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So you have a fuzzy bunny who hops around your living room, or a cuddly guinea pig who bops their head up to say “I love you.” They’ve been doing just fine, and then one day, they look really dumpy and seem to be off their food.
Then, you notice that your bunny or guinea pig’s not pooping. What happened?
Unlike dogs and cats (and people), constipation is not the most common reason for difficulty passing stool in rabbits and guinea pigs. While they can become constipated, in many cases difficulty passing or absence of faeces can be a sign of something more serious.
When a bunny or guinea pig’s not pooping, we think of a condition called stasis. This refers to the intestines not contracting properly. This can occur secondary to almost any illness, and can quickly become life-threatening.
Signs of Stasis for Bunnies or Guinea Pigs Not Pooping
Sometimes it can be hard to tell if your pet is suffering from stasis. Below are some sign of stasis for a bunny or guinea pig not pooping.
Bunnies and guinea pigs need to eat fairly consistently to keep the intestines moving. If they stop eating for more than 12-24 hours, then the intestines will slow down. Losing appetite can be an early sign of stasis.
Hiding or Lethargy
Bunnies and guinea pigs are generally very curious, and like to know what’s going on. If they suddenly stop interacting, or are suddenly hiding more than normal, this can be cause for concern. Your pet may be painful (a common reason for hiding and lethargy).
Dry Stool or Reduced Amounts of Stool
Bunnies and guinea pigs produce pellets of stool, which should generally be soft-ish and moist. If they are dried up, then they may have been sitting in the intestines for too long (and therefore too much water is being absorbed). This can be a sign of stasis.
Also, they should produce stool consistently through the day. If you notice the amount of stool decreasing, this can be a sign of stasis.
Potential Causes of Stasis in Bunnies and Guinea Pigs Not Pooping
Stasis can be caused by a number of different factors in bunnies or guinea pigs that aren’t pooping.
A very large percentage of stasis emergencies are related to diet. Bunnies and guinea pigs have digestion which is different than many other mammals. They rely on fermentation in an organ called the caecum to produce most of their nutrients.
This requires a high fiber, low carbohydrate diet. If they are not eating an appropriate diet (approximately 70-75% hay, 20-25% fresh vegetables, and only a very small amount (if any) pellets), then their body may not be getting proper nutrition, which can lead to other problems.
Low Vitamin C Levels
Guinea pigs require supplemental vitamin C because their bodies can not synthesize this essential nutrient. While many guinea pig pellets have vitamin C added, it is often broken down/lost shortly after the bag of pellets is opened.
For this reason, we recommend that vitamin C should be provided primarily through fresh vegetables. If Vitamin C levels are low, then your guinea pig may become ill.
Bunnies and guinea pigs have teeth which need to constantly chew in order to stay healthy. If the teeth are not healthy, then they can not chew properly, which means that the food is not being digested properly.
Diets which are not primarily hay-based often lead to the teeth being overgrown (since they are not constantly chewing). This can lead to dental pain, and the animal not eating.
If there is not enough water taken in (most commonly found in the food) then the intestines become dry. This in turn leads to a slowdown of movement, which can be a reason for your bunny or guinea pig not pooping.
In almost any painful rabbit or guinea pig, appetite will be reduced. This can lead to all of the problems listed above; but also to inflammation, which again will slow down the intestines.
Pain can be caused by almost any illness, so if your veterinarian is not able to find evidence of dietary issues, dental pain, or dehydration, they may need to look further to find the cause of illness.
Treatments for Stasis in Bunnies and Guinea Pigs Not Pooping
If you are an experienced bunny or guinea pig owner, and you notice stasis very early on, you may be able to treat it at home. Using a supplemental food such as Oxbow Critical Care, in combination with supplemental water, may allow your pet’s intestines to start moving normally again.
However, in most cases, a more aggressive treatment is needed if your bunny or guinea pig’s not pooping.
Your pet may need supplemental fluids to help re-hydrate the intestines and allow them to start moving. These can be administered by your veterinarian, either under the skin or in some cases intravenously.
When the intestines stop moving, it is very painful. Your veterinarian may provide an injection of a pain medication, and may send you home with additional doses to give.
When a bunny or guinea pig’s not pooping, they can become cold due to irregular metabolism. This in turn slows down the intestines further, setting up a cycle which can eventually be fatal.
Your veterinarian can provide appropriate warming to help your pet’s temperature return to normal.
While some bunnies and guinea pigs can be managed on an outpatient basis, in more severe cases, hospitalization is required. Veterinary Emergency Group is equipped to provide this more intensive care if your bunny or guinea pig’s not pooping. Our hospitals are open overnight (and in many locations, 24 hours a day).
Medications can be given more frequently, fluids can be administered more aggressively, and our dedicated and attentive medical staff (doctors, nurses, assistants) can closely watch your pet.
Call VEG if Your Bunny or Guinea Pig’s Not Pooping
Stasis can be a life-threatening condition, and you should contact your family veterinarian or nearest VEG location (where you will always speak immediately with a qualified veterinarian). If promptly treated, stasis can be managed and your bunny or guinea pig can quickly be back to their normal hoppy or boppy self!