What is G I Stasis? (Explanation & Symptoms)

Rabbits are constantly eating and should always have access to food, hay, and water. These things help keep their intestinal tracts moving. This movement of the intestines is called peristalsis. If your bunny does not get to eat or gets sick, its intestinal tract can slow down or even stop, this is known as G.I. Stasis.

G.I. Stasis (Gastrointestinal Stasis) is a very common problem in rabbits and is the medical description given when the intestinal tract slows down and even stops its normal digestives processes. 

What Causes G.I. Stasis in Rabbits?

There are many different things that can cause G.I. stasis in your rabbit. This slowdown of the digestive system can be caused by:

  • Incorrect diet: A high starch, low fiber diet will cause G.I. stasis. Rabbits need a diet high in fiber to help with G.I. motility.
  • Stress: If your pet has lost a bonded cage mate or has had a change in their environment, this may cause G.I. stasis.
  • Pain: This can be from an underlying issue such as dental disease, urinary tract infections, or excess gas build-up.
  • Not exercising: When your rabbit is exercising, they are not only working out the muscles around their bones but also the muscles that line the intestines.
  • Obstruction: A rabbit can have an intestinal obstruction either from a number of things including improper foods and hair.

When their intestines stop moving, harmful bacteria can build up in a rabbit’s abdomen.  These bacteria release a lot of extra gas into the intestines which can be very painful. 

rabbit with G.I. Stasis

If your rabbit ever stops eating, this is an emergency, and your rabbit needs to see a veterinarian as soon as possible for an examination.

Signs of G.I. Stasis in Rabbits

Rabbits with G.I. Stasis may have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Small hard fecal balls or no fecal balls at all
  • Not eating their cecotropes or food
  • Inactivity & lethargy
  • Not drinking
  • Sitting in a hunched (loafed) position and not wanting to move

If you notice any of these signs in your rabbit, take them to your veterinarian immediately.  Your veterinarian can examine your rabbit and get them started on a treatment right away for G.I. Stasis.

How Do You Treat G.I. Stasis in Rabbits?

If your rabbit has G.I. Stasis, it is best to keep them warm and get them to a veterinarian.

They will start your rabbit on medication to help your rabbits’ intestines to move, food to syringe feed your rabbits and fluids to help keep your rabbit hydrated.

In very extreme cases, your rabbit may have to have surgery to remove the blockage, this in itself is very risky and risks damage or irritation to the delicate stomach lining.

Rabbit xray of blocked stomach

These are some of the most common treatments that your veterinarian will give your rabbit to help with G.I. Stasis.

  • Motility drugs: Cisapride or metoclopramide (Reglan) will help stimulate movement in the digestive system
  • IV or SubQ fluids: Depending on how dehydrated your animal is, your veterinarian may give your rabbit fluids in the vein (IV) or under the skin (SubQ). These help keep your rabbit hydrated and help soften the build-up in the intestines.
  • Pain medication: Most veterinarians will send home pain medication to keep your rabbit comfortable. Common pain medications are Meloxicam, Buprenorphine, or Butorphanol. These will help alleviate pain and discomfort from the gas buildup
  • Syringe feedings: Most veterinarians will send home some kind of diet to syringe feed your rabbit. One of the most common is Oxbow’s Critical Care. Critical care is made into a watery mixture for your rabbit to eat a few times a day. By syringe feeding your rabbit, you will be making sure that your rabbit is continually getting the required nutrients. Your veterinarian can show you how to mix up this food and syringe feed your rabbit.
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics are sometimes sent home with your rabbit. This is to help fight off the overgrowth of the bad bacteria. Antibiotics should only be given when there is a major problem as they also kill off the good bacteria.
  • Probiotic: If your veterinarian does send you home with antibiotics, they may also give you probiotics. These will help reintroduce the good bacteria to your rabbit’s intestines.

There are other things that you can do at home to help your rabbit quickly return to normal. Rabbits with G.I. Stasis like a soft tummy rub, this can help stimulate the intestines to start to move again.

Also allowing your rabbit to sit on a heating pad covered by a blanket will help with the pain in the stomach.

Can Rabbits Recover From G.I. Stasis?

Rabbits with G.I. Stasis can recover if caught early enough. G.I. Stasis can be a deadly disease if treatment is not started as soon as you notice signs. Rabbits are prey animals and will hide signs of illness until some time it is too late.

How Long Does G.I. Stasis Last in Rabbits?

The first thing many people notice with this condition is that their rabbit is not producing as many fecal balls as they should or that they are smaller than normal. This should be your first clue that your rabbit needs to see a vet as soon as possible.

Once diagnosed by a vet and treatment has begun, most rabbits will start to eat on their own within a few hours, however, If left untreated, GI stasis can be fatal in as little as a day or two.

How to Prevent G.I. Stasis in Rabbits?

A good way to help prevent G.I. Stasis in your rabbit is to make sure that they are getting a high fiber diet and veggies.  

The fiber helps the G.I. tract stay regular, and the greens help provide the extra water. If your rabbit has long hair, make sure the brush them a few times a week, if not every day.

Long hair rabbits can get hairballs easily from grooming themselves. As they are licking their lose hair away from their body they can easily ingest some of this hair. This can easily cause a blockage in y our rabbit’s intestines.

Why Is My Rabbit Not Eating?

Aside from G.I. Stasis there are many reasons that a rabbit may stop eating, these include:

  1. Dental disease: Dental problems are a common cause of rabbits not eating. If your rabbit has something wrong with its teeth or its teeth are painful they will not eat. This can lead to G.I. Stasis.
  2. Infection or Illness: If your rabbit has an infection such as a bladder infection or upper respiratory problem, they will not eat as much as they normally do.
  3. Stress: If your rabbit has undergone a stressful event or trauma such as a fall, they may stop eating.

Wrap Up

G.I. Stasis is a very common condition in rabbits that can be deadly, however, if you are aware of the signs you give a pet rabbit a much better chance of survival. 

If you do spot signs of G.I. Stasis in your own rabbit,  keep the animal warm and take them to a vet as soon as possible.  If you act fast, there is every chance that the rabbit can quickly return to a normal healthy life.

Further Reading

Gastrointestinal Stasis: The Silent Killer rabbit.org

GI Stasis in rabbits best4bunny.com

Bunny bellies: managing gut stasis elwoodvet.net


Darren is the founder and editor at Bunny Advice and has been caring for rabbits for over a decade. He has a passion for helping animals and sharing his experience and knowledge with others.

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