Rabbits/constant gas!

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Dear Lee,
I hope you don't mind, I asked Dana Krempels the same question but I haven't received an answer yet, I am getting increasingly anxious and I thought two heads (especially your two) might be better than one in any case...
Details:
BB, 18 month old, agouti English X-breed (not lop), female, neutered
Adopted August 2012.
At the rescue centre we were told she eats very little hay and no veg but that she had never had any health problems. I got her onto what I thought is the recommended diet – minimal pellets, as much hay as she will eat (I give a large variety to try and get her to eat more), 2 bowls of veg (mainly herbs), tiny amount of fruit.
Problem:
Repeated episodes (sometimes 4+ hours) of what looks like gas pain, increasing in frequency, to at least once a week over the last few weeks. She does bounce back so far but it’s unbearably heart breaking to see her in pain.
Noticed, especially since the end of December, that she has very loud gut sounds. 99% of the time she seemed perfectly happy even with the gurgling belly. Loud gut was particularly noticeable as soon as she started eating veg in evening.
Already tried:
Several vet visits, x-ray (bit of gas near caecum but vet thought that was normal), blood test (only abnormality was high potassium but no clinical signs), dental checks (teeth were fine).
After the last vet visit, about 2 weeks ago, we decided to put her on a hay and pellet diet, giving prebiotics and probiotics every day (Fibreplex).
She has been on this diet for about two weeks. The gut sounds decreased, she ate more hay, droppings were very good. Thought we were on the right track.
BUT in the last 5 days she had another two episodes! On both occasions we were up until 4am, chasing her (she is free roaming and very hard to catch, extremely stressful for all of us), gave her Metacam, gave her Infacol (simethicone) three times. Can’t do massages because when she gets an episode she doesn’t want me near her.
Questions:
1)   If the problem is caused by veg, is it possible that it would take two weeks for a change of diet to work? She certainly seemed to be getting better for about 10 days into the new diet, until these last two episodes...
2)   Should I give simethicone preventatively? How long for? How often? How much?
3)   I have read that Readigrass (freeze dried grass) can cause these symptoms. Is that right? I will take her off that too...
4)   ‘Foreign object’ in GI tract? But would she be able to produce a normal amount of perfect droppings then? Is surgery the only option? (Please say no...)
5)   Any other possible causes?
6)   I am terrified it might be e.cuniculi. One of the rabbit specialists my vet consulted suggested this as a possibility. I lost my previous bunny to this dreadful disease. We did clean the flat before we got BB and gave her a 4-5 week preventative treatment of Panacur after she had been here 2 weeks. Should I give another treatment of Panacur?
7) Possibly not relevant but I have noticed some calcium deposits in the litter tray - but I guess that's likely to be from getting a lot more pellets now? Or from the Fibreplex?
8) When she has an episode she goes in the litter tray and looks as if she is straining to pee. Given that she only does this when she has the gas pain does that mean it's not a urinary tract problem?
9)   Vet wants me to continue with current diet for a bit to see if she will get better. If not, abdominal (ultrasound) scan. Do you agree? Any other advice?
Sorry about all these questions. I would really appreciate your help.
Thank you so much!
Warm regards,
Diane

Answer
Hi Diane,

sorry for getting back late, I forgot my vaca dates ran out.

Basically what I would do (our guys havethis problem periodically) is you get them off everything but hay and a little pellets.  This is the fundamental thing they are designed to eat.  The gut bacteria need a reset.  Probiotics at this time are okay to give as well, to try to populate the gut/cecum with good bacteria and kill off the bad causing the gas.

The simethicone is great, it takes large gas areas and breaks them down into tiny bubbles.  Massage helps but if you can't hold her without her fighting then don't.  

Make sure she is drinking enough.  Generally what sets our guys off is they stop drinking enough, and the body pulls water from the gut and things start going bad at this point.  Make sure the temperatures you have them in are warm enough so that they want to move around to drink at night when they are thirsty.  Too cold sometimes they move and drink less and this begins the eventual problem cycle of not drinking enough.  In the winter when the air is drier and its colder in the house, is when you have to make sure they are warm enough and maybe run a humidifier in the house to add a little moisture.

But generally vets here will want to put them on a basic, simple diet for a couple weeks after an episode, and then after two weeks of no problems, and them eating hay well, then slowly start reitroducing greens and more pellets.

Some greens cause gas.  Safest are parsley, italian or curly, green leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce are good.  Too much greens that they otherwise would tolerate in smaller amounts, can cause gas.  Lots of sugary things can cause gas.  Lack of water can cause bad bacteria to overgrow because the water's off inside the gut.  Simethicone can put liquid back into them, syringe feeding them water can help.  Fresh water changes twice a day can help.  If they drink from crocks/bowls replace with fresh water.  Putting bowls out where they rest when out playing, near their hay when they are out playing can encourage drinking.  and hay eating.  

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Lee Meyer (Mr.)

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I have 7+ years of experience with House Rabbits, rescue groups, and working with shelter rabbits. I have done many educational talks about house rabbits. I have advised potential adopters, supervised bunny 'dates', fundraising/educational rabbit events, and help rabbit owners with their rabbits. I will answer questions about: general behaviors, body language, housing, toys, bunny-proofing, diet, spaying/neutering issues, nail clips, preventative measures, diet, and health questions. I will not discuss: anything that deals with rabbits for fur, food, factory-style breeding, deliberate or casual breeding by pet owners, or experimentation.

My focus is solely on rabbits as loved pets. It's why I'm a House Rabbit Society member rather than an ARBA member. If you don't view your rabbit the same way you would a pet dog or cat, please ask another expert your question.

I am not a veterinarian and cannot conclusively diagnose your rabbit. My advice does not take the place of a good rabbit vet. IF YOU THINK THERE'S A PROBLEM, DON'T WAIT FOR A REPLY, GET TO A VET IMMEDIATELY!!! Sometimes what appears to be a small problem is life-threatening.

The House Rabbit Society has references on their site for vets they have researched. There are US and international links here for vets all over the world with rabbit experience: www.rabbit.org/vets/vets.html

I recommend the following resources to all rabbit owners:

House Rabbit Society - online rabbit info (www.rabbit.org)
Book: Rabbit Health in the 21st Century 2nd Ed. by Kathy Smith
Book: House Rabbit Handbook 4th Ed. by Marinell Harriman

Experience

House Rabbit Member since 2004 Discover Your House Rabbit organizer - 2006 Rabbit Adopter since 2004 HAWS Board of Education member (rabbits) since 2005 HAWS Rabbit Volunteer since 2004

Organizations
National House Rabbit Society, Wisconsin House Rabbit Society, Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS), Education Board Member for Rabbits, Friends of HAWS

Education/Credentials
BSEE, MSEE (Electrical/Computer Engineering), Marquette University

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