Your heart drops as you notice your rabbit’s food dish is still full. Your once voracious bunny, who would inhale breakfast in minutes, has eaten nothing all morning. This loss of appetite is an ominous warning sign in rabbits. Without immediate intervention, your bunny can quickly succumb to GI stasis, a deadly condition. Time is of the essence. Learn how to urgently coax your bunny back to eating, special techniques to tempt their appetite, possible reasons for food refusal, and when you absolutely must call the emergency vet without delay. The life of your beloved pet rabbit depends on taking action now. Read on to discover how to rescue your rabbit when they alarmingly stops eating.
What to do if your rabbit refuses to eat anything
If your rabbit suddenly stops eating, it can quickly become an emergency situation. Rabbits need to eat frequently to keep their digestive system moving. A prolonged lack of food can cause the digestive system to shut down, a potentially fatal condition called GI stasis. At the first sign your rabbit is refusing food, take action to get your bunny eating again. Try offering fresh greens or a favorite treat to stimulate their appetite. Make sure plenty of fresh hay and water are available. Gently massage your rabbit's belly to encourage gut motility. Monitor closely for signs of improvement or further deterioration. Contact your vet promptly if your rabbit still won't eat after a few hours. Rabbits can go downhill very quickly when not eating, so wasting no time in seeking medical care is imperative.
When is a loss of appetite an emergency situation?
Any time your rabbit goes longer than 12 hours without eating, it should be considered an emergency. Rabbits are designed to constantly graze on fibrous foods like hay. When they stop eating entirely for an extended time, it can throw off their delicate digestive balance and lead to a life-threatening condition called GI stasis. Gi stasis is caused by a slowdown or full stoppage of the gastrointestinal tract. Food and hair can accumulate and block the intestines. Gas and bacteria build up and poison the bloodstream. This can cause shock and death in just 24-48 hours. At the first sign your rabbit is refusing food for more than 12 hours, seek emergency veterinary care. Your rabbit may need IV fluids, pain medication, and other intensive treatment. The sooner GI stasis is caught and treated, the better the chances of recovery. Don't wait – get medical help right away if your bunny hasn't eaten all day. A rabbit's life depends on it.
Steps to help your rabbit
If your rabbit seems to have lost its appetite, there are a few things you can try at home to help get it eating again:
Offer fresh, leafy greens. The smell may stimulate appetite. Try small amounts of kale, romaine lettuce, cilantro, parsley, etc.
Offer a favorite treat like a small piece of banana, strawberry, apple, or carrot. The taste may jumpstart their appetite.
Make sure unlimited fresh hay is available. Rabbits need hay at all times.
Give access to fresh, clean water. Dehydration will make matters worse.
Gently massage your rabbit's belly. This helps encourage gut motility and things moving through the digestive tract.
Keep your rabbit warm with a blanket or heating pad set on low. Cold temps suppress appetite.
Try mixing crushed pellets with water into a slurry if your rabbit isn't eating at all. Syringe feed small amounts.
Stay calm and monitor closely. Lack of eating is a medical emergency in rabbits. Call your vet promptly if no improvement.
The treat test
A simple way to check if your rabbit's appetite is completely gone is to offer a high value treat. Something like a craisin, slice of banana, or bit of apple should get even the pickiest bunny interested. If your rabbit refuses to eat treats they would normally devour, it indicates a serious medical issue requiring immediate veterinary care. Make this "treat test" part of your rabbit health checklist. Keep an emergency stash of your rabbit's favorite treats to try this when needed. If your rabbit fails the treat test, get them to a vet's office right away for emergency diagnosis and treatment before their condition declines further. Time is critical when rabbits stop eating.
Simethicone is an over-the-counter anti-gas medication that can sometimes help get a rabbit eating again. The recommended dose for a rabbit is 1-2 mg per pound of body weight. You'll need to check with your vet for exact dosage instructions based on your particular rabbit's size. Simethicone helps break up gas bubbles in the intestines which may be causing discomfort and suppressing appetite. This medication is safe for rabbits but be sure to get your vet's guidance on using it properly. Give your rabbit the dose of simethicone then wait a little while to see if it's interested in eating again. Don't give simethicone to an entirely lethargic rabbit – seek vet care immediately.
Causes of a rabbit's refusal to eat
There are a few possible medical reasons a rabbit may stop eating including:
Gastrointestinal stasis is the most common and dangerous cause of appetite loss in rabbits. It occurs when the intestines slow down or completely stop moving. This is a medical emergency requiring prompt veterinary treatment.
Issues like tooth spurs or root overgrowth can make chewing painful. Your rabbit may avoid eating due to mouth pain. Dental issues require vet examination and correction.
Any source of pain, such as an injury or infection, may cause a rabbit to go off food due to discomfort. Pain control and treatment of the underlying cause are needed.
Severe stress from a frightening situation or change in environment may temporarily suppress a rabbit's appetite. Manage the source of stress and encourage eating.
An abrupt change in diet can disrupt your rabbit's digestive system. Make any diet changes slowly over time.
What to do if your rabbit stops eating some of their food
If your rabbit is still eating something, just less enthusiastically than usual, try these tips:
If your rabbit won't eat hay
Try a different type of grass hay for variety
Make sure hay is fresh, not old and stale
Offer hay in a different location
Consider dental issues making chewing painful
If your rabbit won't eat pellets
Try a different brand or formula of pellets
Give pellets later in day instead of morning
Mix pellets into a mash with water to increase appetite
Switch to another complete feed like kibble temporarily
What to do if your rabbit stops drinking
If your rabbit refuses food and water, it's a dire emergency requiring immediate vet treatment. A rabbit that isn't eating or drinking will go into GI stasis very quickly. Possible reasons for lack of drinking:
Pain from an underlying illness or injury
Stress or fear due to environmental factors
Dehydration, leading to further lack of thirst
Dental disease making drinking painful
Obstruction of the mouth or throat
Get medical help without delay if your rabbit stops eating and drinking entirely. Dehydration and GI stasis can overtake them alarmingly fast. Emergency fluid therapy and appetite stimulants are needed. Don't wait – get to a vet right away!