Rabbit diarrhoea can be mild or severe. In mild cases there may be a small amount of smelly, runny droppings but otherwise the rabbit is lively, alert and eating well.
In more severe cases you will get very smelly, very runny, of no fixed form, droppings where the rabbit becomes lethargic and has no appetite.
Reasons for rabbit diarrhoea? The first cause to consider is diet. Too many greens and unwashed or un-fresh greens will create a problem as will too much fruit.
Cereal commonly known as 'Rabbit Mix' sold as rabbit food can often be the reason.
A sudden change in diet may result in rabbit diarrhoea, so any change in diet should be gradual.
Rabbit's living conditions are another reason, such as cold or damp bedding, the hutch being kept in a draughty or cold area etc.
Stress is a further factor (see below) or a change of surroundings or perhaps the rabbit has an infection of some kind.
Each of these causes can occur together or happen as a result of other factors. For example, a rabbit can become stressed if it has an infection or is living in damp conditions.
In mild cases, stop feeding any greens or fruit and just feed hay. The correct diet is vital to rabbits.
Keep the hutch clean, warm in winter, cool in summer and change bedding daily. Fresh water is a must at all times and you will need to bathe the affected area in mild soapy water.
If your rabbit's backside has any type of droppings or caecotrophs (see below) stuck in that area or in the fur they are at risk of flystrike, and if you cannot clear them with a warm mild soapy bath then a visit to the vet will be necessary.
Rabbits urinate and defecate in the same area or at the same time and the result can seem as though the rabbit has diarrhoea.
A vet can look to confirm it is rabbit diarrhoea and help discover the underlying cause.
In the more severe cases, the rabbit will become dehydrated as the problem progresses and this may result in a lack of appetite and weight loss. The rabbit may also be lethargic and have pain in the
abdominal region. Rabbits with diarrhoea may seem reluctant to move and will sit in just the one area.
Severe cases can be fatal due to dehydration, especially with young or baby rabbits.
With any condition other than mild, or if your not sure, take the rabbit to a vets. You should also go to the vets with recurring diarrhoea.
Rabbits produce two types of droppings. In the morning or evening, rabbits produce soft droppings called caecotrophs (or caecals) which can be mistaken for rabbit diarrhoea.
These caecotrophs are immediately digested by the rabbit, directly from the anus, as part of their digestive process, as these soft droppings are simply partially digested food.
It is essential for rabbits to consume these because they provide their main source of healthy bacteria and important B complex vitamins.
The other type of pellet is hard, usually round and are not eaten. This type of pellet is drier and more fibrous in consistency.
Sometimes droppings become matted in the fur around the anus. This is fairly common in rabbits especially if overweight and not able to reach that far. Large dewlaps can cause this and may need to
be removed surgically.
A rabbit will not eat its own faecal matter if its diarrhoea, in the way it would if the droppings are caecotrophs.
Stress and anxiety should be reduced by keeping the rabbit in a clean, dry and quiet environment.
Fluids can be given to replace those lost. This is very important in cases of severe dehydration. A vet will always help or advise on oral rehydration therapy and products can be acquired from the vets.
Rabbits can, unfortunately, die as a result of having diarrhoea because severe dehydration is sometimes a result of necessary fluids not able to be absorbed from the gut. Rabbits treated in time can have a good chance of recovery.
For rabbit diarrhoea, lesser know herbs such as agrimony, avens, raspberry leaf and shepherd's purse can be fed.
Arrowroot biscuits can be given in mild cases or powdered arrowroot mixed with warm water.
Galen's Garden ASAP Powder contains powdered astringent, demulcent and antibacterial edible herbs which can be mixed with a little water and fed by spoon, dropper or syringe if the rabbit isn't eating.
Feed only good quality hay and hay 'tea' made by pouring boiling water over a handful of hay in a jug and adding it to the water bottle when cool.
A veterinary probiotic such as Protexin can be given in the drinking water or fed as above to help correct the balance of bacteria in the gut in favour of the beneficial bacteria.
A few drops of Garlic Juice, 6-12 drops of oregano extract or one drop of grapefruit seed extract added to the drinking water also help fight infection.
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