February 2019

Gastrointestinal Stasis in the Rabbit:

By Dr. Jennifer L. Martin, DVM, CFD

Gastrointestinal stasis is a common disease seen in the pet rabbit. This disease has been mistakenly known as wool block, hair balls, or trichobezoars. Rabbits with gastrointestinal stasis commonly have hair accumulation in the stomach, but this is a result of gastrointestinal stasis rather than the cause of the disease.

Gastrointestinal Stasis Rabbit

Owners may state that their rabbit’s appetite has decreased and that the fecal pellets have become scant, dry, and small. The owner may also notice that the rabbit is reluctant to move, sits hunched up, and grinds its teeth, which are indications of abdominal pain.

Veterinary technicians should be sure to obtain a thorough history of the rabbit’s diet and exercise, and any recent stressful events such as household changes, new caging, illness, or surgery. When questioning the client about the rabbit’s diet, be sure to ask specifically what the rabbit’s normal diet consists of including pellets, hay, and other treats.

Causes of gastrointestinal stasis may include stress, pain, illness, or poor diet. A common cause of gastrointestinal disease in the rabbit is inadequate fiber in the diet.

Upon physical examination, the abdomen may fill doughy and firm, or solid and firm if the rabbit is dehydrated, with few or no borborygmi heard on auscultation. Be sure to thoroughly examine the rabbit for underlying diseases, such as dental disease, which may have led to anorexia.

Treatment of gastrointestinal stasis includes rehydration, administration of prokinetics, appetite stimulants, pain relievers, providing nutritional support, and treating any underlying illnesses.

Dr. Martin is the Veterinary Technician Program Director at Colby Community College in Colby, Kansas.

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