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Gastrointestinal (GI) Stasis: How to Prevent a killer problem

Published: April 29th, 2020
Last Updated: May 8th, 2023
Written By: Bradly Spicer
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You should know the risk of gastrointestinal (GI) stasis if you’re a rabbit owner. This serious condition can occur when your rabbit’s digestive system slows down or stops altogether, making it difficult for the rabbit to eat, drink, and defecate.

Left untreated, GI stasis can lead to serious health problems and even death. Fortunately, with early diagnosis and proper treatment, most rabbits fully recover. Learn more about GI stasis and how to protect your bunny from this potential danger.

Rabbits are prey animals, so they hide any signs of illness or health issues. This is due to predators targeting smaller and weaker animals first.

What is GI Stasis?

How to treat GI Stasis

GI Stasis is a build-up of bad bacteria inside your rabbit’s intestines. This results in gas being released into their system, which can cause bloating. This bloating will make your bunny uncomfortable and stop them from wanting to eat or drink.

As a rabbit needs to digest and eat food continually, this can cause blockages in the digestive tract, resulting in your rabbit becoming dehydrated and starved of nutrients/roughage.

The bacteria that is produced from this process will eventually release toxins that cause the liver to fail.

Signs / Signals your rabbit has GI Stasis

Spotting GI Stasis is quite difficult, so the best thing to do is to seek attention from your local Vet as soon as possible if you see any of these symptoms:

  • Smaller feces
  • Loss of appetite (Try offering them a treat)
  • Hunched position (Higher than a loafing position)
  • No feces for around 5-6 hours

What are the causes of GI Stasis In rabbits?

GI Stasis has many causes; some are easy to manage, and others require more input. The following are potential causes of GI Stasis:

  • Low fiber diet
  • Pain from any other issue (UTI, Gas, Dental related issues)
  • Lack of exercise & high starch diet
  • Recent stress/shock (Change in environment, a recent attack, a loud noise, or losing a bonded friend).

How long does GI Stasis last?

There is no set time for GI Stasis to pass. This depends on the medication your rabbit is on. For example, when using Metoclopramide/cisapride, it may take two weeks for the gut to recover.

Some buns have seen a full recovery within 24 hours, it depends on how quickly it is caught, the age of your rabbit, and if they have any other health issues.

How can I prevent GI Stasis?

GI Stasis can easily be prevented by taking the necessary steps to keep your bunny healthy. The most crucial step is ensuring your rabbit has a consistent and healthy diet. Knowing what to feed your rabbit, the pellets, and the hay type can be confusing.

Fruit can be beneficial for Gastrointestinal Stasis as the fruit will pass through your rabbit’s gut fairly quickly. This should only ever be given in small portions.

Regular checkups at your vet can prevent any underlying issues which may cause Stasis, such as tooth pain from molar spurs, UTIs, and regular Gas. We suggest taking your rabbit to the vet at least once every 3 months for regular checkups.

Lastly, make sure your rabbit gets plenty of exercise. They should have at least 4 hours of free-roaming per day. Our rabbit, Link, is out from 6 am to midnight daily. Now, he is in a routine he puts himself to bed or sleeps in our bedroom doorway.

Regardless, your rabbit should exercise as much as possible during the early periods of the morning and late in the evening.

How can I treat GI Stasis?

The first step is to take your rabbit to the Vet, do not read any more of this post if you haven’t done this so far. Your vet will be able to to determine the cause of the stasis and if there is an easy solution (Usually a motility drug like cisapride).

Your rabbit may need an X-Ray to assess where the blockage is and if there is any excess gas. This will determine how bad the stasis is and if surgery is required.

Other alternatives and solutions can be:

  • IV fluids – These will help move the digestive system and gut
  • Pain Medication – This will remove discomfort from gas
  • Antibiotics – These will combat the harmful bacteria, this should be discussed with a vet first as this can kill off good bacteria as well.

During this period of time, your rabbit should be surrounded by an unlimited supply of hay and vegetables in case they do get hungry. Giving your rabbit a treat-based green such as cilantro may give your rabbit the motivation to eat and start the flow of digestion in their gut.

Additionally, if your rabbit is open to it, you can give them stomach massages, which may help kick-start gut movement.

GI Stasis survival rate

Unfortunately, there are no specific statistics for the survival rate of GI Stasis among rabbits, this may be because GI Stasis can occur multiple times throughout a rabbit’s lifespan. However, the first 48 hours are incredibly critical for your rabbit, so ensuring they are seen by a professional and given adequate care is important.


Barbara L. Oglesbee, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian) and Jeffrey R. Jenkins, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian)