What are Digested Blood in Stools?
Digested blood present in rabbit’s stools is an unusual finding in rabbits. It often makes them appear green-black or tarry colored. This symptom is a sign of an underlying condition and may suggest bleeding in the digestive tract. It is vital that you contact your veterinarian if you suspect your rabbit has blood in their stools.
Digested blood in stool is known in veterinary terms as melena. There can be many causes ranging from ingestion of an inappropriate or unsafe substance, to diet, to an underlying illness that has caused gastric ulceration.
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Symptoms of Digested Blood in Stools in Rabbits
Other symptoms depend on the underlying cause, however, the following are symptoms often associated with blood in stools
- Diarrhea or loose stools
- Fecal staining around the perineum
- Bleeding from the nose or mouth
- Distended stomach in cases where obstruction or intussusception is the cause
In acute cases insufficient blood circulation may result in shock.
There are numerous conditions that may present with this symptom. They include but are not limited to:
- Parasitic enteritis
- Epistaxis (bleeding from the nose)
- Gastrointestinal ulceration: caused by stress or medication such as meloxicam
- Swallowing of blood due to nasal, sinus or oropharyngeal lesions, trauma or abscess
- Intestinal neoplasia
- Obstructions due gastric stasis or foreign bodies
Causes of Digested Blood in Stools in Rabbits
The cause of visible digested blood in the stools of rabbits is often due to upper gastrointestinal bleeding. The dark color observed is due to the hemoglobin in the blood reacting to the digestive enzymes and bacteria from the gastrointestinal system.
Diagnosis of Digested Blood in Stools in Rabbits
Your veterinarian will need to differentiate from various diseases and conditions that could present with this symptom. She will discuss your pet’s history leading up to the symptoms and perform a full, physical examination. During the physical examination your pet’s mouth will be carefully examined for sources of blood that could be ingested such as abscesses, dental trauma or neoplasia of the mouth or nasal cavity.
Your veterinarian will feel your pet’s stomach, which in cases of gastric stasis or obstruction 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 if so, the location of it. Obstructions may present as a compacted lump of ingesta in the stomach or as a tumor along the digestive tract.
While your pet is sedated your veterinarian may use this time to visualise the pharynx for lesions, neoplasia or other trauma. Laboratory tests can be a useful diagnostic tool for your veterinarian and a chemical blood profile, complete blood count and urinalysis may be performed. Elevated white blood cells may indicate infection, while low packed cell volume may indicate anemia, suggesting chronic bleeding.
Providing your veterinarian with a stool sample from your pet may assist in diagnosis. This sample may be examined by your veterinarian or sent for sampling. Chemical analysis can confirm hemoglobin in the stool sample.
Treatment of Digested Blood in Stools in Rabbits
The treatment your pet receives will depend on the underlying cause of the blood. It is likely that your pet will remain in hospital for diagnostic tests to take place.
Fluid therapy may be offered, as many of the possible conditions cause or are exacerbated by dehydration.
Pain relief may be offered to your pet, the type will be dependent on the outcome of differential diagnosis. In cases of gastrointestinal stasis, NSAIDs will be offered, however, in cases of gastric ulcers these are contraindicated and butorphanol is preferred.
Your veterinarian may request your rabbit stay in the hospital in order to monitor his appetite, fecal output, hydration and blood perfusion, and demeanour.
If your veterinarian suspects that an obstruction has caused the blood she may take radiographs to determine if and where a blockage has taken place. In some cases, a laparotomy may need to be performed.
Other medications may be given dependent on cause. If a parasitic infection is suspected the appropriate treatment will be given. In cases where gastric motility is suspected, an intestinal motility agent such as metoclopramide may be given once your pet’s hydration status has improved.
Recovery of Digested Blood in Stools in Rabbits
The prognosis and management is dependent on the cause of bleeding. If a definite diagnosis is unable to be made, monitor your pet closely for any changes of behaviour or development of new symptoms. As rabbit’s can deteriorate quickly from anorexia it is vital that you contact your veterinarian if your pet stops eating.
Discuss your pet’s diet with your veterinarian and ensure you are providing a nutritious, high fiber diet to support the gastrointestinal system. Regular parasite treatment is important, especially if parasitic infection is suspected. Make sure any in-contact rabbits are also treated. Ensure a clean, safe environment is provided for your pet.
Digested Blood in Stools Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My rabbit’s poop has been smelly for the past couple of days. Before his cecotropes were pasty and smelled disgusting, I took him to the the vet and they gave him some complimentary food and suggested a diet change. I give him timothy hay, grass and butter lettuce. Ever since I reduced the amount of pellets his cecotropes have been back to normal and his poop is slowly turning back to a light brown again. His poop still smells a little all the time and I’m unsure if I should wait to see if it fully improves or if he should go to the vet in case something else is causing the smell. How long should I wait?
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