Vet says hay only, no pellets or greens? GI stasis

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LoveCrumb

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So my second bunny is a bad hay eater, but he loves his timothy pellets (oxbow) and greens. The vet for my first bunny (now passed) as well as the vet at the shelter where I adopted this bunny, recommended mostly hay, limited timothy pellets, and lots of greens, which is what I've always done for my rabbits. Tonight, after eating less and less hay all week, my bunny had a GI episode. I took him to the emergency vet and she was adamant that he transition off of pellets, receive greens as a treat only a couple times a week, and eat hay only. She's worked with bunnies her whole life, but then so have the other vets.

I understand that I contributed to his dislike of hay by overfeeding greens and pellets to him (he used to get 1/4 cup pellets and 2 cups veg and he's 6 pounds), so I'm going to gradually cut back, but I really don't feel comfortable eliminating those aspects of his diet entirely. He was slightly under weight when I got him at 4.5 pounds, and now he's is just a tad overweight- that's a lot of weight to put on in one year. What are your thoughts?
 

ts786

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From a dietary perspective, a rabbit can live off of a diet that is almost exclusively grass thanks to their digestive system allows them to extract and produce nutrients from low-density foods.

With that said, I am sure your vet explained that, should a rabbit stop eating during an episode of compromised GI function, things will go downhill rapidly. So it is paramount that the rabbit not stop eating.

Did the vet prescribe a gut motility agent for regular use and/or emergency use? Using a low-dose of Cisapride while you transition the diet through when things improve is arguably a good idea.

I think you also may benefit from using Sherwood Forrest's pellet food that is designed for rabbits that are poor hay eaters. It has an extremely high hay content, and there are several specific ingredients in it that can benefit gut function.
 

Aki

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I really wouldn't eliminate the greens. Your rabbit would need to eat a considerable amount of hay to live off of it besides it doesn't provide any hydratation - most rabbits don't drink as much as they should and "dry" guts is a ticket for blockage and "hair balls". Besides greens also provide some fibers which are most helpful for rabbits who are bad hay eaters. In the wild, rabbits don't only eat grass except during the hardest part of the winter when then hivernate, grow very thin and seldom leave their burrow.
My rabbit is also in GI stasis, she eats greens but won't eat hay. Well, I'll take what I can - with the greens at least she's eating something and keeps pooping even if those aren't nice poops. I just keep on providing her different kind of hay hoping that one will spark her interest and in the meanwhile... well, at least she's not in pain or dying.
 

Watermelons

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Have you tried different types of hay? ( no alfalfa/lucerne !!! )
Hay is super important in the diet. And especially when their are issues the less pellets/veggies and the more hay you can get in the rabbit the better.
 

Azerane

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I agree that the hay really is the most important aspect. When Bandit had one of his stasis episodes, the vet recommended I cut out everything but hay for a week, the extra fiber can be really beneficial and is simply a way of flushing the system. After that, you can certainly reintroduce pellets and greens, but you don't need to feed 1/4 cup. Bandit weighed 7 pounds and received 2 tablespoons of pellets daily in addition to leafy greens and he always maintained a very consistent healthy weight.
 

LoveCrumb

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Thank you everyone :) He's bounced back exceptionally quickly!
Yes, I'm already cutting back on the pellets. Soon he will get 1/8th of a cup a day and I'll see how he fares, and consider reducing again slowly from there. Two tbsp (aka 1/8th a cup) feels like so little, but if it prevents him from another episode, I'm game. I agree about the fresh veg. I've cut back on it as well, but I've read too many things that say how important it is to cut it out completely. Although most veggies provide negligible fiber to bunnies IMO, especially compared to their hay, I believe the moisture content is essential to gut flow.

He got Critical care for a few days, which he fortunately loved and ate freely without me having to force it. The episode was fairly mild all things considered, and I caught it right as he was starting to exhibit symptoms, so the vet didn't want to use any drugs unless he still hadn't pooped in another 8 hours (which thankfully wasn't the case).

The last few weeks, I tried every kind of hay the pet stores offered. I have orchard (his usual), timothy, oat, meadow, botanical, and I even bought some sample hay from a local feed store for horses. He still prefers Orchard, but I mix in a couple of the others to encourage foraging. I have 7 opened bags of hay right now lol. It's all very fresh, high quality Oxbow brand, which is what I always buy. The past few days, his hay intake has gone wayyy up. Still not as much as it should be, but any improvement is welcome. Since he loves critical care so much, I've been misting his hay with water then sprinkling a little critical care over top, which has encouraged him to eat more hay. It'll be a handy trick for the future, though I would love to hear more tricks like that. I'm wondering if a very light misting of something like unsweetened apple juice over his hay might be an option to encourage him even more. Do you guys know any other tricks like that?
 

LoveCrumb

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I think you also may benefit from using Sherwood Forrest's pellet food that is designed for rabbits that are poor hay eaters. It has an extremely high hay content, and there are several specific ingredients in it that can benefit gut function.

It was something I considered in the past. Their shipping costs to Canada are wayyyy too steep for me, though I did just send off an email confirming the cost for a smaller bag. I'm really hoping it will be more reasonable (not paying 50 bucks for shipping which is was they implied)
 

ts786

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It was something I considered in the past. Their shipping costs to Canada are wayyyy too steep for me, though I did just send off an email confirming the cost for a smaller bag. I'm really hoping it will be more reasonable (not paying 50 bucks for shipping which is was they implied)

I'm not sure how it would work in Canada, but I buy Sherwood from Amazon. In most cases, it is either available as 2-day Prime or Same-Day-Prime for no additional charge.

This is the listing I use...notice it currently isn't Prime eligible, so Amazon does not currently have it in stock, but they get it in often. I think this is because Sherwood only sends out smaller shipments to ensure that the food is delivered fresh. Thus far, every bag I have purchased has been mixed less than two weeks prior to it arriving on my doorstep
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0079KY7EO/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20
 
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ts786

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FWIW...
If that doesn't work, another thing you could try is making a smoothie using timothy hay as the base ingredient. You could use a small amount of fruits, fruit juice, or natural/raw honey to make the smoothie more palatable, and throw in some green foods for texture. Even though that would increase sugar intake, if it increases the amount of hay that is being eaten, IMO that's worth the trade off because of how essential hay is to health.

In the case of raw honey, it comes with quite a few minerals and trace elements that can have health benefits (again, within moderation.) I've been giving my rabbit a very small amount of manuka honey as a supplement, and I think it actually improves gut function. As of right now, my best explanation of why is that the pollen in the honey contains living organisms that benefit health. In the future I hope to do more with this to figure out how beneficial it is and why.

As my rabbit really likes that honey and goes ballistic for it, if she stopped eating hay I would probably try coating the hay in a very thin layer of a small amount of this honey, because in her case I think it would be an effective appetite stimulant with more benefits than other sugars.

I would also argue that, when a huge portion of the overall diet is hay (like 60-85% & +), their GI systems are more resilient and gut motility is more consistent and predictable, and the small amounts of sugar my rabbit consumes does not impact motility, does not change the dynamics of the poop, and causes no change to cecetropes. So I see it kind of like giving a child dessert as it can be used to motivate them to eat more vegetables. If the small amount of "not ideal" food gets them to eat a very large amount of "essential to wellbeing food", it's a tradeoff I can live with. YMMV
 
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LoveCrumb

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I'm not sure how it would work in Canada, but I buy Sherwood from Amazon. In most cases, it is either available as 2-day Prime or Same-Day-Prime for no additional charge


Thanks so much for the info. Unfortunately, I made the mistake once before of using amazon.com (here in Canada we use Amazon.ca, and it has way less product, but free shipping on most things over 25$ which is a great deal), and for a 30$ shower curtain, I was charged 80$ duty shipping fee. That's why Sherwood is so expensive to ship to Canada, because of the exorbitant border fees.
I'm currently looking at two options. Sherwood sent me an email right back confirming shipping would be over 40 for a 4.5 pound bag (too expensive obv) but they recently started providing product for a company in BC. I emailed that company to see what their shipping costs are, though I'm honestly not holding out hope.
My better option is my friend who goes down to the states a couple of times a year after he gets a bunch of stuff shipped to a PO box there, and he brings it across the border free (I think). I just need to check the conditions of the PO box, to make sure it's not overly warm as the product may wait there a while. This option is better, but I still worry that I might not have consistent food from Sherwood. I don't know how long I could rely on my friend for this either. There's really no Canadian version of Sherwood, as my extensive research has shown, but my regular pet store recently started carrying oxbow organic rabbit food, which looks like it might be a good alternative. It's expensive for a small amount, but if I'm feeding him less pellets overall, it might be my best option for now.
 

LoveCrumb

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If that doesn't work, another thing you could try is making a smoothie using timothy hay as the base ingredient. You could use a small amount of fruits, fruit juice, or natural/raw honey to make the smoothie more palatable, and throw in some green foods for texture.

Thanks! I think I would try it first with as little fruit/sugar as possible because sugar doesn't agree with my guy (unless it's raw fruit or unsweetened apple sauce, and even then, he gets no more than a teaspoon once a week), though I'm glad your little one benefits from it!
 

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