Gastrointestinal Stasis In Rabbits: What It Is, Causes, Signs & Treatment

Gastrointestinal Stasis In Rabbits

Rabbits are considered low-maintenance animals. One reason is that they can survive by eating hay and grass, which are fiber-rich. It is healthy for them and improves their metabolism. However, a disadvantage of caring for these animals is their vulnerability. Unlike other pet animals,  rabbits are more sensitive because of how their body functions, especially their digestive system.   

According to the Veterinary Centers of America (VCA), rabbits are prone to gastrointestinal stasis.  It is a type of illness caused by the stomach’s bacterial changes. That is why if your pet is diagnosed with this, they find it hard to eat because of the discomfort. 

There are many risks for your pet due to gi. statis. You should know all about this silent killer in rabbits to save them from early death. If you want to know more about gastrointestinal and what it can do to your rabbit. Do not leave this article. 

Rabbit’s Digestive System

The digestive system has an important role in rabbits. They are responsible for digesting the food and distributing the nutrients throughout your pet’s body. That is why veterinarians always recommend balancing the diet of your rabbit.

There are certain foods that rabbits cannot eat. Unsuitable nourishment can cause toxicity and issues in the metabolism of the rabbit. Since rabbits are herbivores, their ideal food is fiber-rich: grass and hay. This type of compound helps rabbits to improve the function of their digestive tract.

In addition, rabbit digestion is also one way. Unlike other animals, once your pet consumes food through its mouth, it can only exit through its rectum and anus, which is also why rabbits cannot vomit. So if your pet grazes on the harmful substances, they always get an upset stomach. Which is also the leading cause of gastrointestinal stasis in rabbits.  

Gastrointestinal Stasis

House Rabbit Society stated that gi. stasis in rabbits is considered a silent killer. It appears like a common digestive problem in your pet but can result in serious risks in their life. It is also painful, which is why one of the signs of this illness is loss of appetite. As a pet owner, you should know that rabbits cannot survive long without consuming food. Their meal is your pet’s primary source of energy and nourishment that helps them keep fit and healthy. 

One of the common misconceptions in acquiring gi. stasis is the hairball. Hairball is a condition where a collection of hair is stranded in an animal’s stomach. Although it causes problems with your pet’s digestive function, it is not associated with the gi. stasis in rabbits. VCA reiterated that this illness happens to rabbits because of bacterial changes.

Once a rabbit consumes food that contains compounds harmful to them, there is a disruption in digestion. Bacterial changes happen during this process because the stomach is unfamiliar with the new nutrients. Therefore the passage of food through the gastrointestinal tract is also affected.  

Normal Vs. Abnormal Gut Function

Understanding the difference between your rabbit’s normal and abnormal gut functions. This will help you notice and determine if your pet is suffering from g.statis. Therefore, you can bring them to the vet early for treatment, avoiding serious digestive problems. 

According to the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund, normal guts function and distribute nutrients easily throughout the body. It starts with consuming the food through the mouth and goes further into breaking down the nutrients inside the stomach tract. RWAF added that the gastrointestinal part of the rabbit consumes 10-20% of its body. That is why digesting fiber food is easier for them than for other animals.

On the other hand, the abnormal gut function makes digestion hard for your rabbit. Due to the bacterial changes, their stomach does not intake the toxic compound. But because rabbits cannot vomit, their only way is to go through the process. This is why the stool is also affected when your pet has a gi. stasis. 

Two Types of Rabbit Poop 

Rabbits produce two types of poop. You must know about this because there are bizarre behaviors that you can see in your rabbit. For example, sometimes, your pet will eat their poop. In addition, popping is part of the digestive process in rabbits. By looking at their fecal pellets, you can easily identify if your pet has a problem like g.statis. 


One type of poop your rabbit produces is called cecotrope. These are the ones you can see in your rabbit eating. You don’t have to worry about this behavior because it is natural for your pet. Rabbit knows that cecotrope is nutritious, so they eat them again. 

The nutrients came from their meal. If they do not get the nutrients the first time they digest the food, their stomach will form cecotropes to be digested again by your pet. It has a sticky texture and a pellet-like shape. However, if you think the rabbit is eating poop every day, which is unusual behavior, you need to visit their doctor immediately. It can mean that rabbits lack nutrients, so you must change their diet. If not treated early, it can trigger gi. stasis.  

Fecal Pellets

Contrary to cecotrope, fecal pellets are non-nutritious poop. This second type of poop that rabbits produce is the normal stool. It is a compost of wasted compounds from the stomach of the rabbit. It has a texture of fiber and is sometimes sticky. 

If your rabbit is eating a balanced diet, you will notice in their poop that it contains fiber. That means that your pet is eating the right food every day. 

Common Causes of Gastrointestinal Stasis

Unbalanced Diet

Diet greatly impacts your rabbit’s overall health. Most especially in keeping their digestive system working properly. An unbalanced diet consists of foods that contain toxic substances and harmful content in rabbits. Aside from making your rabbit sick, it also affects the bacteria inside its stomach, which is why gi. stasis is triggered. 


Malnourished rabbits have a lot of complications. Veterinarians consider it a serious condition because if your pet is not consuming food for days, it can lead to severe malnourishment. Your pet will start to get sick, trigger underlying disease, and eventually can lead to the early death of the animal. 

To know if your rabbit is malnourished, normal, or obese, you can look at the table below. 

Body Condition Score from the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund

Body ScoreBody ConditionBody Condition Description
1Rabbit is Emaciated/MalnourishedThe pelvis and ribs are very easily palpated and sharp. Ribs feel like a pocket full of rulers! Concave rump area.
2Rabbit is Lean/ UnderweightThe pelvis and ribs are easily palpated and feel sharp. The rump area is flat.
3Rabbit’s Normal WeightPelvis and ribs are easily palpated but have rounded edges. Ribs feel like a pocket full of pens! The rump area is flat.
4Rabbit is Overweight/ FatFirm palpation is required to feel the ribs. The rump is round to the touch.
5Rabbit is Obese.It is hard to palpate the ribs, or ribs cannot be felt. The rump area is convex.
Table Information Source:  Is your rabbit too fat? | Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWAF)


Another cause of gi. stasis is an infection. Like in humans, infection leads to serious risks to the health of rabbits. Parasites or germs find a host and feed off the nutrients in their victim. So if your rabbit does not get the right nutrients from their food, their digestive tract reacts to it and triggers this illness. 

One common infestation that can cause infection in rabbits is the Encephalitozoon Cuniculi. It is a transmissible parasite, so you must be careful when caring for more than one rabbit. Although the common complication of this parasite is in the nervous system, it can also take away the nourishment from the digestion process of the rabbit. 


The stress level in rabbits is often overlooked by some owners. You need to understand that rabbits can also get anxious about many things. And if their stress is higher than usual, it can also affect their daily activity, such as eating. Some distressed rabbits do not like to eat their food, even if it’s their favorite. Therefore, it triggers the gi. stasis. 

Stress in rabbits comes in many forms. Animals get stressed easily because they have sensitive moods and senses. For example, hearing loud noises can make your pet anxious. You must place their cage or shelter in quiet and calm surroundings. It will also encourage your pet to eat because they feel relaxed in their environment.  

Gut Blockage

If your pet has an underlying complication such as blockage, it can cause gi. stasis in them. The digestive system in rabbits needs to have a flow process. Since it is a one-way routine, having a blockage can result in complications. If your pet lumps its stomach, it can cause blockage.    

The food they consume also triggers blockade, which is why drinking water is important in your rabbit’s life. Aside from rehydrating the rabbits, water improves the process of digestion. It helps the nutrients flow and process, especially breaking down big nourishment.  

Signs of Gastrointestinal Stasis

Lose Appetite

One of the common signs that you can notice in rabbits is losing their appetite. Since gi. stasis is uncomfortable and painful to your pet; they don’t have the appetite to eat. Even if you offer them their favorite meal, if they feel sick, they will still refuse. When your rabbit stops eating, their metabolism does not work, which is why its body is also not getting nutrients. Several bacteria can also overpower their gut tract’s function, making it worse.   

However, you mustn’t self-diagnose your rabbit with gi stasis. If your pet is not eating, it does not mean gi. statis only. There are many diseases and illnesses associated with eating. Visit the vet doctor to conduct a proper diagnosis and know the root cause of why they lose their appetite.       


Another sign that you should keep an eye on is diarrhea. This illness in rabbits is a serious concern that every owner should not overlook. You can easily identify your pet having diarrhea if their poop is watery and has mucus. Most of the time, diarrhea occurs because of the gi. stasis and disruption in the digestive function. But it is still ideal for advising your doctor to know the cause of changes in bowel movements in your pet.    


Since gi. stasis is painful for rabbits; they tend to oversleep. Rabbits sleep an average of 8-9 hours, so if they exceed this time, something is wrong with your pet. Oversleeping has a lot of complications in rabbits. They don’t have the time to eat, exercise, or do a regular activity. Visit their vet immediately if you notice your pet is always sleeping. 

Read More: Signs That Your Rabbit Is Sick

Diagnosing Gastrointestinal Stasis 

There are ways to determine whether your pet has gastrointestinal stasis. It’s always best to go to an expert rather than self-diagnosing your pet. This will help you avoid more serious risks in the rabbit’s body. And provide proper treatment for them. 

The best time to go to the veterinarian is when your pet exhibits the symptoms above. The doctor will ask you a question, so have a note of your rabbit’s latest lifestyle. For example, the doctor will ask you what the last thing your rabbit eats is. What is the texture of their poop? Color of the urine? And a lot more concerning the health of the rabbit. A series of examinations will also be conducted to ensure the right diagnosis.    

Here is the possible examination your pet will undergo if you want to check if they have a gi. stasis. 

Physical Examination

Physical examination is often conducted on a sick rabbit. It helps the doctor identify if your rabbit is physically fit. They observe the animal’s heart rate, breathing, and other physical aspects. They also considered the factor of weight of the rabbit. So when they prescribe medicine, the right amount is given to the pet’s owner.     

Specimen Examination

The doctor will also ask for specimens from your pet. Collect your rabbit’s latest urine and poop and give it to the doctor. This will help the vet determine the possible bacteria inside your pet’s body. Once the test is conducted, the doctor will diagnose your rabbit with gi. stasis if they see imbalances in the compound of the specimen.

X-ray Examination

According to VCA, an x-ray is also conducted to look through the inside of the digestive system of rabbits. The images this test produces help the doctor see if there is an obstruction in the body. For example, intestinal blockage, which causes gi. stasis.

Treating Gastrointestinal Stasis

After confirming the diagnosis of the gi. stasis in rabbits, the doctor will now provide treatment. Like in most diseases, the treatment depends on the severity of the case. So not all rabbits receive the same method of treatment. But there are general ways in which veterinarians treat gi. stasis in rabbits. Here are some of those treatments.  

Fluid Assistance

G. statis in rabbits causes them to lose their appetite. It’s also important to avoid malnourishment in your pet. One way to help the rabbit acquire nutrients is fluid assistance. An IV fluid is inserted inside the body to help give the same amount of nutrients even if the rabbit is not eating. But it is still recommended to try and feed the rabbit to help them regain their appetite.  


Antibiotics are given in rabbits if the cause of gi. stasis is a bacterial infection. That is why not all cases have the same treatment because the root cause is different. You must give your pet the basic information to properly provide medicine for the rabbit. There are also different antibiotics. Ensure that the doctor prescribes the one you will buy. Antibiotics like amoxicillin are not recommended because it is harmful to a rabbit.  

Force Feeding

One of the important things that rabbits need is nutrients, so if the doctor thinks your rabbit does not have a severe case of gi. stasis, force-feeding is suggested. But remember to not stress your pet when you try to force feed them. Be gentle and use your handy lighter when you are touching them. Try to engage your rabbit to eat on its own. If they refuse, you can use a syringe and wet food to nourish them.   

Key Takeaways

  • Rabbits are more vulnerable to other pet animals because of how their body system works.
  • One of the sensitive systems in rabbits is their digestive system. That is why a balanced diet is important to improve their digestion and avoid risks to their health.
  • Gastrointestinal stasis is a common digestive problem in rabbits. Bacterial changes due to several reasons cause it. 
  • Hairball and gi. stasis is a common myth in rabbits. Although hairball also results in digestive problems, gi. stasis is not affected by physical obstruction. It is more of bacterial changes in their gut tract. 
  • Normal git function produces a good poop and distributes the nutrients throughout the rabbit’s body. The abnormal function makes digestion hard in rabbits. 
  • The common causes of a gi. stasis is an unbalanced diet, malnutrition, infection, stress, and blockage. 
  • Here are the signs you should keep an eye on if your rabbit has gi. stasis, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and oversleeping.
  • Do NOT self-diagnose the rabbit. There are ways to properly examine whether the rabbit has a gi. stasis. Go to the veterinarian and ask the doctor for a check-up. The doctor will conduct physical, specimen, and x-ray examinations. 
  • Treatment for gi. stasis depends on the severity of the case. But the common ways veterinarians will do it are; fluid assistance, antibiotics, and force-feeding. 
Rabbit Digestive System

Rabbit’s Digestive System: Parts, Problems, Treatment & Prevention

Rabbit Sounds Every Owner Should Know

8 Rabbit Sounds (Happy, Unhappy & Angry) Every Owner Should Know