Every rabbit owner should read all the articles on this page http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/rabbithealth.html
It is a must, if you don’t and you have a bunny with you, I am sure you will regret when you lose them one day.
Okay, I am not going to get into much detail on GI Stasis (in short and as far as I understand, it is a partial or full shutdown of a rabbits gastrointestinal system) as you can find hundreds of articles about the illness if you do a google search. What I will be explaining here is what we went through when our pet rabbit was struck with the illness and what we learnt from it. Here I am referring to ‘we’ as me, Maddie and Sloppy the minilop.
Every morning before I leave for work I give Sloppy a pile (size of his body) fresh oaten hay and a bawl of fresh water. When we get back we give him vegies, fruits (occationally) and Oxbow adult pellets (1/5 of a cup). Monday the 28th July 2014 was such a day, we left home and came back. Today Maddie went out to give him his share of vegies, and asked me to come down as she found that the he hasn’t drunk any water from his bawl or hasn’t even got into his hay pile as it was exactly the way I gave it to him.
We normally keep and good eye on his behaviour as almost two years ago he had a stomach upset and partially stopped eating for two days. Since then I would normally run my palm and fingers through his *stomach* (cecum area to be specific) and feel how hard it is. I do this every other day. So I did the same and I felt it was bit stiff was around 1-1.5 inch at least. So felt the left side of his stomach as well but it was normal (you will understand what normal is when you feel your rabbits tummy everyday for few weeks). Maddie asked me to bring him inside the house because when she gave him greens he ate abit and went out the backyard to play with her, normally he would eat at least half and beg for pellets as well. We knew that rabbits should eat and produce dropings all the time, so we brought him inside the house which he liked very much as well.
His room was upstairs where he had his hay container and water bawl, so brought him in and offered some parsley and english spanish, he had a parsley leaf or two and came to my room where he would lie down and relax next to my desk where he could see mee. Since we both were bit worried I started moving from room to room so he followed me. We knew the best thing for a rabbit with a slow moving gut is exercices. Oh as well as lot of fluids.
Hour or two went past but didn’t really eat anything but he was bright as any-other day. Around 8:30 (after two hours) or so we read online that we should force feed feed water or some enzymes such as papaya or pineapple juice. So Maddie asked me to go and buy some of that and a syringe before the shops close. I could only find papaya and two 3ml and 5ml syringes. Came back home around 9:30 and Maddie made him a papaya juice with a bit of water to make it sort of watery and I gave around 2ml-3ml and 2ml of water.
His gut was hard like I said and I also noticed that it was a bit swollen. So I thought we shouldn’t feed him any more food (which was not appropriate though, read on), Maddie suggested that we should give him more papaya juice every two hours or so and water but I rejected the proposal. We just fed another 2ml of water around 12:30am and went to bed, decided that Maddie should take him to the vet tomorrow. As we were *sort of* worried (6/10 I would say) and knew stomach upsets are bad for rabbits. After almost 6 hours he didn’t even produce a single dropping.
When I was getting ready for work he was up already and bright as usual, following me from room to room while I was getting ready. I gave him another parsley leaf but didn’t eat, also a pellet but he rejected both. I asked Maddie to not wait for that long and take him to Dr. Alex Rosenwax at early as possible. Dr. Alex was his regular vet since we showed Sloppy to him the first day. Alex is a very experianced bird and exotics vet in Sydney.
Maddie went to the clinic around 10am and said that doctor wanted Sloppy to be admitted immediately and he might not be able to come home for two days as it very neccessary to make sure that he eats and poops. They also suggested that we need X-Rays to confirm that there is no obstruction before treating him. X-Rays were clean as no foreigh object was in his body, so Maddie left him there and called me and explained to me that they will give him probiotics, laxatives to make him poop. We were relaxed.
Maddie called up again around end of the day to see how he is doing, but doctor confirmed that he hasn’t pooped but has pee’ed, and also said 95% of such rabbits would produce droppings once they receive those laxatives. So they would treat this as a critical case and force feed him water and baby food as well as antibiotics to make sure his gut and liver can handle bacteria in the gut.
We both went to work today and also took the pet carrier as we knew we wanted to bring him back as soon as recovers and treat him at home.
We called the hospital around the midday but they said he hasn’t really produced any droppings yet so were worried now. Maddie suggested that we should go to the hospital and see him. So we did. I saw him for the first time after two days and his stomach was swollen on both sides and hard as a brick. I was shocked to see him like that, I gave him my hand as he likes to lick my fingers but he didn’t, I also cleaned his left ear with finger as couldn’t because of his splay leg. He normally lick the finger after cleaning his ear but today he didn’t, that was enough indication that he wasn’t really at his 50%. He occasionally ground his teeth as well. We both were upset. Dr Andrew was there that day and explained that Sloppy is not really doing good but they force feed him lot of water and baby food with pain killers to help him.
We discussed what options Sloppy got at the time and doctor said we will have to give him sometime as some rabbits take more time to recover from the condition than others, and surgery would be the last option but survival rate of a gastrointestinal surgery for a rabbit is extremely low, less than 50%.
We came home with tears on our eyes. We couldn’t really sleep that night thinking about what he sort of pain he is going through, but hoped he would produce droppings at least tonight or tomorrow morning. We spent pretty much the whole night looking for another person with a similar experience, and any information regarding what we can do to ease his pain and help him with his condition, and I found this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNSQsWWb4io I thought of performing that massage to Sloppy hoping it would make any difference.
We both went to work today and also made a call early morning to find out how Sloppy did last night. He was the same. Maddie said we should go in the evening. So we thought we should bring some red towels as that was his favourite colour so he likes to mark those with his pee and droppings. We thought red towels would stimulate him, so we went to the hospital and the staff asked us to go into one of the two rooms they had and came in with Sloppy.
Maddie laid the towels on the floor and we put him on the floor. Maddie gave him lot of cuddles and kisses I was massaging two sides of his tummy with my fingers with enough pressure not to hurt him, it was gentle but I did it for at least 10-15mins. I also picked him up (with his belly up) and head between my elbow and body as shown in the above video. And massaged his tummy for 30secs to 1min. Then back to massaging both sides of tummy again for another 5min or so, I also kept my ears to his stomach area and listened weather I can hear any gut movements, I heard sort of a stomach movement for a second but nothing much. Doctors came into the room and gave us and heads up saying they need to give medication before they leave work and we have another few minutes with sloppy, that was around 5:40pm. Around 5:50pm Dr Alex came in and took Sloppy away. He also asked us weather we want to go ahead with a GI surgery tomorrow and explained that survival rate is extremely low. But we said will still do that to save him if nothing else would work by Friday morning. He agreed, Dr Alex told us that we can come and see him tomorrow morning before the surgery if we need to, we said probably not, as we were weak at the time. We went home with a heavy heart.
We couldn’t really sleep, woke up very early got ready and went to work thinking what we should do if he hasn’t pooped by today. We knew surgery could be extremely dangerous and difficult in a sense that extreme medical care is neccessary after the surgery. Also we knew that most rabbits can’t make it through the anesthetic process as well.
I came to work, and told Maddie that I would talk to the doctors today as she didn’t really want to make decisions as of today. I received a call from Maddie just after she dropped me off at work, she was crying on the other end. She said “Sloppy pooped, but he also has passed away.”, it was a shocker, we both drove back to the hospital again. approx 10 mins from the city, where we work. Dr Alex was there and said though Sloppy pooped last night around 6:20pm, that was exactly 30mins after we left, he also admitted that he probably pooped because we massaged his tummy and did some exercises with him. But he really doesn’t know why he died even after producing droppings. He said if we don’t mind he would like to proceed with a necropsy for his and staff’s benefit to better understand Sloppy’s illness, I agreed as I wanted save another rabbit from the same disease in future. He also said the only regret he has is no one was with him last night.
Both Maddie and I have the same regret as of today, two days after his death. I still see him running around the backyard and following me from room to room, sleep next to my feet when I work. I thought of writing this post not to say how depressed we are now but to give someone a better understand the GI Stasis. So now I am gonna proceed explaining what we could have done differently to possibly save him.
Dr. Alex called me after the post-mortem and said he didn’t really have any dried hay or food in his tummy, and his organs were good as far as he could see, but bit of lumps in the stomach area. They still don’t really have a successful answer.
What could have we done differently?
The question which echoed in my head since the moment I heard that upsetting news. I am writing this in point form, based on priority as far as I understand this illness.
1. I could have checked his tummy more often (at least everyday if not twice a day) to see if it was hard or not.
2. Once we discovered that his tummy was hard on the first day, and not producing any dropings. I could have done what Maddie told me, force feed him water and enzymes (papaya juice or pineapple juice) in small amounts more frequently, every two hours or so the whole night. Also force feed lot of water since the first day.
4. We could have massaged his tummy and perform the exercise that is shown on the video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNSQsWWb4io) since the first day. Massaging is the most beneficial of all for GI stasis on par with enough hydration, cannot emphasise any more about how effective this can be if you do right. So look the video number of times, back off if bunny doesn’t like it or try a different posture, pressure and try again.
5. We could have taken him back home with medication and not leave him in the hospital with other animals and no one to take care of him. And could have taken back to hospital on the following day. I would still do this if lived closeby, because stressing out a sick rabbit is not really good in any way. Right now I think I could have booked a hotel room but too late now.
Little about Sloppy
Sloppy was a three and half year old male minilop, who had E. Cuniculi and a splay leg (we think it was a birth defect). He had to go through his first surgery when he was around 8-9months, when his left eye had abscess due to E.Cuniculi, he recovered from it pretty well.
He was very playful and always run after us, he liked red towels, blankets, pretty much any soft cloth that is red. Since his early days he was on 1/4 cups of Oxbow pellets every other day or so and lots of fresh hay and greens, not much veggies but occational fruit such as strawberries or tiny bits of pear, apples, oranges. He was a happy bunny who had lot of exercises and freely roamed in the backyard when there was enough shade, also at nights till we go to bed. Few days a week he spent time with us indoors, thats when he pee’d on all the red cloths he could find :)
If your bunny has a hard tummy or if she/he doesn’t eat or poop or produces small droppings then you should consult your exotic vet immediately, in the meantime get a syringe and feed him lot of water. Again I can’t emphasize any more how effective a tummy massage can be, look at that 7 year old video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNSQsWWb4io), I found it when it was too late to save him. Once you have required medication and if you can put in 8-10 hours a day during GI stasis don’t leave him in the hospital at night, bring him/her back home and do those massages gently and feed them lot of water. Once your bunny recovered from his first episode of GI stasis, make sure you check his tummy every day, keep a good eye on his droppings, shape, size, frequency, etc. That’s what good bunny parents do.