What is it?
GI Stasis is a potentially fatal condition in rabbits and guinea pigs where the digestive system slows down or stops completely. When the intestinal tract stops moving, bad bacteria begins to release gas byproducts in the intestines causing painful bloating.
Most commonly, GI stasis is a secondary symptom of another underlying disease. The most common diseases that may lead to GI stasis include tooth overgrowth or other dental problems and gastro intestinal blockage due to hairball. Other diseases that can also cause GI stasis include abscesses, respiratory infections, kidney and bladder disease, or reproductive disease. GI stasis can also be a primary disease caused by poor quality diet, stress, or lack of exercise.
If your pet is displaying any of the following symptoms, bring him/her to your veterinarian immediately. Since rabbits and guinea pigs are prey animals in the wild, they often will hide symptoms of being sick to survive. Our domestic rabbits follow the same pattern and by the time symptoms are displayed or the rabbit is showing signs of being ill, the underlying disease is often in an advanced state.
- Decreased appetite
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargic, hiding
- Hunched posture
- Bloated abdomen
- No fecal pellets
- Small or malformed fecal pellets
- Undigested cecotrophs
o Cecotrophs look like small blackberries containing vital nutrients which are produced in the cecum of the rabbit. These are an imperative part of a rabbit’s diet.
Upon presentation to your veterinarian, your rabbit will have a complete physical exam performed. If GI stasis is suspected, your veterinarian will likely recommend X-rays to assess for the presence of gas build up, intestinal blockage, or indications of underlying disease. A thorough oral exam to evaluate the teeth will also be performed. Bloodwork may be recommended as well.
Treatment of GI stasis is typically multi-factorial and aimed at addressing dehydration, pain, and stimulating intestinal motility. More advanced treatment may be recommended depending on underlying diseases.
- Subcutaneous fluids- to maintain hydration and soften any food remaining in the intestinal tract.
- Pain medication- to alleviate discomfort associated with gas build up.
- Antibiotics- to combat overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
- Gas relief- gas-x or simethicone is often utilized to help relieve gas build-up.
- Motility drugs- to help stimulate movement in the digestive system
- Critical Care- syringe feeding this highly digestible, high nutrient food in small quantities will help stimulate the intestinal tract and provide essential nutrients.
- Continue to provide fresh water, hay, and greens should your rabbit get the urge to eat or drink on his/her own.
Prognosis for recovery is guarded to poor pending underlying disease, response to therapy, and how advanced the condition is at presentation to the veterinarian.
With early recognition of symptoms and proper aggressive treatment some rabbits & guinea pigs can make a full recovery.
How can I prevent GI Stasis in my pet?
- Bi-annual exams are a key factor in minimizing disease in pocket pets.
o As mentioned above, rabbits and guinea pigs will hide their symptoms until diseases progress to an advanced state. Therefore, it is important to have your rabbit examined by a veterinarian regularly as some conditions can be caught early. Additionally, your veterinarian will discuss your rabbit’s diet and living arrangements at each visit so potential problems can be prevented.
- Feed a proper balanced diet comprised of unlimited timothy hay, fresh vegetables and greens (2 cups per 5 lbs of body weight), and timothy pellets (1/8 – ¼ cup per 5 lbs of body weight).
o Ask your veterinarian for a handout on proper rabbit nutrition including healthy veggies, greens, and treats.
- Ensure your pet has plenty of room to exercise in a safe and supervised space.