Rabbits/Rabbit poop


Rabbit poop
Rabbit poop  
QUESTION: Hi,I was just wondering, after increasing the amount of hay I gave my 2 rabbits (6-8 months old) one of them began doing watery poop. First it was just small slightly wet balls. This morning I realised it was longer and much softer. It is not hard enough to pick up with your fingers. I have a picture attached. I'm extremely worried, do you have good advice to fix this problem? I only feed them hay and peddles/ mixed at the moment because they won't eat carrots or any veggies I offer. They are also less active now and don't seem to be themselves. However they are still eating and drinking, but resting a lot.

ANSWER: Dear Rawan,

How old are your bunnies?  And is this the first time you have seen misshapen poops like this?

These poops could be full of fur, which could be why the bunnies are feeling a little poorly.  Be sure they get lots of fresh, wet greens that will help hydrate intestinal contents and make them easier to pass normally.

If the bunnies are young, and you are just now starting to see this type of poop, I have one more question:  What color are the bunnies?  Rabbits who are mostly white but have dark eyes and pigment spots are susceptible to a congenital condition that can cause this type of poop problem, and it's not a nice thing.  :(


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your reply Dana, well one of them is white and has blue eyes. She licks herself and the other bunny so much, she pretty much licks anything in her way. She is mainly the one producing this type of poop. She is about 7 and a half months. Her poops got better for a few hours but were still looking a little wet, just more ball like. But now they are back to the way it was before (like in the picture). The other bunny is brown and is 6 months of age. Yes this is the first time I have seen this bunny do this type of poop but I've only had them for about a week. What can I do to make this better? My bunny is still eating and drinking heaps! Someone suggested I give her a little cooked rice with banana and some peddles to help the poop re-shape into normal. What do you think?

Dear Rawan,

Hmm.  It is possible that your blue-eyed bunny has the congenital condition we sometimes call "Cowpoop Syndrome".  Rabbits with this problem produce large, misshapen poops because of faulty innervation of the intestines.  It's unfortunate that she's showing this so young, because the condition tends to become worse with age.  

You may not need to do anything now except keep her well hydrated by feeding her very wet greens and always providing lots of fresh, clean water in a bowl (not a water bottle).  The key to keeping a bunny like this healthy is to keep the intestinal contents well hydrated so they do not form an obstruction.

I hope her condition is temporary, and just due to ingestion of hair.  But if not, you'll have to monitor her for GI motility and health for her lifespan.

Hope this helps.


P.S. - appended below is another answer I sent out a while ago to someone who had an adult rabbit showing signs of this condition.  It's long, but here goes.

Welcome to the Cutting Edge of Rabbit Medicine!  :(

We have a bunny with exactly the same signs as Moet.  Her name is Gypsy,
she's a big white and gold bunny with dark eyes, and she produces what's
not-so-affectionately known as "cowpoops" or "marshmallow poops."  This
appears to be a congenital problem, which is not--itself--treatable.
However, we have successfully supported Gypsy through *three*
life-threatening (?) episodes, and I'll tell you what we know about her
condition.  I would not be at all surprised if Moet's condition was
exactly like Gypsy's (and other "cowpoop" bunnies').

Before I relate Gypsy's long story, here's what I'd suggest you do for

1.  Daily dose of 3cc lactulose
2.  Once per week dose of 1-2 cc laxative grade mineral oil.

This is a preventive, and Gypsy's story will explain why.  If Moet has
another episode, also add simethicone, analgesia (Banamine or meloxicam,
since the opioids such as torbugesic can have a slight gut-slowing action)
and Reglan and/or cisapride (I use 1mg/kg of each together, as they seem
to work synergistically).  The most important treatment for an
intermittent intestinal blockage (which I suspect Moet is suffering) is
the deep intestinal massage, in which your fingers can (gently) actually
*isolate* the malformed, desiccated poop in the chute, and massage it so
that fluid and lubricant can soften it and push it through the intestine.

And now, The Tale of Gypsy (Cowpoop Bunny who's been through it before,
and who helped us develop this treatment.)

Gypsy has always had huge, softish, misshapen "cowpoops."  While she was
relatively young, we saw no signs of trouble.  But as she got a bit older
(she's now about 3-4 years old), her tummy seemed to be more often
bloated.  One day she was feeling completely fine, and within five minutes
she would not move, eat her pellets or salad, and seemed to be in
tremendous GI distress.  She was very gassy, but not truly bloated (I've
seen this only once, and I hope to never see it again.  Bloat is a
condition in which the pyloric sphincter of the stomach becomes blocked or
spasms, and nothing can exit.  The rabbit becomes as hard and bloated as a
watermelon, and even with surgery, I have never known a rabbit to survive
a bloat.).  We did the usual (as you do with Moet):  tummy massage,
simethicone, and cisapride.  But this time, nothing worked.

We kept this up for two days, getting abdominal radiographs done by Dr.
Kelleher that showed lots of gas in the lower GI, but no solid matter.
Something was blocking her upper GI.  By the third morning--despite all
the medical treatments--she was in so much distress that we had no choice
but to take her up and have Dr. Kelleher evaluate her chances for an
enterotomy.  (I had to teach a class that morning, so my husband gallantly
stayed home from work and took her up to Dr. Kelleher).

I got the phone call at work that Dr. Kelleher was "going in"--and once
she did, she found some *very* interesting (and disturbing) things.  For
one thing, Gypsy's entire small intestine showed signs of scarring at
various locations along the length of it.  It was almost as if large, dry
"cowpoops" had gotten lodged there and then were successfully pushed
through.  I have to wonder if Moet's gassy episodes are just exactly this
early stage of the disorder, and he's suffering from the pain and gas of
intermittent intestinal blockages that he successfully pushes through.

The other thing she saw when she found the (relatively small!) mass and
opened up to remove it was that the portions of the intestine cranial
(towards the head) to the mass were in intense peristalsis, while the
portions caudal (towards the tail) were completely flaccid and inactive.
Once the mass was removed, the lower portions of the GI went into
peristaltic overdrive!  It was almost as if the lack of movement cranial
to the mass was somehow inhibiting peristalsis caudal to the mass.  I
wonder if there is a "cascade" to the innervation of the intestines that
is somehow different in these cowpoop bunnies, and once a blockage starts,
a potentially fatal ileus set in unless the blockage is physically moved
down the intestinal tract.

She closed the (longitudinal, to avoid stenosis from scarring) incision,
and we spent a week force-feeding Critical Care and pushing fluids before
Gypsy was fully recovered.  But that taught us something.  The mass we
found was *not* particularly big--but it was rock hard and dry.  The key,
it seems, is keeping the intestinal contents of a Cowpoop Bunny very well
hydrated and easy to push through the intestines.

The next part seems to have been ordained by the Powers that Be.  A
colleague from vet school called Dr. Kelleher to ask if she'd ever used
epsom salts solution orally and in enema solution to help a rabbit with a
blockage, as they often do with horses.  Dr. Kelleher said no, she'd never
done it, but that she didn't think it would hurt.  "Good!" said her
colleague," Because I just did it."

We heard later that the bunny passed the mass nicely and did very well
without surgery.  So we resolved that if Gypsy ever had another episode,
we would try this, too.  We didn't have long to wait.  Only about four
weeks after she had recovered from surgery, it happened again.  This time
we shot epsom salts orally *and* via enema with a pediatric ear syringe
(NEVER use a catheter!  Even a really good vet can tear the rectum with
fatal results) and intense, deep intestinal massage.  I got so experiened
at the latter that I could isolate loops of intestines and actually *feel*
the blockage.  Very gently, I massaged the blockage back and forth, which
I hoped allowed a bit of fluid to move around it and hydrate it.

A day or two later, Gypsy (after suffering quite a bit) passed a large,
hydrated mass of hair and poop that was apparently the problem because
once it was out, she was absolutely fine, normal, and had no recovery
period at all.  The mass had a LOT of hair in it.  She's got very long
hair (though she's not an angora), so this is even more of a potential
problem during shedding.  We now know we must be *extra* vigilant then,
and groom her a LOT to remove as much fur as possible so she won't send it
through her faulty intestines.

Later we heard another suggestion, to use lactulose orally.  This works on
the same principle as epsom salts.  The solute doesn't leave the
intestinal lumen, and so draws fluid into the large intestine osmotically.
This is why enema is *really* important, since fluid in the large
intestine *can* travel up the tract to some degree, and hydrate intestinal
contents farther up.  So we resolved to try *that* if this ever happened

And it did.

This time we used epsom salts orally and via enema, lactulose orally,
*and* a bit of mineral oil to help the mass slide through *once it was
hydrated* by the other solutions  (so not right off the bat, but after a
day of epsom and lactulose is best).  It took her a day and a half, but
Gypsy "gave birth" to another "dead mouse" of a fecal mass, and was right
as rain immediately, though she was in fairly intense pain (she was trying
to run away from her own guts, and couldn't find a comfortable spot) while
this was happening.  The cascade proceeded quickly once it started,  and
she released a huge pile of poops following the "dead mouse".

Since the third episode, we have been giving Gypsy *daily* doses of about
3cc of lactulose, and once a week we give her a cc of laxative grade
mineral oil, just to keep things lubed up.  I wouldn't ever do this to an
ordinary bunny, but with a "cowpoop" bunny, it really seems to keep things
very wet and prevents blockages.  She also gets daily exercise in the
garden, and LOTS of very wet greens in her salad.  Since we started the
daily lactulose and mineral oil, Gypsy hasn't had another episode--though
I can't guarantee that she won't ever have another.


Gypsy ultimately died from complications of this condition. Her liver seemed to shut down, and she could no longer digest food at all.  This is a terrible disorder, inexorable and treatable only with palliative measures.  But I've heard of some bunnies who live to be quite old despite this condition, and I hope Schroeder is one of them.

Good luck!



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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


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:

...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.


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.

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

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

Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology

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