Gastric Stasis or GI Stasis is the term used when a bunny’s digestive system stops functioning.
Signs for Gastric Stasis:
• Small or no feces
• Not eating or drinking
• Sitting facing the corner of the hutch.
• Blockage in the stomach or intestine from hair, fibers from carpets, drapes, stuffed toys etc, even fibers from celery if the pieces are not cut small enough.
• Gas buildup from vegetables or other eaten plants
• Nausea which can occur after anesthesia has been used
GI Stasis is often attributed to hairballs. Hairballs can occur in a bunny, but unlike a cat, the rabbit cannot regurgitate accumulated hair from their stomach. The hair is not digestible, and can become entangled with other matter in the stomach, thus blocking the exit from the stomach into the intestinal tract. However, the most common cause of Gastric Stasis is an incorrect diet.
Having a very small body, the bunny cannot store large amounts of fiber. However, fiber is essential for your bunny’s health as is a proper concentration of carbohydrates. Large indigestible fiber is needed to stimulate the movement through the GI Tract and proper amounts of carbohydrates are necessary to help the cecum perform properly. The smaller digestible portions provide nutrients that are absorb and used to keep your rabbit healthy.
A rabbit’s stomach breaks down food particles, fluid helps keep the food moist so it can continue flowing through the entire digestive system. As the food particles move through the small intestine, nutrients are extracted and more fluid is added to help the remaining particles move through the large intestine and the cecum. When a rabbit becomes dehydrated, the proper amount of fluid is not present throughout the digestive system causing the food particles to become dry. The dry food particles do not move through your bunny’s digestive system properly thus slowing the movement through the GI tract.
As the GI Tract slows, it takes longer for the food to flow through the rabbit’s digestive system. The longer the food remains in the digestive system, the more fluid is extracted and the dryer the particles become until there is not enough fluid to move the remaining particles. As the GI tract slows, the bunny stops eating and drinking (because they still feel full), thus making the condition even worse. The dry particles then accumulate blocking the exit from the stomach and/or accumulating in the cecum and eventually cause the GI Tract to stop altogether, thus causing GI Stasis.
It is very important that your bunny receive a diagnosis and treatment at the first signs of this problem as GI Stasis can be fatal within 24 to 48 hours after the GI tract begins to slow down.
Treatments that you can start immediately at home can make a big difference in saving the life of your bunny.
First, your bunny is in pain, for a medium size bunny (7 to 9 pounds), you can give him .5ml of Infant Tylenol to relieve the pain. Also, there is probably some gas building up by this time, so you can give him about 1/4 teaspoon of Little Tummy, an over the counter gas medication for infants. Most important, give him water. Start with 12 to 24 ml of water and continue with the water every 1 to 2 hours.
Next, turn your bunny around facing you and gently rub his/her tummy from the bottom of the rib cage back and massage from side to side. This will help to move and loosen any blockage, and help create movement within the GI tract. If the bunny’s problem is gas or blockage, they will probably enjoy this massage. Just remember to be gentle. If the problem is gas or a blockage, it could hurt bunny as bad as severe gas pains can hurt a you.
Make sure you provide plenty of fresh greens (these have additional moisture that will help your rabbit) in his hutch to he can nibble on some food once the pain has diminished.
If you do not feel comfortable with this process, contact a Rabbit Educated Veterinarian for an immediate appointment so that they can begin treatment. A Rabbit Educated Veterinarian will know that this is an emergency if you give them all of the symptoms.
After treating your bunny, make sure he eats something within the first hour or two. It is very important that you get food and water into your bunny to make their intestines begin working. Generally, if you have noticed the problem soon enough, one treatment described above is enough, and your bunny will begin to improve. Continue giving water every hour or 2 until your bunny is eating and drinking normally again. If after a couple of hours, there is no change, your bunny is not eating, not drinking, and still facing the corner, contact your veterinarian for assistance.