What is Nonfood Item Obstruction of the Digestive Tract?
Although not a common occurrence in rabbits, an obstruction caused by a nonfood item is an event that may need the immediate attention of a veterinary professional. Symptoms such as a distended stomach, pain, disinterest in nourishment, and lack of bowel movement all point to a critical situation.
Rabbit’s who roam freely throughout the home may ingest items such as toys, fabric, carpeting, or paper, causing an obstruction that may become life-threatening. Rabbits, because of their love of chewing, may ingest items that will quickly become impacted in the stomach or intestine, leading to an emergency veterinarian visit.
It should also be noted that rabbits may suffer an obstruction by consuming material within their own environment; for this reason it is important to use rabbit safe bedding and litter, and be aware of food items that are not safe for rabbits (such as corn and beans).
Obstruction of the digestive tract by a nonfood item is a serious and potentially fatal condition that may occurs if your rabbit ingests an item that gets lodged in his small intestine and causes a blockage. Once the blockage occurs, your rabbit's stomach can fill up with food, gas and fluid, he can have difficulties passing feces, and he can experience extreme pain. This condition can ultimately be fatal.
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Symptoms of Nonfood Item Obstruction of the Digestive Tract in Rabbits
Symptoms of the nonfood item obstruction of the digestive tract may include:
- Abdominal distention
- Abdominal pain
- Distended or hard stomach
- Excessive salivation
- Grinding of teeth
- Hunching in pain
- Lack of appetite for food, water or both
- Little to no droppings
- No interest in his favorite treat
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
Causes of Nonfood Item Obstruction of the Digestive Tract in Rabbits
The most common cause of nonfood item obstruction of the digestive tract in rabbits is the ingestion of a foreign material such as carpet, cloth, rubber or plastic. However, abscesses, hairballs, scar tissue, or tumors can also cause an obstruction.
Although your rabbit's intestines can become totally blocked he'll continue to make and swallow his saliva, and his stomach will also continue to make fluid. The fluid will become trapped in his stomach. Bacteria, food, fluid and gas that is trapped in your rabbit's stomach may cause dilation like an inflated balloon, compressing his chest and making it hard for him to breath. Lack of ability to pass feces because of the blocked intestine can evolve into a dangerous condition.
Diagnosis of Nonfood Item Obstruction of the Digestive Tract in Rabbits
Upon arrival at the veterinary clinic, relay to the veterinary team that your rabbit has ingested something causing symptoms pointing to an obstruction. Your veterinary caregiver will want to act quickly to find out if the gastrointestinal tract is indeed obstructed and whether or not your rabbit's condition is a life-threatening emergency. To begin, the veterinarian may give your rabbit fluids and pain medication to stabilize him.
A complete physical examination will allow the veterinary team to rule out other conditions with similar presenting symptoms. Clinical signs that may point to a rapid diagnosis are dehydration, low body temperature, or shock. X-rays may show gas in the small intestine closest to the blockage, as well stomach distention in the upper abdominal area.
Treatment of Nonfood Item Obstruction of the Digestive Tract in Rabbits
If the veterinarian is able to determine the location of the obstruction, she may have an indication as to whether the mass or item will be able to pass through the digestive system on their own, or whether surgical removal in necessary. Treatment options may include:
- Antibiotics if infection is present
- Fluid therapy to combat dehydration and also encourage elimination of stool and urine
- Gastric decompression
- Medication to prevent or lessen gastric ulcerations
- Medication for pain
- Supportive care in the form of oxygen if needed
Recovery of Nonfood Item Obstruction of the Digestive Tract in Rabbits
If your pet required surgery for the removal of the nonfood item, he may need a few weeks to recover and will require follow up visits with the veterinarian so she can chart his progress. If your rabbit companion was able to pass the foreign object on his own, he should be back to his normal activity level within a day or two. He may need a prescription for antibiotics if infection is a secondary complication.