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Rabbits/digestion problems, loud gut sounds

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Question
Dear Dana,
I adopted BB in August. I really wanted a bonded pair of healthy, cuddly bunnies, good hay eaters. But... BB was born in the shelter and had been stuck there for over a year as nobody wanted her. They told me she didn't eat veg, almost no hay and they had attempted to bond her several times but concluded she was happier on her own. She was also VERY nervous and scared of people and noises. Almost exactly the opposite of what I wanted but I felt sorry for her...
Initially she was kept in a large enclosure in the living room but she is now free roaming.
Diet: very few pellets (I suspect she was used to getting quite a lot more), finally got her to eat some hay after trying a dozen kinds, fresh grass which I pick three times a day (I do worry about parasites as there are cats, dogs, squirrels, birds in the park), a variety of veg (parsley, cilantro, mint, basil, chicory, bit of carrot, fennel, lettuce,...), couple of raisins, small bit of fruit. Question: is it ok to leave the grass for a few hours? It takes her quite a while to finish it.
Unfortunately due to my stupidity she has eaten some things she shouldn't have: tape from cardboard box (in August), rubber from vacuum cleaner electrical cable (I don't think she ate any of the wires inside), string of wool (both a few weeks ago)and possibly other stuff I don't know about! I do try to be careful...
BB had a vet check at the shelter when I adopted her and they told me she was very healthy and had never had any problems. I first took her to the vet in October after a gas episode. Again, the vet said she was very healthy and her teeth looked very good. Second vet visit in December (after the rubber and wool eating incidents). I took her in because she didn't eat for a couple of hours and didn't look right - possibly I overreacted. The vet took an x-ray, said there was a bit of gas near the cecum but that BB was perfectly ok.
Problems:
- sometimes droppings are misshapen, sometimes a bit yucky, sometimes small, she has been getting quite a lot of fur in the droppings and chains of droppings (vet said to give liquid paraffin for stringy poop (is that right?), I also wash the grass and the veg to get water in and I give her some butternut squash)
- sometimes very loud gut sounds, mostly doesn't seem to bother her but sometimes she looks uncomfortable and won't eat for a couple of hours which makes me extremely anxious
- BB is still nervous although she is MUCH better, when she is in the right mood I can stroke her and she tooth purrs but often she will still run away. This is in spite of me spending LOTS of time with her. I have tried to pick her up but she totally freaks out and then won't come near me for days so I have given up. This means grooming is impossible. I get a bit of loose hair off when I stroke her but that's it. Also she will rarely let me massage her belly (when she is lying on the floor) when I suspect she has gas. And I haven't even tried to get simethicone in her.
- the water in her bowl hardly goes down and I very rarely see her drink
- she lost quite a bit of weight in the first few months (from 3.4kg. to 3.1 kg. but it is stable now)and I worry that she doesn't eat enough
- sometimes she lies down with her legs stretched out in the back, does that mean she is comfortable or could it indicate tummy ache?
Terribly sorry about this long message but I felt I should give as much information as possible. I want BB to be healthy and happy and any advice you could give would be much appreciated.
Warm regards,
Diane

Answer
Dear Diane,

What color is BB?  I ask because white rabbits with dark/pigmented eyes and spots sometimes have a congenital condition that causes signs similar to what you describe.  If you can send a picture of her *typical* fecal pellets, that would help me see if she might express this condition.

Lying with legs kicked back is a sign of comfort, not pain. So that's a good thing.

I hope there are no foreign objects in her stomach, staying there and causing trouble.  Paraffin might be too solid at body temperature to help.  Some vets suggest a bit of mineral oil to help slide synthetic things through the intestine, but you also run the risk of coating masses of food and fur in the stomach and intestine, preventing them from hydrating.  This is critical for them to become friable and easy for the rabbit to pass.

I'll wait to hear from you re:  pictures.  Please send them to:  hunhare@gmail.com

Hope this helps.

Dana

Rabbits

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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.

Expertise

I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:
THE INTERNET IS NOT THE PLACE TO SEEK HELP IN AN EMERGENCY.

...it is an EMERGENCY.

Find a rabbit vet at www.rabbit.org/vet for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.


RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.

Experience

I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Organizations
Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Publications
Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Education/Credentials
Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology
(http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare)

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