Why is my rabbit not eating?

Rabbit with food uneaten

When rabbits stop eating, it’s usually serious. As prey species, they’re hard-wired to carry on as if nothing is wrong, to make sure they don’t look weak to a predator. Although there are lots of different reasons a rabbit may stop eating, they’re often very sick when this happens and I recommend taking them straight to a rabbit-savvy vet if you notice a drop in their appetite.

 

What can make a rabbit stop eating?

Rabbits can stop eating for a variety of reasons. The most common is:

pain –

rabbits that are in pain will stop eating and go very quiet. The pain could be anywhere, and post-surgical pain is a common reason for rabbits to turn down food, although joint pain is also common.

Dental disease

This is another extremely common reason for rabbits to stop eating. Rabbits’ teeth grow continuously, which is a clever adaptation to the abrasiveness of their main diet – grass. However, rabbits consuming the wrong types of food, chewing the wrong way, or who were born with problems, can get overgrowing teeth. This causes pain in the jaw and ulcers on the tongue or the cheek which hurt every time the rabbit chews – it’s not surprising to see that they might stop eating! It’s important to get your rabbit’s teeth checked by your vet often to ensure that any problems are caught and corrected before too much damage is done.

Another common reason for rabbits to stop eating is due to a

digestive upset.

Rabbits have amazing digestive systems that can turn grass into energy, but things can, and do, go wrong. Those bunnies whose digestion isn’t quite right may also stop eating, or may become more choosy about which food they do eat. Rabbits that have eaten something they shouldn’t (such as inedible bedding or carpet) may get a blockage or ‘impaction’. This is very serious and can be tricky to move along, sometimes requiring emergency surgery.

Rabbits can also stop eating due to being

stressed.

Something as simple as a firework going off can upset them, so keep an extra close eye on your pets during firework season. Think about rabbit stress if you get a new pet, a new member of the family, or if there is a change in routine, and keep an extra close eye on them at these times.

 

How will I know if my rabbit stops eating?

Obviously, if you notice that food is being left in the bowl or hay left in the rack when it usually all goes, that suggests a change in appetite. It’s worth remembering, though, that this isn’t the only way to keep an eye on your rabbit’s appetite, and waiting until you notice food being left might be too late.

The best way to keep an eye on your rabbit’s appetite is by watching their poo! Rabbits poo around 300 times a day, and it’s important that you get to grips with your rabbit’s pooing schedule. A decrease in poos or a change in consistency of the faeces is the first sign of something being wrong. Faecal pellets that are smaller and harder than usual are definitely a sign that your rabbit isn’t getting enough food through their gut. Did you know that rabbits eat their own poo to have a second go at digesting the grass? Large, wet faeces may suggest that your rabbit isn’t eating his faeces correctly, which is often an early sign of something wrong.

 

Why is it serious if my rabbit stops eating?

Unfortunately, rabbits that stop eating quickly start to go downhill. The digestive system of a rabbit relies on constant input of small amounts of food, and when rabbits stop eating this very quickly shuts down. The gut stops turning over properly – also known as ‘stasis’ – and they may start to bloat. This is exceedingly painful and compounds the problem, as the pain causes the rabbit to eat even less. It quickly becomes a vicious cycle, so intervening early and getting appropriate medical help is essential.

 

How can I help my rabbit who has stopped eating?

The first thing to do is to take your rabbit straight to a rabbit-savvy vet. Gut stasis is extremely painful and they will need pain relief in order to start to eat again. They will likely also need some gut stimulants, and some rabbits may need fluids. If dental disease is the cause of the appetite drop, a dental operation may be necessary, although this may be postponed until they’re feeling a bit better. Feeding a recovery diet from a syringe is really important – this input of food reminds the gut to carry on turning over and starts the ball rolling again. This diet will need feeding every 2 hours during the day, so it can be quite hard work. Most rabbits with uncomplicated stasis will start eating again within a day or so – keep tempting them with tasty milk thistle and herbs until they’re voluntarily eating.

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