For bunny owners, rabbit poop is serious business! The size, shape, consistency, and smell of those little pellets can reveal important clues about your rabbit’s health and happiness. Join us on a deep dive into the wild world of rabbit poop – from healthy poos to concerning changes that require a call to the vet. We’ll explore what normal poop should look and smell like and how to spot signs of trouble. From cecotropes to stasis, this poop primer will make you an expert on your rabbit’s #2’s. You’ll learn when normal poop deserves a shrug and when it’s cause for alarm. Let’s hop right in – this poop patrol promises to be an exciting, educational adventure!
What Does Rabbit Poop Look Like?
Rabbit poop comes in two main types – fecal pellets and cecotropes. Fecal pellets are the round, dry, tan-colored balls that most people associate with rabbit poop. These pellets should be relatively large, round, and uniform in size and shape. Cecotropes look like small clusters or grapes made up of softer, shinier poop that is bound together with mucus. These are also called "night feces" because rabbits typically produce them at night and then eat them directly from their anus for nutritional purposes.
In general, healthy rabbit poop should be somewhat evenly sized and shaped. The fecal pellets should be separate from each other without sticking together or being strung together in a pile. They should be relatively firm but not rock hard, and should not have visible undigested pieces of food or abnormal textures. The cecotropes should be plump and fully formed grape-like clusters. Both types of poop should be free of any blood, mucus, diarrhea, or abnormal coloration.
Normal Rabbit Poop Color
The normal color for rabbit poop depends slightly on the rabbit's diet but is most commonly some shade of brown. Typical healthy fecal pellets are tan, brown, or mahogany colored. The exact shade can vary quite a bit from a very light tan to a darker brown or even deep chocolate brown.
Some rabbits on a diet high in dark leafy greens may have very dark, almost black poop. This is not necessarily unhealthy as long as the poop is normal in all other respects. Rabbits fed a lot of colorful vegetables like carrots may have more orange-tinted poop.
As long as the poop maintains a normal brownish range and is not too light or too dark, the specific color is not too important. Very dark black poop could indicate blood in the stool or certain medical conditions. Very light poop can sometimes indicate a blockage or excess calcium. But in general, normal healthy rabbit poop should be some shade of brown.
Normal Rabbit Poop Smells
Fresh normal rabbit poop should have a relatively mild smell that is not too offensive. It will have an earthy scent that is stronger than typical mammal poop but should not be overpoweringly foul or ammonia-like. The smell may be grassy or reminiscent of hay. The healthiest poop has very little smell at all.
An extremely foul and pungent odor is not normal for healthy rabbit poop. This is often a sign of diarrhea, wet tail, or certain bacterial imbalances in the gut. Rabbit poop should never smell like human feces or have an overwhelmingly strong ammonia odor. Any noticeable fishy or odd scent is also not typical for normal poop.
The main exception is with cecotropes, or night feces, which do have a rather pungent odor. Cecotropes don't smell "bad" necessarily, but they have a very strong musky and skunk-like smell. This is normal given their different nutritional purpose. As long as the cecotropes themselves look normal, the strong smell is nothing to worry about.
Normal Rabbit Poop Size
Rabbit poop size can vary quite a bit depending on the size of the rabbit itself. Larger rabbits will pass proportionally larger poop. A good rule of thumb is that each fecal pellet should be roughly the same width as the rabbit's thumb or toe. The poop will get progressively larger as the rabbit ages and grows.
Baby rabbits under 12 weeks may pass very small and even oddly shaped poop as their digestive system develops. By 3-4 months old, their poop should be round and appropriately scaled for the rabbit's body size. Giant breed rabbits may pass huge poop while dwarf breeds will be on the smaller side.
As long as the poop is rounded and not malformed, the scale correlates reasonably with the size of the rabbit. Smaller and younger rabbits should have smaller poop. Larger and older rabbits can have larger poop that is scaled up proportionally.
Abnormal Rabbit Poop
While there is some range of what can be considered normal, rabbit poop that deviates significantly from the typical appearance, consistency, size, or smell could indicate an underlying health issue. Some types of abnormal rabbit poop to look out for include:
Rabbit Poop Smaller Than Usual
Sudden very small and pebble-like poop could mean a blockage or obstruction in the digestive tract. This could be caused by ingested materials like hair or carpet fibers getting lodged in the intestines. It can also happen with bladder sludge or uterine tumors compressing the rectum. Very small poop is always a cause for concern worth getting checked out. The rabbit may be unable to pass normal poop and this could become life-threatening without treatment.
Rabbit Poop Clumped Together
Poop that is stuck together in a large clump or cluster is not normal or healthy for rabbits. This can indicate dehydration, excess calcium in the diet leading to solidification of the poop, or a bacterial imbalance allowing the poop to stick together abnormally. It may also signal gastrointestinal stasis, which requires urgent medical care. Do not wait to see if it resolves on its own. Clumped poop warrants an immediate vet visit.
Rabbit Poop Lighter Than Normal
Very light or even white poop is also not right for rabbits. Normal poop color ranges from tan to brown to black, but not white or very light yellow. Light-colored poop can indicate liver or biliary disease and needs quick diagnosis. Parasites like coccidia may also cause this poop discoloration. Light poop is not normal and typically signals some type of infection or organ problem.
True Diarrhea In Rabbits
Watery diarrhea is more dangerous for rabbits than in many other animals. The soft stool can quickly lead to debilitating dehydration. Common causes include antibiotic disruption of gut flora, bacterial infections like clostridium, intestinal parasites, or diseases like mucoid enteropathy. Milder cases may resolve on their own by withholding greens for 1-2 days, but medical assistance is often required, especially for lethargic rabbits with severe diarrhea.
Rabbit Poop Strung Together
Instead of individual round pellets, poop that passes in a long string or clump is not normal or healthy. This can be caused by dehydration or an imbalance of gut bacteria leading to mushy stool that sticks together. It may also indicate a partial blockage. Strung out poop should not be ignored, especially if the rabbit seems uncomfortable or strains excessively while trying to pass it. This requires prompt medical attention.
Mucus in Rabbit Poop
Small amounts of mucus regularly coat the outside of rabbit poop, but excessive mucus or poop that seems coated or mixed with mucus is problematic. Mucus covered poop may indicate inflammation from intestinal parasites like coccidia, a bacterial infection, or a condition like mucoid enteropathy. Severe cases require prescriptions. Milder cases can sometimes be remedied with probiotics and removing greens temporarily.
Dry Crumbly Rabbit Poop
Stool that is very dry and crumbly or breaks apart into powdery fragments is also not normal. This may be caused by liver disease, certain parasites, dehydration, or severe gut stasis. These rabbits require veterinary treatment because dry poop can quickly lead to GI blockages. IV or subcutaneous fluids, motility drugs, and medications to address the underlying problem are typically necessary. Rabbits with dry crumbly poop are often quite ill.
Cecotropes In Rabbits
Cecotropes are the nutrient-dense "night feces" that rabbits normally produce and ingest directly from their anus. These are not actually abnormal, but rather a normal and essential part of a rabbit's digestive process. Cecotropes look like glistening clusters of very dark, almost black poop. They are covered in mucus and have a very strong odor.
Rabbits produce cecotropes in the late night or early morning hours and eat them to obtain nutrients that would otherwise be lost. These poops are re-ingested without ever hitting the ground. Cecotropes allow rabbits to extract the maximum nutritional content from their food. Rabbits on a balanced diet should produce about 200 cecotropes per day.
While cecotropes themselves are normal, changes in their size, number, consistency, or smell can indicate issues with cecal dysbiosis or imbalance in the gut microbiome. Typical signs of cecal dysbiosis are:
Too few or no cecotropes being produced
Cecotropes that are very small or misshapen
Loose cecotropes rather than solid clusters
Lack of mucus coating around cecotropes
Watery diarrhea mixed with cecotrope material
Bad smell from cecotropes or diarrhea
Causes include diet changes, antibiotic use, dental issues leading to reduced eating, and stress. Mild cases may resolve with probiotics or herbs, but severe diarrhea requires prompt medical treatment. GI stasis is also a serious risk with cecal dysbiosis.
GI Stasis And Cecal Impaction In Rabbits
Gastrointestinal stasis refers to a dangerous slowdown or halt in the rabbit's intestinal tract movement. Food and poop gets backed up and the rabbit cannot digest anything. It is a medical emergency requiring swift veterinary treatment.
Cecal impaction is a severe form of GI stasis localized in the cecum. Cecotropes get compacted into a huge mass that completely blocks the system. Impaction has a high mortality rate without emergency surgery and IV fluids.
Causes include lack of fiber, dehydration, pain, dental issues, stress, low activity, infections, and hair ingestion. Prevention with proper diet and regular brushing is key. Immediate veterinary treatment is vital at the first signs of stasis or impaction.
Signs of Impaction
Signs of a total cecal impaction include:
No poop at all being passed
Hunched posture indicating abdominal pain
Loss of appetite, not eating or drinking
Lethargy and depression
Distended or swollen abdomen from backed up material
Stretching out on floor due to pain
Grinding teeth from GI discomfort
Rectal straining with no poop
These require emergency veterinary surgery and treatment to clear the blockage and restore normal GI function. Timing is critical with impaction.
Rabbit Producing Too Many Cecotropes
While a normal rabbit produces around 200 cecotropes per day, some conditions may cause a rabbit to produce too many. Excess cecotropes can result from:
Sudden diet change with excess greens or sugary foods
Stress leading to overproduction
Bacterial imbalance in the cecum
Parasites irritating the intestines
Dental issues making rabbits swallow more cecotropes
Certain medications impacting gut motility
If the excess cecotropes are normal in all other respects, the condition may be manageable with gradual diet adjustments, stress reduction, and probiotics. But if diarrhea is also present, urgent medical care is needed.
Rabbit Not Eating Cecotropes
While cecotropes are passed and then directly re-ingested in normal situations, sometimes rabbits stop eating their cecotropes entirely. Reasons may include:
Pain from oral health problems inhibiting eating
Upper respiratory infections making eating difficult
Stress or anxiety inhibiting the rabbits natural cecotrope eating behavior
Obesity or mobility issues making it hard to reach the anus
Older rabbits with reduced appetite or poor eyesight
Diarrhea or watery cecotropes that don't get reingested
Mild cases may resolve with analgesics for pain, antibiotics for infections, and tidying soiled areas. But chronically uneaten cecotropes can cause lethal GI stasis over time. Supportive care and appetite stimulants are key.
This covers the major types of normal and abnormal rabbit poop. Keep an eye on your rabbit's poop daily to catch any signs of illness early. Healthy poop is typically round, brown, and odor-free. Diarrhea, abnormal size or color, poor appetite, and un-ingested cecotropes warrant prompt veterinary attention for your rabbit's wellbeing.