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Gastrointestinal Hypomotility and Gastric Stasis in Rabbits

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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The tests may include the following:

  • Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination including feeling the abdomen and an oral exam.

  • Radiographs (x-rays) of the abdomen is recommended. It is critical to differentiate gastrointestinal hypomotility and gastric stasis from gastric "bloat" which is life-threatening.

  • Blood tests may be recommended to determine if underlying organ malfunction is causing the hypomotility and stasis.

    Treatment

    Treatment is symptomatic and aimed at rehydration, medications that stimulate the GI motility and dietary therapy.

  • Fluids are an important component of the treatment. Severe dehydration results in a drop in blood pressure which decreases the blood supply to major organs and contributes to the hypothermia and shock. Fluid replacement to treat the dehydration and low blood pressure can be given subcutaneously (under the skin), but many patients are too debilitated to absorb the fluids quickly enough to be helpful. A more successful route to administering fluids is an intravenous (in the blood vessel) or intraosseous (in the bone) catheter.


  • Warmth is also very important. Sick rabbits expend a lot of energy fighting off infections and trying to stay alive. Providing warmth will reduce the amount of energy required to maintain their body temperature.


  • Exercise is encouraged when possible as activity helps encourage gastric motility.

  • Dietary therapy is key. It is important to get your rabbit eating as soon as possible. Generally a large selection of fresh greens (romaine lettuce, parsley, spinach, collard greens and/or cilantro) are offered as well as a good quality grass hay (such as timothy hay). For patients that refuse to eat, a gruel is offered and gently syringe fed. A common gruel is Critical Care for Herbivores (Oxbow Pet Products) or Emeraid Herbivore (Lafeber). Another option is to grind pellets and mix with fresh greens to form a gruel.

  • Oral water intake is encouraged by offering fresh water, or wetting the fresh greens.

  • Drugs to stimulate the gastrointestinal motility are key. These drugs may include cisapride, metocloparmide or ranitidine.

  • Analgesics (pain medications) help alleviate abdominal discomfort. Stasis will cause gas production and intestinal bloating which can be very uncomfortable. Pain causes rabbits to become even more anorexic and lethargic. The lack of ingested food and activity causes an ileus (slowing or stasis of the gastrointestinal tract) which allows for an increased absorption of the toxins. A commonly used drug to treat gastrointestinal pain is meloxicam which is a non-steroidal anti-inflamatory drug (NSAID). Opiods (butorphanol, buprenorphine) are also used.


  • Antibiotics may be recommended in patients with bacterial overgrowth and may include . Several drugs may be used including enrofloxacin (Baytril®), trimethoprim sulfa, marbofloxin or metronidazole.

  • It is also important to minimize stress in a quiet environment.

    Early and aggressive medical care with dietary modification carries a good to excellent prognosis.


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