GI Stasis Syndrome Emergencies
by James Wilson
GI Stasis is by far the most common emergency and cause of death in rabbits. This article attempts to reduce the mortality rate of this occurrence. In one study, 25% of rabbit visits to a vet were for GI Stasis.
WHAT IS IT
Gut movement in rabbits slows down or stops. The rabbit stops eating and/or pooping. Refuses all food including favorite treats. Sometimes appears in a hunched position hiding pain. Temperature is lower due to shock.
The root cause of GI status needs to be determined by a vet. Some causes are:
1. Intestinal blockage (often caused by not eating enough hay or teeth issues preventing normal hay chewing)
2. Gas in stomach (some greens cause more gas than others)
3. Bladder sludge/stones (some food is higher in calcium or septum in urinary blader)
4. Too many carbs/sugary treats upsetting gut bacteria.
5. Injesting too much fur.
6. Dehydration (which is also a symptom)
10. Intestinal torsion
14. Cecal impaction
15. Perforation of intestine (from hair ball).
Diet of hay. Timothy is best. Treats and even pellets are non-essential in a diet. Sugary treats can upset the gut bacteria and make it worse. Greens add moisture and can help, but lacking fiber can make it worse.
Got poop? Get used to picking it up, looking at it, and crumbling some sample poops between your fingers. Lagomorphs (Rabbits, Hares, Pikas, ...) have a unique GI tract among animals and as a result their poops can be actually pleasant to touch. Normal size and easily crumbled is good. Hard and small is not and often a sign that GI stasis may be coming in the near future.
1. Pediatric Simethicone (20mg/ml suspension) (Sometimes available under brand name Gas-X) available in most drug stores.
2. Flex tip thermometer and a little bit of vasoline petroleum jelly.
3. 3ml (3cc) syringe
4. Critical Care or SarX kept in FREEZER so it can be used beyond the expiration date.
5. Heating pad or hot/cool packets. In worst case, a hair dryer may be used.
6. Phone numbers/addresses/times open for your vet and emergency vet clinics.
7. Links to websites regarding GI Stasis
Learn to accurately take a rabbit's anal temperature BEFORE you have an emergency. For female rabbits, vaginal temperature is different from anal temperature, so mach certain you know how to do it properly.
You can have a lot more supplies, but the above are critical and worth buying ahead of time.
1. Take temperature
2. Administer 1cc of Pediatric Simethicone (20mg/ml suspension)
3. Take Critical Care or SarX out of the freezer.
4. If you any leftover Metacam/Meloxicam prescribed for you rabbit, you can admisister it in the prescribed dosage.
CALLING A VET AND WHEN
Call you vet right after the immediate actions described above regardless of time of day or weekend hours. If they are closed, leave a calm message why you think it is GI stasis (include temperature) and a callback number. If they don't call you back soon after they open, call them again.
After hours, call the closest emergency vet. Outside of metro areas, this may be 100+ miles away. Find out if they have a rabbit-savy person working and what are their hours. Temperature and availability will guide you about going to the emergency vet. Weather conditions may prohibit safe travel.
Rabbits should be 101-103 degrees F (Fahrenheit). Without assistance, the temperature of your rabbit will drop due to shock.
In one study, 100% of rabbits admitted with a temperature of 95 degrees (35C) or lower ended up as a mortality.
Rabbits between 95 and 98.6 degrees (35-37C) on admission had a 50% mortality rate.
At 100 degrees (37.75C) or above, there is an 85% success rate.
You need to remember that a normal internal temperature for you is way too cold for a rabbit.
WHAT TO DO UNTIL A VET IS AVAILABLE
Don't panic, but realize this is a major life threatening emergency.
Completely clean the litter box because you need to measure the quantity and quality of any poops.
Administer warm (not hot) water in their mouth using a syringe. Perhaps 3ml every 30 minutes or so.
Continue simethicone. Per House Rabbit Society: Pediatric Simethicone 1cc (20mg/ml suspension) can be given orally as often as every hour for 3 hours and then 1cc every 3-8 hours
Light tummy massages.
Attempt to gently warm up the rabbit without baking him/her using:
a. Heating pad on low;
b. Hot pack protecting delicate rabbit skin with a towel, or
c. Worst case, use a hair dryer with towel between dryer and the rabbit.
Try small doses of their favorite treats.
You can try a little bit of unsweatened pumpkin or baby food.
If you are trained in it, heated saline fluids injected Sub-Q will help.
You may find that your rabbit starts pooping and eating before your vet openes. If your rabbit gets back to 100+ degrees without heating asssitance and is eating hay and pooping, you may not need to go to a vet.
Once eating and pooping but not yet eating hay is a good time to give Critical Care or SarX.
You do not want to force these products into their mouth before they are pooping.
GOING TO VET
Keep the interior of the car warm.
Don't give excessive heat, but it needs to be warm enough that you feel warm in a short-sleeve shirt inside the car – even in the middle of winter.
Keep the rabbit secure in a carrier on the seat -- not next to a heater vent.
Try to transport with as little stress as possible.
CONSIDER PET INSURANCE
The major expense in owning a rabbit are vet visits.
Sadly, too many rabbit owners say they cannot afford a visit to a vet emergency facility or even a visit to their local vet. You could consider pet insurance.
If you have any questions or comments about this article, please contact James Wilson at email@example.com