What are Decreased Movement of the Gastric Muscles?
Decreased movement of the gastric muscles is one of the most common problems in rabbits and can lead to dehydration and impaction of material in the stomach and cecum. Symptoms of this disorder include pain, lethargy, and anorexia. This disorder can be potentially fatal. If you suspect your pet may be suffering from this dangerous condition, contact your veterinarian.
Decreased movement of the gastric muscles in rabbits is also known as gastrointestinal stasis. This condition is common in rabbits and can be avoided with regular clinical check-ups and advice from your veterinary caregiver.
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Symptoms of Decreased Movement of the Gastric Muscles in Rabbits
You may notice your rabbit showing signs such as
- Crunching teeth
- Tense abdomen
Some owners also notice a change of fecal consistency, size or quantity. The pellets are sometimes encased in clear or yellow mucus. Instead of the normal stomach noises you usually hear, your rabbit’s stomach may make loud, violent gurgles or no sound at all.
Decreased movement of the gastric muscles can occur due to a number of factors, however, the physiology behind the dysfunction remains the same. In a normally functioning digestive system, the stomach holds the food and it is then moved to the small intestine. It is here that the majority of nutrients are absorbed. The food then moves to the cecum, where fiber and other components of the diet are fermented and broken down by microorganisms into fatty acids, amino acids, and vitamins. These are then excreted as cecotropes and eaten directly from the anus by the rabbit.
When a stressor such as dehydration or pain affects a rabbit and the speed of which material moves through their gastrointestinal system reduces, the cecum emptying slows, causing the rabbit to stop eating. Water is continually extracted from the matter leading to dehydration, changes in cecal pH, impaction, growth of bacteria such as Clostridium spiriformes, and production of potentially lethal iota toxins.
Causes of Decreased Movement of the Gastric Muscles in Rabbits
The causes of decreased movement of the gastric muscles in rabbits can be
- Pain caused by another illness such as dental disease, infection or urinary tract disorders
- Intestinal blockages
- Insufficient dietary crude fiber
Diagnosis of Decreased Movement of the Gastric Muscles in Rabbits
If you suspect your pet is suffering from this condition it is vital that you contact your veterinarian immediately. She will discuss your pet’s history leading up to the symptoms and perform a full, physical examination. Your veterinarian will feel your pet’s stomach, which will often present as firm and gas-filled on palpation.
Your veterinarian may take radiographs which will require your rabbit to be sedated. These images will give your veterinarian a visual of the digestive tract and allow her to determine if there is an obstruction and it’s location. This condition will often present with a compacted lump of ingesta in the stomach with a haze of gas around the mass.
Treatment of Decreased Movement of the Gastric Muscles in Rabbits
The biggest risk from this condition is hepatic lipidosis due to anorexia. Therefore, it is vital that your pet is provided with effective analgesia to provide pain relief and to encourage your pet to eat.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) can be used for pain relief in your pet. Meloxicam is commonly used and has the benefit of not affecting gastric motility, unlike opioids.
In order to restore the fluid balance and rehydrate the stomach contents, fluid therapy is needed for your pet. This may be given in subcutaneous bolus amounts or intravenously. Warmed fluids may be given to your rabbit if he is suffering from hypothermia.
If your rabbit is not eating, your veterinarian may feel that force-feeding is needed. Your veterinarian may use a syringe to feed your rabbit a high fiber puree, or greens mixed with electrolyte solution.
An intestinal motility agent such as metoclopramide may be given once your pet’s hydration status has improved. As the slowed motility prevents absorption, this will be given via injection.
Hypothermia may be caused by this condition. Your rabbit will be provided with warm, soft bedding and may given warmed fluids intravenously or subcutaneously.
Recovery of Decreased Movement of the Gastric Muscles in Rabbits
The prognosis is varied depending on the severity, time taken to receive treatment, and symptoms experienced. Unfortunately, in cases where hypothermia has taken place the prognosis is grave. Reduced gastrointestinal motility is a symptom of underlying illnesses; in order to prevent a reoccurrence it is vital that the cause is found. Your veterinarian can assess your pet’s diet with you, and may recommend an increase of fiber or reduction of starch in your pet’s diet. Dental disease and infection are known to cause this disease, so if you suspect your pet may be suffering from either of these diseases contact your veterinarian. As stress can also be a trigger, try to eradicate or minimize stressors in your pet’s environment.