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.
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.
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?
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.
o Ask your veterinarian for a handout on proper rabbit nutrition including healthy veggies, greens, and treats.