What is Loss of Appetite?
Anorexia in rabbits is a symptom of an underlying condition, the most common causes are dental disease and gastrointestinal disorders. As anorexia is often caused by pain you may notice your rabbit showing other signs such as hunching, refusing to move or increased respiration. Anorexia can lead to serious complications in as little as 24 hours so early treatment is key.
Loss of appetite in rabbits, or anorexia, is a common but serious symptom in rabbits. This condition is often brought on by pain or stress and can lead to ketosis and hepatic lipidosis.
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Symptoms of Loss of Appetite in Rabbits
The symptoms your pet experiences will vary depending on the underlying causes. They may include
- Tooth grinding due to pain
- Reduced fecal matter or profuse diarrhea
- Aggression during handling
- Firm abdomen
Pseudo-anorexia – If your pet is suffering from this form of anorexia he may still have an appetite, however, due to an underlying condition such as dental disease are unable to eat
True anorexia – If your rabbit is suffering from this form of anorexia, he will lose the desire to eat; this is often due to underlying factors that cause pain or stress
Causes of Loss of Appetite in Rabbits
There are many different factors causing anorexia in rabbits. These include:
- Change of environment, or outdoor predators may cause stress in your pet
- Your pet’s social environment may also contribute, as rabbits are social animals
- Lack of companionship has shown to cause anorexia, while unsuitable, aggressive cage mates may also cause stress and reluctance to eat
- Bacterial skin infections are a common underlying cause of anorexia due to discomfort
- These skin conditions can be caused by parasitic infection, introduction of bacteria, or fungal infections
- An insufficiently balanced diet or selective feeder may cause gastrointestinal stasis and other conditions that may cause anorexia
Other factors that may contribute are toxin ingestion or foreign object ingestion, and chronic health conditions (there are a range of health conditions that can cause your pet to lose their appetite such as arthritis and dental disease).
Diagnosis of Loss of Appetite in Rabbits
Your veterinarian will perform a full clinical examination on your rabbit and carefully examine him for signs of underlying conditions that may be causing anorexia. The following may indicate the cause:
- Excessive salivation or malocclusion may be noted which may suggest dental disease to be the cause
- There may be an abnormal amount of gas or abdominal masses on palpation
- Signs of respiratory infection on chest auscultation may be evident
- If your pet is female the vulva should be carefully examined for discharge which may suggest pyometra
- Your pet’s skin will be examined for signs of infection or dermatitis
Your veterinarian may choose to do following diagnostic tests:
- Radiographs to investigate masses, osteoarthritis or other skeletal disorders
- Blood chemistry which can rule out renal and hepatic disease and provide a health baseline when prescribing analgesia
- Urine tests to check for urinary tract infections
Treatment of Loss of Appetite in Rabbits
In order to prevent your pet from developing hepatic lipidosis and to maintain gut peristalsis, your veterinarian will initiate treatment for anorexia immediately. Your rabbit may need to be admitted to the hospital for treatment.
Fluid therapy may be given to prevent dehydration and rehydrate gastrointestinal contents. Your pet will be encouraged to have fluids orally but may also be given intravenous or subcutaneous fluid therapy.
As anorexia is often caused by pain it is vital that your pet is given analgesia to relieve discomfort. Your pet may be given NSAIDs or opioids for relief.
Your pet will be offered a selection of foods. If your pet has favorite foods your veterinarian will recommend you bring them to your pet. Fresh fruit and vegetables along with pellets will be offered. Appetite stimulants high in fiber such as parsley, kale, and carrot tops are ideal for your pet. It is likely your pet will require syringe feeding, this will often be performed by a veterinary assistant or nurse. Ideal foods for syringe feeding are pureed pellets with water, pumpkin or banana.
In some cases, nasogastric tube insertion is necessary to provide nutritional support. The tube is lubricated with anesthetic gel and inserted through the nose into the stomach. Your veterinarian will then check the position of the tube by performing a radiograph.
The tube can stay in place for several weeks if needed and will be taped in place. It will be flushed with water prior to each feed, providing an excellent source of water. The same mixtures of either ground pellets or pureed vegetables can be fed through this tube.
Recovery of Loss of Appetite in Rabbits
The prognosis for a pet suffering from loss of appetite can be good to guarded depending on how quickly treatment was sought and the underlying condition involved. If stress was the cause, it is important to adjust your pet’s environment to reduce or completely eliminate the stressor. If your rabbit is suffering from disease such as skin infections or abscess, your pet may need further medication and treatment. For chronic health conditions such as arthritis, it is important that you discuss a long-term pain management plan with your veterinarian to alleviate your pet’s discomfort. Support nutrition will also be beneficial.
Loss of Appetite Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Coco has had gi stasis a numerous amount of times and we found it was greens that would trigger it after we eliminated a lot of things. The vets did x rays and tests but they were all fine. She hasn't had stasis for about 3 months which was great but suddenly she has lost her appetite and had gone in to stasis. So we took her to the vets and she had injections and she recovered from stasis. However she would not eat anything at all. I fed her critical care but she would not swallow it .She would take small nibbles at hay but would not eat her favourite foods but she didn't have stasis. We took her to the emergency vets as i was very concerned and they decided to keep her overnight. We bought new pellets about 2 weeks ago and she had a nibble but she didn't really eat them. She continued to eat her old pellets and I mixed in her new food but I removed it as I thought maybe that caused her to go off her food. The vets let us bring her home today as she ate Apple and cucumber and she had water. The vet said she did not touch the hay or pellets but she passed some feces. The vet wanted us to take her home as she was away from her sister and there were alot of dogs and she was starting to get stressed and maybe she would eat when she was back home. So we bought her home and she started eating hay and cucumber and apple and she was happy and moving around playing with her sister. She also passed more feces and they are normal.However she still won't eat her pellets. She's back home because she passed feces but she will be going back tomorrow morning as the vets wanted to check her. I fed her critical care (as she isn't eating her pellets) and the vets told me to give her zantac. The vets did blood tests but they came clear and she looks fine her weight decreased a little she weighted 2.2kg and now she weights 1.9kg but that could be because of stasis. She will eat everything except her pellets. Coco has never eaten apple no matter how many times I gave it her. But at the vets she ate half a whole apple which is shocking to me and she is still eating apple now. The pellets she is on are the Burgess excel rabbit nuggets in mint. And the new ones are oxbow adult rabbit food. Her treat is the oxbow Papaya and pineapple tablets and digestive health formula sticks by vetcare plus.She has the Burgess Timothy hay and she has a good run around in the garden every morning while I am cleaning out the litter tray and mats. They are in a big open room that gets cleaned daily. She is a house bunny but we also have a hutch outdoors. I never use it as i want them to always be free. Her enviroment is the same and she has a another bunny with her (sister). The vets gave her injections to keep her guts moving. What has caused her to go off her food ?
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I have a 7 1/2 year old mini rex. She is a super sweet girl. She has been a little lethargic lately. Usually, when she is out she hops around but the past few times she has been out she has just sat in one place. She didn't eat at all today and even refused to eat a piece of banana which is her favorite treat. I don't know if there is anything that I can do for her or what to even try. It seems she is still drinking water and has been pooping but with her her age she can go downhill pretty quickly. It doesn't seem to be gastrointestinal stasis. Her weight has decreased a bit the past year so I give her a little more pellets to keep her up to a proper weight. She may be a little overweight but not much. She has been slowing down more this past year and I am just not sure how to help her at this point. If you have any suggestions I would really appreciate it.
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Male rabbit 15mths old. Few weeks ago appetite changed,withdrawn from fav foods and usual behaviour. Vet visit,treated for stasis,no improvement.More meds inc pain relief,also force feeding as losing weight. No improvement again. Depression, eating but only certain foods. Weight loss still. X ray shown nothing of concern. Slight grinding of teeth at times. Still poorly. Please help as vets dont seem to know whats wrong.
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