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Rabbits/Exotic vet was unable to resolve chronic gas problem

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Question
Dear Dr. Krempels,

My rabbit has a chronic gas problem since he was 6 weeks old. He has had gas his whole life and is soon to be 3 years old. He gets gassy shortly after eating either pellets or vegetables. I do not feed him any gassy vegetables such as cabbage, kale, etc. I basically stick to spring mix, spinach etc. And anything beyond 1 cup of vegetables will send him into a gas episode. I have tried changing his pellets (Oxbow, Sherwood, Pet Food Select) and experimenting with different types of hay (orchard, oat, timothy), but nothing seems to relieve him.

He gets severe gas episodes 1-2 times per week. During these times, the gas in his tummy was so loud that I can hear it a few feet away. I’ve had to rush him to the vet 4-5 times over the past 3 years because I thought that it was GI Stasis. The exotic vet did a fecal test and the results were negative for parasites. She recommended Benebac and simethicone then sent him home. She recommended the same thing after each office visit. She said that my rabbit is “just a very gassy bunny.” I have gone though at least 20 bottles of simethicone but my rabbit is not improving. What should I do now? My gut feeling tells me that there must be some underlying problem causing the gas.

Thank you and I look forward to your reply!

Sincerely,
A concerned parent

Answer
Dear Anne,

I know of other rabbits who suffer chronic bouts of gas, and it can be very dangerous if the pain is enough to cause the bunny's GI tract to slow down or even shut down completely.  In that case, you can try this:

http://www.bio.miami.edu/dana/enema.html

But in a case like this, I wonder if we might not take a page from human medicine, and consider a transplant of healthy biota from a healthy rabbit.

Do you have friends who have healthy rabbits who might be able to donate cecotropes?  If you can get some, feed them to your bunny in a slurry of Critical Care without crushing them up.  It's best of the bunny does minimal chewing to the rubbery protein coat of the cecotrope, so the bacteria inside have the best chance of making it through the stomach unharmed.

It might even be useful to try a fecal transplant via enema, though this will introduce them only to the lower GI tract.  But who knows?  Some might make it up higher into the tract.  Since the cecum is located at the junction of the small and large intestines, it's not all that long a journey, especially if the gut is not moving much (which can happen when your bunny is gassy).

Has your bunny been checked for dental problems or other underlying health concerns?  Sometimes a cryptic source of pain or illness can trigger enough stress to slow down the GI tract and cause gas to build up as the more harmful bacterial denizens remain in the gut and proliferate.  So make sure there are no other disease conditions that might be a trigger.  See:

http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/dental.html

This one is probably old news to you, but might have something to help:

http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/poop.html

and for emergencies,

http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/ileus.html

I hope some of this will help.

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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