Gas & GI Stasis in Rabbits

Rabbits' digestive tracts are very delicate, and almost every rabbit owner will have to help their rabbit through a bout of gas or stasis over the course of a bunny's life.

New! Check out a great video on helping with rabbit gas pain at the bottom of this page. 

The basics:

  • Rabbits have to have a constant supply of timothy hay to keep both their teeth and their GI tracts healthy. Hay keeps the gut moving, and, unlike in humans, rabbits' digestive processes are constant. 
  • Stasis means motionlessness. If a rabbit's guts are motionless, or in stasis, it means that something is interfering with the process of digestion and processing of food through the guts and out as poop. The cause could be anything from gas to a full blockage of the connection between the stomach and guts. 
  • Gas and stasis are very, very painful for your rabbit. Think about your own belly being full of gas and not being able to 'get rid of it.' That's what stasis is like for your bunny. It's critical to manage your bunny's pain and discomfort along with the other symptoms of stasis.
  • First aid includes making sure your bunny is warm, hydrated, treated for gas, and treated for pain.

Please download this excellent article on gas, stasis, and how to help your rabbit.

Our process for managing stasis:

Remember, we are not veterinarians. Consult your vet if you suspect gastric stasis or gas in your rabbit.

  • Know what to look for. If your rabbit is hunched, antisocial, and grinding his or her teeth loudly, this is a sign of pain and could be caused by gas. Other rabbits indicate stomach discomfort by repeatedly switching positions while lying on the floor, and they just can't seem to get comfortable. 
  • Have a good 'test' ready. Many rabbits have a favorite treat that they will never refuse. If you suspect your rabbit is in discomfort, 'test' him or her with the treat. If you suspect your rabbit isn't feeling well, and he or she won't accept the treat, this is a good indicator something is wrong and you should contact your vet.  
  • Keep simethicone on hand. Liquid simethicone is the ingredient in Baby or Infant gas drops, which are available over the counter in drugstores and many supermarkets. We administer between .5 and 1cc of liquid simethicone orally, using a syringe with no needle. Liquid simethicone is like Tums for people, and we have never experienced a rabbit having an adverse reaction to it. We administer a dose and wait for 30-45 minutes, while also trying other methods (below). If the first dose doesn't work, we don't hesitate to administer another.
  • Keep Metacam (meloxicam) on hand. Metacam is a pain reliever for bunnies. You can only get Metacam from your vet, and you should also be sure to find out what the appropriate dose is for your bunny's weight. Ask your doctor if you can have some metacam to keep on hand for emergencies like gas or stasis. Remember, metacam can ONLY be administered once very 24 hours. We give metacam with the first dose of simethicone. 
  • If your bunny is in too much pain to be managed with Metacam, ask your vet about burprenorphine. Buprenorphine, or Buprenex, is a narcotic, and can only be perscribed by your vet. It can be much more powerful than Metacam in managing the your rabbit's pain. In our experience, it can be used simultaneously with Metacam.
  • Keep your bunny moving.This can be difficult when your bunny doesn't feel well, but moving around can help your bunny get his or her gut moving again. 
  • Keep your bunny warm. Pain can cause bunnies to go into shock, which can be deadly. Help to avoid shock by keeping your bunny warm. If your bunny is cold, put a dry towel into the dryer to heat it up and wrap your bunny in the warm towel. You can also use your own body heat and a blanket or towel to keep your bunny warm, or consider purchasing a Snuggle Safe, which you can heat to a safe temperature in the microwave and place under your bunny's bed.
  • Gently massage your bunny's tummy. Be careful, because bunnies are delicate inside and out. Your goal is to encourage the gas to move through the bunny's gut and out. Note that bunnys can't burp, so the only exit is through...the back end. This article on stasis (mentioned above also) has some great photos of bunny tummy massage technique.
  • Keep your eye on hydration. You can use a small syringe to gently give your bunny a bit of water. Be careful to go very slowly and let your bunny process the water. You can also ask your vet about subcutaneous (sub-q) fluids. These are injected under the skin on the back of the neck out of a bag of fluids that looks like the IV fluids that are given to humans. Your vet will administer sub-q fluids, and can teach you how to do so and provide the supplies to take home if necessary. 
  • Keep recovery foods on hand. We always have canned pumpkin and squash baby food on hand for recovering bunnys. You can offer this on its own or mix it with a few pellets that you have soaked in water. You can also use Critical Care. Be sure to keep open packages of Critical Care in the fridge, and respect the expiration date on the package after it is opened. 

 

Here's a great video featuring Mary Cotter and bunny lover Amy Sedaris. Check out these ideas for helping your bunny with this massage technique.