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Gastric bloat in rabbits

We are highlighting gastric bloat/intestinal obstruction in rabbits and guinea pigs because we have seen more cases recently than we would normally expect.

Rabbits and guinea pigs have a unique digestive system to enable them to process the fibre in their food (grass and hay). The stomach and intestine should be constantly full and always moving to allow proper digestion.

Sometimes a ball of fur or other foreign material can become lodged in the intestine and block gut movement. When this happens gas builds up very quickly in front and behind this blockage due to fermentation of the gut contents, causing pain and cramp. Within a short time (sometimes only a few hours) the rabbit or guinea pig goes into shock, collapses and dies.

Treatment is often successful if performed promptly. An xray is needed to diagnose the condition, and then emergency surgery can be performed to remove the obstruction. Affected pets will need close monitoring and fluid therapy plus lots of pain relief and TLC for 1-2 days afterwards, so they are usually hospitalized.

A number of cases of this potentially fatal condition have been seen recently by us, at Willow Vet Care, so if your rabbit or guinea pig shows any of the following signs, make an urgent appointment to see us!

Signs of gastric bloat:

  • Sudden loss of appetite (i.e. eating well one night but completely off food the next morning)
  • Depression, not moving at all (usually quite suddenly)
  • Greatly reduced amount of poo from normal
  • Hunched posture

Remember, the sooner gastric bloat is treated, the better the chance the rabbit or guinea pig will survive. If you are ever in doubt please contact us for advice.

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