Rabbit periodically not eating

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Aspen’sbuns

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Hello!

I have a question I would like some advice on from other bunny owners.
One of my bunnies, a 3 year old mini lop, is periodically having episodes where he won’t eat for an hour or so. This has been going on for quite some time; at least over a year.

When it first started, I would just go check on them at night, and he would be sitting in the corner and not eating. I would check a few times before I would go to bed, and then he would be eating again. He had one episode that was quite long, where he was still not eating the next morning.
When the bunnies went for their vaccinations (which was only about 3 weeks after the longer incident) I told the vet what he was doing. She checked him over, and he seemed all okay. One of his ears was a little bit redder/muckier than she felt it should be, so he went on a course of penicillin. After the course, the problems seemed to stop, but after a few weeks, he started again. They were however much less frequent. Maybe every 3-5 weeks. That was in October 2021.

Over summer, they also remained pretty infrequent. There was maybe one or two, but all buns were a bit funny those days, so we put it down to the heat (we are in the Southern Hemisphere)

In February 2022, I added my fourth bun into the trio. In the period of bonding, there was no incidents of not eating. Over those 6-7 weeks, they were on a hay only diet.

Once they all moved back into their house, he was okay for a little while, and then they seemed to start again. Again though they were reasonably infrequent, and as they were starting to have their space expanded again, I just put these episodes of not eating for a few hours down to that.

Over the last maybe month(?) these episodes have started getting more frequent again. Maybe one every 2 weeks. Normally there will be 1 night, he will be okay the next night, and then the night after he will be funny again, and then nothing for 2 weeks.

I have no idea what is causing these episodes, so would like to know if anyone else has similar experiences?
He has had blood tests done, and urine tests, and all were clear. His teeth have not been checked with a CT scan, however anytime the vet has looked at them they have looked okay. His front teeth are all aligned and healthy and everything.

When he has these episodes, he will normally just stay in one part of his house, switching between a loaf and cleaning himself. His stomach feels completely normal, and generally he will still be pooping too. If one of the other bunnies comes to clean him, he stretches completely out and flops. I also find he will dig at his blankets and stuff a bit when in these episodes.

All bunnies are vaccinated and desexed. All have been desexed for at least a year.

Thank you to anyone who has read this far 🤪
 

SableSteel

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I don't see anything wrong here. Rabbits don't eat 24/7. They spend more time sleeping than they do eating; and in the wild they would only go out the eat at dawn and dusk. Personally I only feed my rabbits once a day and they do great. Just like with dogs, some rabbits have a bigger appetite than others do. Only if he doesn't touch his food at all, all day would I start to worry about it
 

Aspen’sbuns

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I don't see anything wrong here. Rabbits don't eat 24/7. They spend more time sleeping than they do eating; and in the wild they would only go out the eat at dawn and dusk. Personally I only feed my rabbits once a day and they do great. Just like with dogs, some rabbits have a bigger appetite than others do. Only if he doesn't touch his food at all, all day would I start to worry about it
Thank you for replying!
I only feed my bunnies pellets once a day. They will get a treat when I go up to feed them too. Everyday I go up to check my bunnies in the morning around 9am, and in the afternoon at about 6pm. It’s at 6pm that they get a treat and their pellets. Ordinarily all bunnies will run to get the treat, but obviously when Bun is having these episodes, he won’t.

I don’t stress so much if I go up during the day and he’s not eating, it’s just if it’s when I go up at their ordinary meal times and he’s not eating.
 

JBun

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Thank you for replying!
I only feed my bunnies pellets once a day. They will get a treat when I go up to feed them too. Everyday I go up to check my bunnies in the morning around 9am, and in the afternoon at about 6pm. It’s at 6pm that they get a treat and their pellets. Ordinarily all bunnies will run to get the treat, but obviously when Bun is having these episodes, he won’t.

I don’t stress so much if I go up during the day and he’s not eating, it’s just if it’s when I go up at their ordinary meal times and he’s not eating.

Any time a rabbit won't come running to eat their treats as normal, especially when it's at the usual treat/feeding time, this will often mean there's some sort of upset and/or health issue. Stretching out could be belly pressing from stomach discomfort(though it could also just be normal flopping, just depends on how he looks and acts while doing it), and uncharacteristic digging at his blankets during one of these episodes, can also be due to restlessness from some sort of discomfort.

Does it seem to coorelate to being fed any particular food, previous to it happening, could even be hours before? Or starting a new food, new bag of food/hay? Do you feed any store bought pre packaged herbs/veggies, where they might have gone through some sort of preserving wash? Any possibility any veggies had started to spoil? Are you on well water? Do the repeated occurrences maybe coincide with a molt? Any chance he's ingesting foreign substances around the house(eg. carpet fibers, bits off the floor, etc)?

I would be looking at anything that is consistently occurring just prior to this happening. Whether it's a common food or maybe even something causing stress(eg. loud environmental sounds, new person or animal coming around, or even times when you have left the home causing separation anxiety, etc). One possibility is that some rabbits can actually have acid reflux and stomach ulcers, which can cause an upset stomach soon after eating. In these cases, an acid reducer is usually prescribed.

With the possible improvement while on antibiotics, it is possible it's infection related. Because rabbits bodies can 'wall off' pus, this means infections can actually sit in there a while, without it causing too many(or possibly none) related health issues. But usually that would show up in a blood test. What about other testing. Were any xrays of the belly ever done? What about a fecal test, to rule out parasites?

Because you saw no incidents while on a hay only diet, it might be worth trying this again, to see if the same thing happened, with no sign of upset and change of behavior occuring while on this diet. If you get a repeat, and he doen't act unwell at all, I think you have your answer. That some part of his other foods, is what's causing the discomfort, and that he's sensitive to one or more, of these foods.

If you do try a grass hay only diet again, make sure they always have plenty of hay(never runs out, refreshed twice a day, though I'm sure you already know this). That it's a good quality hay(no mold, no noxious weeds) that's not too coarse(lacking enough nutrients for good health and weight maintenance), with plenty of leafy strands(provides the needed nutrients). I would also provide a salt lick because they won't be getting their necessary dietary sodium from their pellets.

It's also a good idea to monitor the rabbits weight and body condition, at least twice a week minimum at first, to make sure no unhealthy weight loss occurs while on a hay only diet. And if you have any concerns with a hay only diet, it's always adviseable to consult with your vet to ensure your rabbits proper health during this time.

I had a rabbit that I would notice he was seeming a bit uncomfortable with eye squinting, belly pressing, and not eating, within an hour after being fed pellets, and this would last for a bit after he ate them(he had previously had reoccurring bouts with GI stasis), then he would go back to normal most of the time. I eventually figured out it was the pellets because it would be the only food he got right before he started acting this way. So I removed pellets from his diet, fed good grass hay and select leafy greens(which he was ok with and not sensitive to), and this stomach upset and his bouts with stasis never happened again.

So stomach upset can definitely be caused by certain foods, and a good grass hay diet can sometimes fix this, or at least cause an improvement, in these instances. But it does have to be the right balance of grass hay(medium coarse to soft cut), to be able to maintain good health and weight. And it's helpful if greens and maybe some veggies, can be added in after knowing if hay helps correct the problem.

This link is for mushy cecotrope problems, but it's essentially the same recommended diet, to remove other foods and feed hay only to correct the problem, before trying to add other foods back in one at a time(to discover any problem foods and remove them). So it might be worth reading over.

 

Aspen’sbuns

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Any time a rabbit won't come running to eat their treats as normal, especially when it's at the usual treat/feeding time, this will often mean there's some sort of upset and/or health issue. Stretching out could be belly pressing from stomach discomfort(though it could also just be normal flopping, just depends on how he looks and acts while doing it), and uncharacteristic digging at his blankets during one of these episodes, can also be due to restlessness from some sort of discomfort.

Does it seem to coorelate to being fed any particular food, previous to it happening, could even be hours before? Or starting a new food, new bag of food/hay? Do you feed any store bought pre packaged herbs/veggies, where they might have gone through some sort of preserving wash? Any possibility any veggies had started to spoil? Are you on well water? Do the repeated occurrences maybe coincide with a molt? Any chance he's ingesting foreign substances around the house(eg. carpet fibers, bits off the floor, etc)?

I would be looking at anything that is consistently occurring just prior to this happening. Whether it's a common food or maybe even something causing stress(eg. loud environmental sounds, new person or animal coming around, or even times when you have left the home causing separation anxiety, etc). One possibility is that some rabbits can actually have acid reflux and stomach ulcers, which can cause an upset stomach soon after eating. In these cases, an acid reducer is usually prescribed.

With the possible improvement while on antibiotics, it is possible it's infection related. Because rabbits bodies can 'wall off' pus, this means infections can actually sit in there a while, without it causing too many(or possibly none) related health issues. But usually that would show up in a blood test. What about other testing. Were any xrays of the belly ever done? What about a fecal test, to rule out parasites?

Because you saw no incidents while on a hay only diet, it might be worth trying this again, to see if the same thing happened, with no sign of upset and change of behavior occuring while on this diet. If you get a repeat, and he doen't act unwell at all, I think you have your answer. That some part of his other foods, is what's causing the discomfort, and that he's sensitive to one or more, of these foods.

If you do try a grass hay only diet again, make sure they always have plenty of hay(never runs out, refreshed twice a day, though I'm sure you already know this). That it's a good quality hay(no mold, no noxious weeds) that's not too coarse(lacking enough nutrients for good health and weight maintenance), with plenty of leafy strands(provides the needed nutrients). I would also provide a salt lick because they won't be getting their necessary dietary sodium from their pellets.

It's also a good idea to monitor the rabbits weight and body condition, at least twice a week minimum at first, to make sure no unhealthy weight loss occurs while on a hay only diet. And if you have any concerns with a hay only diet, it's always adviseable to consult with your vet to ensure your rabbits proper health during this time.

I had a rabbit that I would notice he was seeming a bit uncomfortable with eye squinting, belly pressing, and not eating, within an hour after being fed pellets, and this would last for a bit after he ate them(he had previously had reoccurring bouts with GI stasis), then he would go back to normal most of the time. I eventually figured out it was the pellets because it would be the only food he got right before he started acting this way. So I removed pellets from his diet, fed good grass hay and select leafy greens(which he was ok with and not sensitive to), and this stomach upset and his bouts with stasis never happened again.

So stomach upset can definitely be caused by certain foods, and a good grass hay diet can sometimes fix this, or at least cause an improvement, in these instances. But it does have to be the right balance of grass hay(medium coarse to soft cut), to be able to maintain good health and weight. And it's helpful if greens and maybe some veggies, can be added in after knowing if hay helps correct the problem.

This link is for mushy cecotrope problems, but it's essentially the same recommended diet, to remove other foods and feed hay only to correct the problem, before trying to add other foods back in one at a time(to discover any problem foods and remove them). So it might be worth reading over.

Hello @JBun
Thank you for replying!

When he stretches out if he’s in one of these episodes, it’s generally only when one of his bonded partners are grooming him. When he does this, it is a full on proper relaxed flop. No stomach pushing or anything. The digging is also not uncharacteristic for him, he digs at his blankets a lot. I just put that part in there, so that I could paint a better picture of how he acts during these episodes. He will be loafed, or grooming himself. He will dig at the ground before he starts to groom himself, and if someone else starts grooming him he will flop out.

Absolutely no correlation to any type of food or anything. I have tried changing things, and omitting things to see if that makes a difference, but so far nothing! Veggies are always washed before I feed my bunnies them, however they haven’t had any in a little while, due to shortage at our supermarkets, and a lack of being able to get any! We are not on well water. These episodes I don’t think correlate to a moult. All bunnies have just started moulting a little bit in preparation for spring, but otherwise no I don’t think so! If anything the extra cold days MIGHT be the only thing it could possibly be linked to, but even then it’s probably a stretch! He could possibly be ingesting some of the fibres from the rug I have in their house now, however these episodes started way before they had that rug. I used to think maybe it was this hessian mat I had in there, so I took it out (this was months ago) but I don’t recall there being any significant changes.
I do find that his episodes have been a little bit more frequent in winter, or in summer, when there is more extreme weather.

The only thing I think that consistently might be happening before hand, is if one of my bunnies maybe gets a little bit nippy with this one having the episodes, and then he has a bit of a sook, and that’s why he acts the way he does so he can be groomed??
Normally when these episodes happen, and it gets to a point where he is being groomed by all bunnies, he will sit up, give himself a quick clean, and then remember he loves food again and pigs out.
We live in Australia, so there’s kangaroos and stuff that hop past often, but I think he’s pretty used to them.
I don’t know if he would necessarily have acid reflux, but I have wondered if where he eats SO fast, it’s causing a little bit of gas or something?

The improvement while on antibiotics was a little bit of a stretch. He was still having one or two episodes, and so he actually did a second course of antibiotics. They did calm down a tiny bit after that, but it was also in a change of season, so he stopped moulting in that time, and the weather got milder and warmer too. He definitely had the blood test that was clear, as with the urinalysis.
The were no X-rays of his stomach done, but on the day he was supposed to finish what ended up being the first course of antibiotics, he was in one of his episodes. We were going to the vet that day anyway, and so obviously at the vet I said that he was acting funny again this morning and not eating. The vet felt his stomach, and it felt completely and absolutely normal. He started eating again once we were in the car.

There were definitely no incidents over the 6-7 weeks on a hay only diet. His pellets however have been pretty much the same since he was 6months old, so I’m not sure why they would be causing problems now! I did start giving them different varieties about a year or so ago, so maybe these different varieties are causing problems. The only thing is that it’s not every time he eats them, and it’s not like straight after or anything either! They have oxbow classic pellets, and oxbow harvest pellets too. Maybe I will try to go back to just the classic ones. It will be too tricky to go back into a hay only diet, due to the fact he is in a bonded quad, and also a bit of a pig when it comes to food.

They already get their hay refreshed twice a day, so that part would be no problem! :) I would prefer to not have to go back onto hay only though, as they did all loose a little bit of weight while on it. This could also be attributed to the fact that they were bonding in a small pen too though.

I will definitely look into a hay diet!

thank you so much!
 

JBun

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A rabbit being previouslly fine on pellets, for however long they've been on them, doesn't mean a sensitivity to them can't occur after time. My rabbit had been on pellets at his previous home, for two years prior before he developed a sensitivity. When dealing with unknown digestive upset issues, you have to go off of what diet changes produce positive results, regardless of what has been fine in the past. It is possible that being on hay only and there being improvement, could have been a coincidence, but it's the only evidence of improvement that you have to go on. Maybe trying a different pellet will work, as you certainly don't want them experiencing unhealthy weight loss.
 

Aspen’sbuns

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A rabbit being previouslly fine on pellets, for however long they've been on them, doesn't mean a sensitivity to them can't occur after time. My rabbit had been on pellets at his previous home, for two years prior before he developed a sensitivity. When dealing with unknown digestive upset issues, you have to go off of what diet changes produce positive results, regardless of what has been fine in the past. It is possible that being on hay only and there being improvement, could have been a coincidence, but it's the only evidence of improvement that you have to go on. Maybe trying a different pellet will work, as you certainly don't want them experiencing unhealthy weight loss.
Hmm, okay.
They have two kinds of oxbow, so maybe I will limit them to just the plain one and see how that goes!
If it was a sensitivity to pellets, wouldn’t it happen every time they are eaten?? And how long would it take for there to be a reaction?

The hay only was over a period of 6-7 weeks, and there were no incidents in that time! It is possible that it is just a coincidence, but it’s more likely that it’s not I think.
 

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One of my bunnies had various reactions to different brands of pellets I tried and all built up over time. It ranged from lack of interest in food or slow response to start eating, gassy episodes, full GI stasis and an emergency vet visit, and even when I found a brand I thought she was ok with, in hindsight she was inactive, groggy and gained weight. We would joke that she was lazy, but actually, I just think she didn’t feel great and would just lay there most of the time.

I don’t think any pellets work for her anymore, so she’s off them completely (as are all my buns) and she’s much happier for it and bounces around everywhere now. They are all a healthy weight, that hasn’t been an issue.
 

Aspen’sbuns

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Hello!

Thought I’d post an update. I took my buns off pellets for about two weeks, and then slowly introduced pellets back into their diets.
We had no issues stomach wise, until about a week ago. He didn’t eat again for a few hours. Like normal, two nights later it happened again.

My question is, if it was pellets causing a problem, is it something that would cause problems every night? And wouldn’t it have started straight away once they went back on pellets??
 

HalaBuns

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Hello!

From what I remember, my bun wasn’t experiencing issues every day, some days she would start eating normally, some days not. And i’m not an expert, but I would say it could be possible that it would take a while for the issue to flare up again, particularly if they have been off the pellets for a while.

I was wary about taking pellets out of my bunnies’ diet, but it’s worked out really well for them. They just get a few extra herbs instead.
 

JBun

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I think it depends on the sensitivity of each rabbit, and which part of the digestive system is most affected. If it starts in the stomach, then you're likely to see signs of immediate upset. If it's more to do with the cecum, then it could be a day or two before symptoms show, as it's lower down in the digestive process. For my rabbit, it was immediate, within half hour of eating pellets that I noticed him showing signs of discomfort. With my other megacolon rabbit, it could be a day or two before he showed signs of digestive issues, as his was more of a lower intestine digestive issue.
 

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