I'm sorry to hear that Juliet's stool isn't normal. Usually, when adult rabbits have fecal matter accumulating on the rear end, it's runny cecotropes that are the issue.
As you may know, due to their unique digestive systems, rabbits have 2 types of poop: The dry, fibrous pellets you find most of the time, and soft, brown, mulberry-like cecotropes. Ordinarily, you won't see cecotropes, because the rabbit will eat them to absorb nutrition from the bacteria in the lower GI tract. There are many causes for mushy or unformed cecotropes in rabbits, but some of the more common are:
An overweight rabbit may produce normally formed cecotropes, but because she cannot properly reach down to grab them as they emerge from the chute, these soft pellets can becom squashed under the bunny as she flexes and bends around to get them. Weight reduction is the answer here, and this is as difficult for rabbits as it is for humans. Eliminating commercial pellets, or at least switching to a high-fiber, low-calorie timothy-based pellet can make a great difference. Replace any starchy treats with fresh herb treats. And, painful as it may be, exercise is one of the best ways to burn more calories than bunny takes in. As we all should know, that's the botXXXXX XXXXXne when it comes to slimming down.
Arthritis or other Skeletal Disorders
Similarly, a rabbit who is suffering from degenerative joint problems in the spine, hips, or other areas, may not be able to reach cecotropes easily. He ends up sitting on some of them, and squashing them into his fur. Arthritis can be treated by your veterinarian. Common remedies include various NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs), and glucosamine supplements such as Cetyl-M or myristol.
Rabbits, like horses and cattle, are strict herbivores. The rabbit intestine--and its normal bacterial flora--has evolved to feed almost exclusively on grass and herbs. >br> Does your rabbit get starchy treats such as oatmeal, crackers, bread or sweets? Some rabbits with very sensitive intestines can suffer from runny cecotropes even from commercial pellets. Fruit, as healthy as it is for humans, can be too much of a good thing for rabbits. The high level of sugar and starch in table fruit makes them too rich for a bunny except as a very small, occasional treat. A diet too rich in digestible starch is one of the most common causes of runny cecotropes in companion rabbits.
Insufficient Indigestible Fiber
A rabbit should be fed unlimited grass hay, such as timothy, brome, wheat or oat. Alfalfa hay is too rich in calories and protein for daily feeding. A rabbit who cannot nibble constantly on high-fiber grass or hay may suffer from a lack of tonus in the gut muscles. Normal peristalsis (muscular movements that push food through the gut) may become sluggish. This causes the passage of food through the cecum to slow down, and the normal rate of bacterial "flushing" from the cecum is disrupted, promoting cecal dysbiosis. The high fiber content of grass hay also helps to "dilute" the starch of other dietary items, and helps to provide a healthy intestinal environment. A complete and healthy diet is truly key to preventing intestinal problems such as cecal dysbiosis (and its associated mushy stool).
Hidden Health Problems
When a rabbit is ill, in pain, or is suffering from emotional stress, a typical physiological response is slowing of the normal peristaltic movements of the intestine. This results in cecal dysbiosis, with all the accompanying problems of runny stool, and possible inflammation of the intestinal lining (enteritis).
Some of the most common causes of intestinal slowdown (and hence, cecal dysbiosis) in rabbits include pain/stress due to
Urinary tract disorders
Upper respiratory infections
Any of these conditions must be diagnosed and treated by a rabbit-savvy veterinarian familiar with such problems and their appropriate treatment. Until a cryptic health disorder is diagnosed and treated, chronic runny stool will likely persist. Therefore, it's wise to have your messy-bottomed bunny undergo a thorough wellness check, especially if his diet and weight are normal and healthy.
Once an underlying source of pain/stress is treated, the runny stool often resolves on its own. But if the condition is not treated, it can progress and eventually result in a potentially life-threatening condition, ileus, or GI stasis, in which peristalsis stops completely.
In the meantime, keeping your bunny clean and dry is going to be crucial to keep her comfortable and avoid skin infections. Here is a link that explains how to safely give your bunny a butt bath.
I hope this is helpful. If so, please rate me positively, and don't hesitate to let me know how I can help further.
Dr. Taus, Veterinarian
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Experience: Veterinarian with experience in equine and small animal medicine.
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