Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Rabbit Emergency

So Missy (short for Mischief) stopped eating (very unusual), stopped terrorising Snuggles and sat feeling sorry for herself. It turns out this is a very bad sign. As a prey animals rabbits only show they are in pain when it is serious and this was. The other piece of information is that if a rabbit stops eating it can die as it requires a stream of food to keep its digestive system working. As the vet explain "it is a gut on legs" and the other vet described it as "very complicated".

As follows
A rabbit eats food and chews it about 300 cycles side to side and it goes down the oesophagus.
The food goes into the stomach, but the real action isn’t there. The stomach stores the food and the contents are sterilized and moved to the small intestine. Then the undigested fiberous material moves on and is sorted. with the fibre going to the colon forming hard waste. The remaining food is then ready for digestion goes into the cecum which is larger than the stomach.
The hard waste that bypasses the cecum is moved through the colon in a circular motion and forms perfectly round hard balls.

The cecum is a complicated organ that redigests the food. It is filled with enzymes and bacteria that breakdown food. Every 3 to 8 hours the cecum contracts and forces the material back into the colon where it is coated with mucus, then passed through the anus and the rabbit eats these "cecotrophes" directly. The rabbit redigests the cecotrophes to receive even more nutrients from them.

So we had two vet trips, special food to apply by syringe, injection to help move the stomach and a pain killer. Thankfully Missy is back to normal.

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