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Thursday, 18 February 2021 08:54

Gastrointestinal bloat in Rabbits

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By Dr S. K Mandizha ( BVSc/UZ)


Rabbits have a complex gastrointestinal (GI) tract, when compared to other species like dogs and cats. Their GI system has been designed to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients out of any of the foods they eat. Re-eating some of their faeces (also known as caecotrophy) to allow for re-processing of nutrients that weren’t absorbed the first time through. Unfortunately, this makes them prone to developing problems. 


Many of these are problems are easily treatable however some are life-threatening. Today’s article looks at one of the most serious conditions that rabbits suffer from – gastrointestinal bloat. 


What is it? 

Gastrointestinal bloat in rabbits generally occurs when there is a blockage in the GI tract, most commonly in the first segments of the intestine. Since rabbits are unable to vomit or eructate effectively meaning that the only way ingesta can leave the stomach is through the passage to the anus.When ingesta is broken down in the stomach; gas and different types of liquid are produced, leading to more stomach contents than just the food that was first ingested. When an intestinal blockage occurs, it leads to the stomach becoming enlarged. If a blockage occurs in the intestines there is now nowhere for the stomach contents to go, which leads to the stomach becoming enlarged or bloated. As the stomach enlarges it compresses a number of blood vessels which lead to your rabbit’s blood supply network being disrupted which can become lifethreatening. The stomach also can get so large that it ruptures. 


What is it caused by? 

Most cases have it being caused by the blockage of the early intestinal segment which can be by a combination of hairs and food particles that have been ingested by your rabbit. This hair/food combination forms together to form a small ball that is called a trichobezoar. Other foreign items can also be ingested by your rabbit and cause blockages; in one of the cases small pebbles are to blame for the obstruction. 


What are the signs to watch out for? 

There is general deterioration within a few hours of rabbits that have a complete gastrointestinal blockage. These affected rabbits will generally go from being perfectly normal to very sick and not wanting to move. They generally won’t want to eat anything, will not be moving much and are often sitting in a hunched position. On palpation their abdomen will feel bloated and painful. If your rabbit is showing any of these signs getting them to your nearest veterinarian as quickly as possible is very important. 


How is it diagnosed?

In most cases your veterinarian will be able to have a fair idea that your rabbit may be bloated from doing a physical examination which also includes palpating their abdomen. Radiographs (x-rays) can be taken in most cases to assess the severity and treatment options. Blood glucose measurement (which involves taking a small amount of blood from your rabbit) can also confirm the blockage. 

Is it treatable? Bloat is life threatening and in many cases your rabbit will succumb to it if you do not seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. The main options for treatment once at the vet include emergency surgery to relieve the obstruction or high levels of fluid therapy and pain relief (as well as other supportive treatments).  


How do I prevent it from occurring? 

This condition is difficult to prevent completely however ensuring your rabbit has a good diet and that they are regularly brushed or shaved (to minimize hair ingestion) does help to minimize their risk. If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact us at Highglen Pet Boarding Services on the following contact numbers: 


0776 531 819

0737 188 274 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


7787 Kuwadzana 2 Harare Zimbabwe. 




Read 451 times Last modified on Thursday, 18 February 2021 08:58


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