shadows in the
small intestine closest to the obstruction. The enlarged stomach places pressure
on the chest cavity and compromises lung and heart function. The compression of
the chest cavity makes it difficult for the rabbit to breathe, and often leads
to heart failure (cardiovascular collapse). However, heart failure is usually
secondary to the gas buildup in the stomach and may be the reason bloat is often
Pokey's bloat episode, I have been fortunate enough to have my personal vet
research and establish a medical protocol for bloat that increases the rabbit's
chance of survival. While treatment is not always successful, it provides the
rabbit with relief from the gastric distention, and pain medication to deal with
the excruciating pain of bloat. This is a comfort to me and I am very grateful
to her. None of the other vets in the Washington, DC-Metro area, including the
many emergency vet hospitals that treat rabbits, provide this life saving
the diagnosis of bloat has been determined, the rabbit needs to be given warmed
Lactated Ringers solution,preferably intravenously. Rabbits cannot absorb
subcutaneous fluids when they are in shock. In addition, an external heat source
to regulate body temperature, and analgesics for pain are also necessary. Once
the bunny's condition is stabilized, a stomach tube is placed to decompress the
stomach. My vet usually uses a red rubber catheter (Fr 15). A 20 cc syringe
usually provides enough suction to withdraw the stomach contents manually. A
rabbit's mouth and esophagus limits the size of the stomach tube that can be
inserted, so that in many cases the small sized tube becomes clogged with food
particles and fur. If this happens, the tube needs to be repositioned and gently
irrigated until the stomach contents are withdrawn. A rabbit's stomach should
never be decompressed with a needle puncture, or peritonitis and death can
the rabbit responds to treatment, he can be given simethicone and have gentle
abdominal massage to break up the gas bubbles. As improvement continues he
should be encouraged to engage in some mild exercise to reestablish normal GI
movement, and provided with a wide variety of veggies to encourage eating.
Interest in exercise and eating is a good prognostic sign. There is a
possibility that gastric distention associated with bloat can recur. I know of
one bun who re-bloated 2 more times during a two-day period and eventually
succumbed to this condition. Usually if a rabbit bloats a second time within a
two day period, my vet encourages euthanasia. Surgery to remove the obstruction
should only be used as a last resort.
What To Look For:
article was originally written in layman's terms so everyone would be able to
understand the phenomenon of bloat. I now realize the importance of sharing this
information with your vet and have included more comprehensive and technical
information. However, if you are unable to get to a vet in time, or unable to
find a vet willing to tube your bunny, the following is what I learned when
Pokey went into bloat and the symptomatic treatment I
Be alert to a very sudden change in eating habits. If your bun stops eating his
usual meal of pellets and veggies without warning, give him simethicone and call
your vet immediately.
Check your bun's temperature with a rectal thermometer. The ears regulate the
the body temperature. If they start to feel cool to touch, chances are his body
temperature is falling. A normal rabbit temp is 102-104F. Any temp under 100F is
a medical emergency. This usually means the rabbit's system is shutting down and
he is going into shock. Grab a heating pad (on low), and wrap it around your
bun. When you transport him, wrap him in warm towels to maintain his body
Get your bun to the vet immediately! Often the pain is so great, the bun gives
up. A shot of pain medicine was crucial to Pokey's
Fluids are necessary to keep the bun hydrated and to help overcome shock. The
quickest and least stressful way to accomplish this is with subcutaneous fluids.
Your vet can show you how to do this at home. If your rabbit's condition is too
far deteriorated, IV fluids are necessary because subcutaneous fluids cannot be
absorbed. Simethicone is necessary to relieve gas buildup. Laxatone is often
prescribed but its use is controversial. We gave Pokey a small amount of
Laxatone after he was hydrated and it seemed to help. Additionally,
Metaclopramide or Cisapride activates the GI system. DO NOT give this without
your vet's knowledge because the stomach can rupture if an obstruction is
Keep your bun in a warm environment. We placed Pokey in a small room upstairs
and closed the vent to the AC. The room temperature was 81F all night. I believe
this helped him to stay warm.
Give your bun a small area to run. Pokey was allowed to roam around if he wanted
to, which he did. Exercise encourages the GI System to move. In addition, a
gentle stomach massage can help break up the gas as
The next morning (Day 2)
temperature was 102.4F and he started to eat hay and passed tiny, misshapened
fecal pellets. As previously mentioned, I gave him a large dose of Laxatone,
which helped him. By noon, he passed a few blobs of foul smelling goop and then
passed gas the rest of the day. His bowel sounds became more active and the next
day we started feeding him pellets that he ate directly from his food bowl. His
diet was gradually advanced and by Day 4, Pokey was back to normal. In
comparison, it took 2 weeks of constant home care and daily treatment before he
recovered from GI Stasis last year.
been through these two medical situations with Pokey in the last 1-1/2 years, I
firmly believe Bloat can be a primary disorder which can occur suddenly and
without warning, as well as a complication of GI
special thank you to Wendy Behm, DVM at Blue Ridge Veterinary Associates in
Purcellville, VA (540-338-7387) for reviewing this article.
For a completed article and a list of references, please email:
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What Everyone Should Know
What is it?
Having cared for many rabbits through the years, I have witnessed GI
Stasis and Bloat. There are subtle differences between the two conditions, but
prompt recognition and treatment determine the outcome. Whereas GI Stasis has a
prognosis of fair to good, the prognosis for bloat is poor to guarded. Unlike
GI Stasis, bloat happens suddenly and without warning. One minute your bun is
eating, drinking, eliminating, and playing normally, the next minute he is
depressed, moribund, and stops eating, drinking, and playing. Just like that. A
bunny rapidly decompensates with bloat, and immediate veterinary intervention
is crucial to his survival.
FROM DANA KREMPELS, Yahoo
No one is really sure about the ultimate cause of
bloat. It may be bacterial at first, with Clostridium species (possibly
perfringens, which produces a lot of gas) producing gas. But because the rabbit
intestine just posterior to the stomach takes a very sharp turn, it appears that
if the stomach has even a slight blockage or gas buildup that pinches that turn
just the wrong way, an irreversible bloat can occur. The only relief is gastric
gavage (sticking a tube down the throat to suction out liquid and gas) or even
puncturing the stomach with a needle through the body wall.
Rabbits can - and do - suffer from gas. If ignored, painful gas can cause
a rabbit to stop eating and go into gastrointestinal stasis, the slowing or
complete cessation of normal intestinal movement. This can be fatal if not
treated. Gas can also be the result of stasis.
Rabbits that have gas often
exhibit one or more of the following symptoms: loud gurgling noises coming from
the rabbit's stomach; hard, taut stomach; lethargy; and significant decrease in
appetite. Often, this is the first sign of gas. When suffering from gas, some
rabbits sit hunched up, with their eyes partially closed, some will sit with
their stomachs pressed into the floor, or upright with an unnaturally straight
Important: Gastric Dilation (Volvulus) or severe 'bloat'
is not the same as a gas episode. With bloat, the stomach becomes extremely hard
and grossly distended which can cause the blood supply to be cut off from the
stomach or intestine. Bloat can quickly lead to shock and death. If you suspect
bloat, do not massage the rabbit's abdomen, which could make the situation
worse. Seek immediate veterinarian attention.
*Please note: This protocol is not appropriate for a rabbit
suffering from bloat (very hard, distended stomach).
be immediately resolved by a veterinarian.
Do not attempt to treat
Do not attempt to massage a bloated bunny:
can lead to lethal complications.
Basic At-Home Protocol for Rabbits with
- Simethicone: Baby gas meds. Required.
Hydration, Hydration: If they will drink on their own, try spiking water
with a bit of apple juice or vanilla extract.
If they aren't feeling
, syringe some water into their mouths.
have the knowledge to do sub-cutaneous injection, it is more efficient and
faster than oral rehydration.
(children's rehydration drink)
is super for re-hydrating buns.
Make with the Fibre: Break out the canned pumpkin, and let them eat on
their own. Again, uncooperative buns can be coerced with a syringe.
Pro-biotics: Bene-bac will help balance internal systems (gut flora).
- Get some exercise: Let bunny out for a scamper, play an active game
together to get the body moving both inside and out.
therapy: When a bun is gassy (stomach distended, but nothard), a
gentle tummy rub or massage with a vibrating toothbrush can make break up the
gas quite a bit. Plop them on top of the washing machine or dryer for more
- Keep warm!: Methods include towels warmed in the
dryer, a Snuggle Safe, a pop bottle full of warm water, a hot water bottle, a
rice sock (fill an old sock with rice and microwave a few minutes), or
supervised use of a heating pad (to make sure bunny doesn't chew on it).
As always, be sure to consult with your veterinarian should the situation
not improve significantly. Remember, no gut motility drugs(Propulsid
[Cisapride]/Reglan [Metoclopramide]) should be given without an x-ray for
blockages. Such administration may have lethal consequences.
Read a more in-depth version of the protocol here: GI
Stasis: What Everyone Should Know
References: Gas, Ileus and Stasis, Bloat
Rabbit Stops Eating: Gas Remedy
- Extra Strength Maalox GRF Gas Relief Formula
- Baby's Own Infant Drops
- Maalox GRF Gas Relief Formula
- Phazyme Drops
Simethicone Liquid: 1 cc by mouth 2 times
daily will help keep the gas moving through your bun's digestive