I am a rabbit breeder and I occasionally sell rabbits to other people. When changing food and often due to extra treats that new rabbits are given, the rabbits will suffer from a condition called bloat (warning: link contains images of dissected rabbits). It is difficult to convince some people to spend $100 or more on a vet visit for an animal they can replace for $50. So, sadly most people will just allow nature to take its course, which is a painful way to die. Is there anything I can do to relieve this condition without having to consult a veterinarian.

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    I wish people realized that when taking on a pet, you take on a life, and that has responsibilities associated with it. – John Cavan Nov 18 '13 at 22:33

Gastric dilation, also know as bloat, is a veterinary emergency. Rabbits, as you likely know, are not able to vomit and so cannot void the contents of their stomach if the normal outflow is blocked for any reason, which may not always be physical, apparently stress and severe stomach movement can cause this as well.

Unfortunately, according to Blackwell's Five Minute Veterinary Consult for small mammals (second edition - Section IV, Chapter 186) , the rabbit requires immediate medical therapy involving gastric decompression using intubation and surgery is likely required to treat the condition if intubation efforts fail to relieve the issue. It is also possible that decompression may be required several times depending on the actual causes of the bloat.

So, unfortunately, the answer to your question is no.

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    As an aside, I can't link to the relevant information in the book, but you can try to see if Google books will give it to you or you can buy it (I picked up the Kindle edition, along with the feline/canine one). It's handy to have in order to make immediate decisions, many illness can be treated at home if you know. – John Cavan Nov 18 '13 at 22:38
  • I have a vet friend that says this treatment is successful less than 20% of the time. Even I am loath to put a rabbit through surgery and intubation for a procedure that has a low success rate in the first place. – user9 Nov 19 '13 at 17:39
  • @Chad - I can appreciate that, but that was the medical advice I read. I suppose that 20% is better than 0% if it comes to that. The book does cover non-veterinarian options when appropriate, but had none for this. – John Cavan Nov 19 '13 at 18:06
  • I am not certain there is a good fix. My vet friend actually recommended euthanasia to attempted treatment for bloat. – user9 Nov 19 '13 at 18:13
  • @Chad - I guess I'm confused about what you're asking then... It seems like euthanasia or treatment, normally either of which would be done by a vet. I suppose you could do the former yourself, but that seems like it would a hard thing for most people to do. – John Cavan Nov 19 '13 at 19:03

For treating gas or anything that is even remotely digestive related, I always start with a good dose (half a table spoon OR 1.5cc) of baby gas drops "Little Tummys Gas Drops" is the name brand I usually use, but if available have also used generic brands. According to my vet, there are no counter indications to using it, and there are no dosage limits. So using as often and as much as you want (common sense) is OK.

My bunny that usually has the problems will often lick the flavored kind from a table spoon. If necessary, I use a syringe to get him to drink it. Anytime a bunny is having a diet issue, 'GI stasis' is the first concern, so keeping things going through the system is important. If the Gas Drops have not caused a return to eating/drinking in an hour or so, I begin forcing feeding baby food (carrots, banana or squash) and water. I continue this every 2 - 4 hours until he begins taking food/water on his own. Usually he is back to normal in 6 to 48 hours.

I have had some recommendations for subcutaneous fluids and have used them sometimes. In my personal opinion (and many will differ) for ailments solely related to digestion, the mouth is a better avenue for all but the most severe cases that are primarily digestive in origin.

This answer is from personal experience, contact your veterinary professional before making any oral drug choices for your rabbit.

  • I think this is pretty good. But rabbits that are in GI Statis will not absorb subcutaneous injections, it actually has to be intravenous to have any effect. I cant find the link right now but I read it when i was researching this. I think between your two answers I have the information I was looking for though. – user9 Nov 20 '13 at 22:14
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    Bloat (gastric dilation) and GI Stasis are considered separate medical conditions and have different treatments. – John Cavan Nov 27 '13 at 0:23

It is often said that "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". I assume that since you care about the welfare of the bunnies and that you are dealing directly with the new parent that you are screening for appropriateness of the home and providing eduction to the new family, so I will not address those points.

In our (my wife and I) volunteer capacity we almost constantly have bunnies staying with us in our home. We also realize that dietary changes can be fatal. For visiting bunnies, they arrive with the type of food they are already eating. We keep them on that diet the whole time. If a bunny will be changing diets while staying with us, they stay 100% original the first week, then 75/25 the second week, 50/50 the third week and 25/75 the fourth week. On the fifth week, they are 100% new diet (assuming no issues). See this question for more on changing your rabbits food type.

In your situation, I would recommend including a supply of food with the bunny when it is placed in its new forever home. Include instructions on how to change the diet, what to watch for and what to do if there is a problem. The best thing you can do is provide the new family with the food, and directions to prevent or limit the occurrence. Presumably you are feeding breeder-type food, which is generally too rich for maintenance of house rabbits in a home environment, so staying on the same feed is not a viable alternative.

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    Actually most of the people I deal with who have problems are other breeders. I have never had a problem with a pet parent since they generally just keep them on the food we start them on. But I think you are right. I normally provide them with a weeks worth of food for mixing but I think I will increase it to 2.5 weeks and see if that helps. – user9 Nov 20 '13 at 15:12

When I first brought home my flemish/silver fox girl she was about 2 months old. I noticed the first couple days that she looked a little funny a small rabbit that seemed to have swallowed a balloon trying to run around.

Anyway, when I called my vet and described her symptoms, she said that she most likely had bloat and that I was to remove all food (dry or green) and feed 100% Timothy hay for 2 weeks. My little girl started expelling gas like no body's business which made her smell for the next week but she was fine.