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Dr. B.
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Good Morning, I Inherited" a rabbit from my friends kids,

Resolved Question:

Good Morning,
I 'Inherited" a rabbit from my friend's kids, who weren't paying her much attention. SHe is a lionhead bunny.
SHe's been fine for the last 3-4 months. Recently, I changed her food to one that includes dried fruits which she loved as a treat when I bought them separately.
We also have had a lot of thunderstorms every day, so it stays darker than ususal though I keep a light on near her...and itis warmer than it was as well.
SHe has seemed to be very quiet these last few days, not drinking as much and even not interested much in her carrot....
I don' tknow how o know if anything is wrong with!
Thank you!
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 4 years ago.

Hello, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with Zoe today.


I completely understand that it can be a struggle to know when a rabbit is unwell. You are not alone in this because this is a challenge for any rabbit owner. The reason is because as a prey species rabbits strive to hide when they are feeling unwell (since being sick makes you a target for predation). Therefore, we often get very few hints until they are just too poorly and the diseases is too advanced to be hidden anymore.


Now her quietness is difficult to interpret, as it can be a non-specific sign of illness or being stressed with the recent weather changes. That said, her appetite and thirst are a concern here. To give me a better idea of her individual situation, can you tell me:


How recently was the diet changed?


Now you noted that she didn't want her carrot, but can you tell me if she is eating at all?



Is she producing the same volume and size of stool pellets as she usually does?

No small ones, fewer ones, or jelly grape clusters of feces in her cage?


Does she show any signs of a wet chin/paws/chest (or dried like it has been wet) or teeth grinding sounds?


Expert:  Dr. B. replied 4 years ago.
Hi again,

I have not heard back from you and can now see that your question appears to have been posted quite a bit longer then was visible when I initially answered you (the question had literally just appeared on my screen prior to my answering). I do think this may be a glitch in the system but I do still want to leave some information because as I noted before appetite decline in a rabbit can be very serious. If you can answer the questions I have asked above, that would be helpful but hopefully my thoughts now will guide you on what worries we must have for Zoe.

As I said before, rabbits are the masters of hiding illness. Therefore, if we are seeing Zoe being quieter or lethargic and potentially off her food, then this is quite serious and we need to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible. The reason why we need to be so pro-active is because any decrease in appetite (especially if it leads to a drop in fecal output) is a very serious problem in rabbit medicine. This is because rabbits have a more complicated gastrointestinal tract then other domestic pets (similar to horses, actually) and if you imagine these guts behave like conveyor belts. They should always be moving, which is why access to slowly digestible foods like hays are fed ad lib.

When a rabbit goes off their food, for whatever reason (ie dental disease, bacterial infections, etc), this can cause their gut to slow or stop, which can lead to gastric stasis, a situation which it is one of the few true rabbit emergencies. So, if you think she is eating less and drinking less, then it would be prudent for her to be seen by her vet before this can progress any further.

Just to note, some of the other signs we can see with gastric stasis:

  • Decreasing or sudden lack of appetite for food +/- water)
  • Changes to fecal production (from soft stools, to strangely shaped fecal pellets to diarrhea or no fecal production at all)
  • Off color/lethargy/ hiding
  • No GI sounds or loud uncharacteristic grumbles/growl


Now in regards XXXXX XXXXX "why" she is lethargic, showing a decreased appetite and thirst can be a little trickier. There are of course a range of primary issues we must consider, and this is something that a full physical exam by your vet will be able to shed light upon. The vet will be able to listen to her guts, check her temperature, and have a general evaluation of what underlying trigger might be ailing her.

Depending on the vet's findings, they can address the underlying trigger and initiate treatment. Often these cases need pain relief, pro-motility drugs, +/- antibiotics. If her signs are severe, she may need to be hospitalized. Or if you are able to provide diligent supportive care at home, they may advise you on how to syringe feed her.

Typically, anorexic rabbits need to be hand or syringe fed (usually hourly) to continue nutrition input to meet her body's requirement and keep her guts moving to prevent/address stasis. To support her, it is worthing getting a vet to dispense a critical care feeds that you can syringe feed the bunny. A very good product for this is Oxbow’s Critical Care feed ( or Recovery Diet and most vets will be able to provide this to you. This is a highly nutritious herbivore feed that can be easily made into a slurry for syringe feeding. And it is much easier to use then trying to create a balanced critical care diet at home.

Now be warned that if you do undertake syringe feeding her, then this can be a challenge (we all end up with Recovery on us when we are syringe feeding rabbits). To administer it in as stress free means as possible, I would advise having a peek of this guide (HERE) since a video is worth at least a thousand words. If she is quite resistant to being fed, then do watch the end of the video for 'towel wrapping' him to keep her snug and secure while you are feeding her.

In regards XXXXX XXXXX if she is severe dehydrated then the vet might give sterile fluids under her skin. Otherwise, you can try tempting her with pedialyte (fruity flavors are best tolerated), Lectaid (from her vet) or diluted Gatorade (50% diluted with water) in a pinch. These will help replenish electrolytes and get some glucose into her system. If she isn't keen on it, you can give pedialyte via dropper of syringe. A typical dose for animals is 4.8mls per 100 grams of body weight per day (obviously divided over all day drinking). This is her maintenance rate and it is a good starting place for supporting her against dehydration.

Overall, a depressed appetite with lethargy is a very serious situation for a rabbit and this shouldn't be ignored. I would advise that she should see her vet immediately. They will be able to determine the underlying trigger, treat her for this and advise you on how to administer critical care diet and nurse her through this situation. Overall, prompt treatment and supportive care are the best things we can do to get this under control and give Zoe the best chance of recovery and getting back to herself.

If you don’t already have a rabbit vet, and wish to find one near you, by checking here (



I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

Dr. B.


Remember that if you have any lingering questions or concerns, please reply so that we may continue our conversation. I will be happy to work with your further and do everything I can to provide you with the service you seek. Please remember to rate my answer when you are satisfied (with 4-5 stars or a happy face) so that I may receive credit for my assistance. Thank you & have a great day. : )


Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thank you! I have been home more than usual these last few days, which have also been very Rainey ones... So do not know what she normally does during the day.
He amount if water she is drinking does seem to be less.
I changed the food about 4 days ago.... Had not been giving her as much hay, because her pellets are hay... But did do again for the last two days.
Her stool seems about the same... Shape the same, and no wet spots anywhere....
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 4 years ago.
You are very welcome.

Understandably, it can be hard to determine what her normal activity level may be without having observed her during the day before now. But this is something to keep an eye on now and perhaps even consider setting up a web cam or video recorder in the future to see what she does when you are not home to get an idea of her activity level.

Anyway, in regards XXXXX XXXXX GI inputs and outputs, I am glad that her feces does appear to be normal. This is something to monitor just to make sure this remains the case.

Now you have noted what foods you are offering but not how much she appears to be eating (or if food is missing like she has been eating it when you weren't watching).

Do you think she is eating a significant amount of the food she has on offer?
If so, what % would you say she is eating?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I also changed her diet... Did not think to gradually change it because I ran outbid her other food....just ran out and bought a simpler one again... I feel SO bad for her!
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 4 years ago.

Hi again,

If the diet was abruptly change, that can affect the delicate GI microflora within the rabbit's intestine. So, if possible, you do want to reintroduce the old diet components alongside the new to restablize the gut and then gradually wean her to what you wish to feed. If she will eat the older diet for you, that would be ideal. Alternatively, there are some products on the market for rabbits that can be used to support that delicate GI bacterial population (ie Fibreplex -example). But in either case, do monitor her intake because if she isn't keen to eat then she will need to be syringe fed as I outlined above.

In regards XXXXX XXXXX water intake, I would say that it would be ideal to measure her water intake at this point. You can do this by measuring how much water you put into her water bottle or bowl & then measure what is left after 24 hours. You can then divide the total volume by her body weight in kilograms. This will give you an idea of her daily water intake and allow you to determine if the volume she is drinking is abnormally low or not. Ideally, she should be drinking around 50-150 mL/kg body weight daily. If she is drinking less then this, then we' d want to consider supporting her (ie with pedialyte) and having her vet check her over to determine whether GI stasis is responsible for her decline in thirst.

Dr. B.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Oh dear! I feel so bad! I know a lot about all ages of dogs and cats
But never realised that I knew so little about this bunny
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 4 years ago.

Hi again,

They are a very different species and sadly a lot of people don't realize how much so until they do suffer heath issues. In a way, rabbits are more akin to horses (since both have a similar GI design, cannot vomit, etc.) then cats or dogs.

Since Zoe was a surprise addition to your home and you perhaps have not had rabbits before, I would suggest having an explore and read of the House Rabbit Society's website (LINK). It is a good resource about health, behavior, feeding, and would be a good starting place to getting to know the ins and outs of rabbit care.

All the best,

Dr. B.


Remember that if you have any lingering questions or concerns, please reply so that we may continue our conversation. I will be happy to work with your further and do everything I can to provide you with the service you seek. Please remember to rate my answer when you are satisfied (with4-5 stars or a happy face) so that I may receive credit for my assistance. Thank you & have a great day. : )


Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thank you SO SO SO much! I bought a bag of the simplest rabbit food that I could find last night, cleaned her cage thoroughly to et all of the other food out, gave her a new toilet paper roll(her favourite toy!! lots of timothy hay in addition to the pellets, a tiny bit of ccarrot...and she seems back in better condition!

I didn't have to do anything to her water...but do you suggest pedialyte on an ongoing, preventative basis?
I really love this pretty bunny...thank you SO much for any other thoughts you may have so that I can keep her healthy!
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 4 years ago.
You are very welcome & I am very glad to hear that she is behaving more normally today. Smile

Hopefully, it was just a a fluke of the wild weather. In any case, I would say that if she has returned to normal then you don't need to use the Pedialyte at this stage. I would say to just monitor or measure her water intake to make sure it is normal and perhaps just keep the pedialyte in reserve to use if need be. But if her drinking has returned to normal then she will be absolutely fine on regular water and her foods.

Otherwise, it sounds like she is in good hands and I would say that really have a peek at the House Rabbit Society because it is a great resource and a wealth of information on doing the best for your wee one.

All the best,
Dr. B.
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