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Acute Diarrhea in Rabbits

By: Dr. Lani Steinohrt

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  • Acute (sudden onset) diarrhea in rabbits may be defined as an increase in water content of fecal pellets with or without an increase in the frequency or volume of the bowel movements. Contrary to diarrhea in many other species, any changes in the normal appearance of a rabbit's fecal pellets are a concern and should be addressed with some urgency.

  • Diarrhea should not be confused with the normal, soft cecotropes (night feces) that are regularly produced and ingested by the rabbit primarily at night. "Night feces" are small, soft, sweet-smelling cecotropes that may resemble green shiny, sheen covered small peas. They are often in clumps and are eaten (coprophagy) directly from the anus during the night or early morning hours. These "night feces" are seldom observed during the day.

  • One of the most common problems seen in rabbits involves the gastrointestinal tract. The unique and well-developed cecum of rabbits is adapted for microbial (bacterial) fermentation to digest fiber and starches. Its eventual production of carbohydrates and other substances including high levels of vitamins B and K is important to the well-being of the rabbit. If the gastrointestinal tract is altered in any way, these important functions cannot occur and may lead to the ill health of the rabbit. Inadequate roughage in the diet is a primary cause of disrupting the gastrointestinal tract and contributes to many other problems as well.

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