Gut Stasis in Small Animals – For Bunny & Piggy Owners

The other week, our house bun Biscuit went very quiet around 10pm. He usually goes nuts when we give him his night-time nuggets, jumping in and out of the cage, but that night he just lay there uninterested. I knew something was up so first thing the next morning (still lethargic, still not touched his food) I got him into the vets. When any small animal stops eating it’s serious, but I’d seen him eat hay around 10pm so thought 10-11 hours later things would still be okay. The vet said he had a couple of spurs on his teeth (a common bunny thing) and that he’d already gone into gut stasis (very serious). This is basically when the stomach/intestinal tract stops working and whatever may already be in there starts to bloat the animal with gas. They said they’d have to knock him out and file the spurs off his teeth and that if he came around from that then we’d have to try and get his gut moving again. I’ve had experience of this with a piggy who stopped eating after her cage-mate died of old age and she didn’t recover 😦 so we were devastated to think Biscuit might die from this.

Thankfully he came around from the anaesthetic and we were able to take him home but he needed pain killers and medicine to get his stomach moving again. We also had to syringe feed him some recovery food which is powder mixed with water to make a super nutritious paste.  We managed to get this down him while he was still a little groggy from being knocked out which I do think is what saved his life. A few hours later he picked at some food and had pooped so I was really hopeful that he was on his way to recovering. The next day he was like a different rabbit: perky, eating proper food and running around. I was SO relieved. The vets gave him the all clear and he’s good as new. The teeth thing might never happen again or it could happen any time and the vet has basically said they wouldn’t do anything anyway until the point it got to where he couldn’t eat as the only way to deal with it is to knock him out which is obviously a risk in itself. His diet has changed to more nuggets and less veg to keep his teeth down as much as possible.

Just wanted to put this down here so that you can look out for signs in your own animal. If your small animal stops eating or going to the toilet – do not wait to take it to the vet! Biscuit had eaten less than 10 hours before and he nearly died.

  • Watch out for signs that eating is painful.
  • Check front teeth regularly.
  • Check that they’re still going to the toilet.
  • If your animal stops eating or becomes lethargic get him/her to the vets immediately.
  • Have some recovery food to hand and syringe it into their mouths if they’ll take it (rubbing the throat gently can encourage them to swallow). Always go in behind the front teeth and never squirt it directly down the back of the throat or you could choke them.
  • Gut stasis can be caused by other factors such as stress, not just teeth problems.

I’m (obviously) not a vet – I’m just giving you my experience so you can look for the signs in your furry and have the best chance of them surviving should something happen.

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