by Cindy Titus, WHS Volunteer
As a bunny parent, there are certain words, however inevitable they may be, that you just never ever want to hear. These words are GI Stasis. Unfortunately, I heard these words last week in relation to my own bunny, Ernie.
Ernie, a typically voracious eater, is usually waiting by his food bowl for us to come home and feed him after work. He is very much a rabbit in that he really loves routine and isn’t hesitant to show us a lot of sass if we mess with his. When I arrived home last Tuesday around 7pm, he wasn’t sitting by his food dish, and he didn’t get excited and binky when I brought the pellet bag over. In fact, he took one sniff of the pellets and went back into his castle and curled up in a ball. I immediately knew something was wrong. Not only was he not eating, but he wasn’t fazed by me sticking my hand in his castle (he will usually lunge a bit as if to say “get out of my room, mama!”) and he did not put up any fight when I picked him up. Both my heart and mind started racing as I wondered what could be wrong with my Ernie.
I immediately posted a photo of Ernie on Instagram, explaining the situation I was in, as I have many very rabbit savvy friends who I knew could offer some advice or consolation. My husband went to the pharmacy to get baby gas drops as I held Ernie in my lap and rubbed his belly as a way of helping to get his gut moving and hopefully offer him some comfort. He took the baby gas drops well, but unfortunately it didn’t offer him much comfort or relief. I stayed up pretty late with him, helping him be as comfortable as possible. I also woke up many times throughout the night to check on him, to see if he had eaten anything or if he had pooped. Sadly he hadn’t.
I woke up early the next day and called our vet first thing. Thankfully they had an opening very early and we got Ernie in at 8:30am. They checked him over for any teeth issues or temperature issues and he was fine in both areas, which is great, but this means they had to keep him for the day to look deeper into the issue.
A day at the vet and $400 later, Ernie came home, having been diagnosed with a mild case of GI Stasis.
Just as a side note, for those who may think that rabbits are good starter pets for children, or are generally inexpensive, low-maintenance pets, might I remind you that this is not the case. Rabbits are incredibly complex animals that require close supervision at all times. Because I am in very close contact with Ernie multiple times per day, I caught his stasis early on. Even though I did catch it early on, and his case was mild, Ernie still required hospitalization, x-rays, fluids, force-feeding, etc. This was very expensive, and very, very, very necessary in order for him to make it through this episode.
Here is a list of all of the treatment Ernie received at the vet and the associated cost:
- Consult: $68
- X-Ray: $105
- Oral Meds Admin: $11
- Metacam Injection: $25
- Subcutaneous Fluids: $37
- Force Feeding: $25
- Hospitalization for half a day: $29
- Critical Care to bring home: $18.84
- Cisapride: $22.04
- Metacam to bring home: $25.59
- GST/PST: $25.64
Total Cost: $392.11
When Ernie came home, he required force-feeding of Critical Care three times a day for a few days, Metacam once a day, and Cisapride twice a day, plus general observation of his litter box habits to make sure that everything was working well. We also called the vet once per day to give an update and get advice on adjusting the feeding or meds as required.
It’s now a week later and thankfully Ernie is very nearly back to his normal self. He is still on the Cisapride, but is otherwise eating and pooping as normal. PHEW! I never thought I could be so happy to see rabbit poops.
This bout of GI Stasis came out of nowhere. Ernie is very well taken care of. He is fed an excellent diet and lives a cage free life, so he has lots of exercise every day, so this $400 vet bill also came out of nowhere. Without these treatments though, Ernie likely would have died a painful death. Rabbits that are not treated for GI Stasis unfortunately most typically don’t make it. I cannot stress enough that rabbits often require expensive vet treatment, or they will die. It’s as simple as that. If you are not prepared to spend time and money on your rabbit’s health and wellbeing, then please don’t get one.
This brings me to my next point. I also cannot stress enough the importance of keeping rabbits indoors, as members of your family, the same way you would keep a cat or dog. Rabbits are sensitive, fragile animals, and they need close supervision of their diet and litter box habits so you can immediately detect if something is wrong. This whole situation with Ernie makes me feel so sad for all of the bunnies who are kept outdoors, living lonely lives in hutches with no one to observe if they aren’t feeling well. A bunny’s health can go downhill very, very quickly and their medical issues, particularly GI Stasis, are typically a matter of life and a very painful death if they aren’t caught and treated by an experienced vet.
Here are a few rabbit savvy vets in Winnipeg who you can call if your bunny is sick:
Corydon Animal Hospital
1675 Corydon Ave, Winnipeg, MB R3N 0J8
Best Friends Animal Hospital
2355 McGillivray Blvd, Winnipeg, MB R3Y 0A1
Winrose Animal Hospital
534 St Anne’s Rd, Winnipeg, MB R2M 3G1
Centennial Animal Hospital
2747 Pembina Hwy, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2H5
St. Norbert Animal Hospital
3311 Pembina Hwy, Winnipeg, MB R3V 1T7
I am not sure which of these has emergency access. I know that Pembina Veterinary Hospital has emergency care, but I am not sure that they care for rabbits. I did call and ask about it once and they said they have limited rabbit experience. Here is their info if you want to call them:
Pembina Veterinary Hospital
400 Pembina Hwy, Winnipeg, MB R3L 2E7
I have put together an emergency bunny list that’s good to have in the event that your bunny gets sick when the vet is closed:
- Thermometer and the knowledge and ability to take your bunny’s temperature. Normal rabbit body temperature ranges from about 101 - 103F.
- Baby gas drops.
- Banana, pineapple, or mango. Both my bunnies go crazy for banana and I know something is for sure wrong if they refuse a banana treat. Pineapple juice can help with hair stuck in their GI tract.
- Critical Care (you can buy this online, but it’s important to mention that if your rabbit has a blockage, it may be unwise to force feed them as you may exacerbate the issue and make things much worse. Your vet will likely need to do an X-Ray to see what’s happening in your bunny’s belly.)
- Syringes for force feeding
- Metacam for pain relief (you will likely need a prescription for this)
- Pedialyte (some of my bunny friends mentioned they have had good success with Pedialyte when their bunnies have been sick)
- Get an Instagram account for your rabbits. Not only is it incredibly cute to befriend other bunnies all over the world, but the Instagram bunny community is so knowledgeable and so incredibly supportive of each other, particularly when a bunny gets sick.
- Make sure to have an emergency vet visit fund with at least $500 saved up so that you can rest easy in ensuring you can offer your companion rabbit the very best care he or she deserves.
And finally, here are a couple of good resources to read up on to help you prepare for the day your bunny may get GI Stasis: