Rather then a full bowl of pellets in front of your rabbit all the time, try feeding in smaller amounts two to three times a day to monitor what he/she is actually eating. Dr. Brown advises: A diet that most closely approximates that of a wild rabbit is healthiest for domestic rabbits. Some rabbits just don’t want to eat any hay. When the cecum cannot empty properly, it no longer functions normally. Monitor the waste droppings as described above to make sure your pet is eating sufficient amounts of hay. Treatment for a cecal motility disorder that manifests as abnormally formed cecotropes is based on the appropriate diet for a rabbit. If the rabbit is young, the chances for recovery are not as good, especially if the bunny is newly weaned and exhibiting the most serious signs of the disease. Behaviors signaling pain (see below), Critically ill: depressed, lethargic. As noted previously by Dr. Chlebeček, all rabbits house low levels of pathogenic bacteria in their body. It must feel good to shed the excess weight and to have normal GI function again! The differences in rabbit behavior (both when healthy and when ill) as well as the varying ways in which rabbits present signs of illness or injury emphasize the importance of familiarity with your own bunnies. Fecal pellets are generally absent; instead, the rabbit produces and eliminates excessive amounts of mucus. Caregivers may wish to read “Liver (Hepatic) Disease in Rabbits,” which discusses the importance of cecotropes and a healthy liver. Rabbits should eat almost all of their cecotropes as they produce them. It is an injectable that can be given orally if mixed with something palatable. Since stress often plays a role in both gastric and cecal stasis, as a preventive measure the guardian should protect the bunny from items that could increase the likelihood of intestinal problems: house plants (many are toxic), cat litter, cat and dog foods, and foreign materials (such as carpet fibers) that a rabbit might chew and ingest. Once that happens then go ahead and switch over to the grass hay based pellets entirely. You will see the normal round, dry waste droppings and only the occasional formed cecotrope in the litter box or cage floor. However, if soft cecotropes are produced again within twelve to twenty-four hours of the introduction of any food into the diet, immediately discontinue that food. Try different types of hay. Date Published: 11/11/2009 1:21:00 PM The most common cause of ISC is an inappropriate diet that is too high in carbohydrates and/or too low in indigestible fiber. He is a partner at the Broomfield Veterinary Hospital in Broomfield, Colorado, where sixty percent of his patients are rabbits, including many from the Colorado House Rabbit Society. My sincere thanks to the veterinarians named in this article for sharing their expertise during personal interviews and in subsequent feedback. First of all, you need to determine what’s in the pellets you are feeding. Cause of Intermittent Soft Cecotropes (ISC) A common complaint of rabbit owners is having their pet produce normal dry stools along with soft, semi-liquid droppings that stick to the rabbit and to the surroundings. Overview of article. In true diarrhea (which is rare in rabbits), there is an absence of any formed stool and the consistency of the fecal material is watery. Wheat Cecotropes are an important part of a healthy rabbit diet and are usually eaten directly from the anus as they are produced. Even if surgery is successful, there is always a risk of postoperative sepsis [life-threatening internal infection]. Unlike many other species, in which liquid is removed from the contents of the large intestine, the rabbit actually secretes fluid into the upper part of the large intestine to allow sorting of the two fibers. Rapid fermentation in the cecum upsets the pH, creating an environment more hospitable to dangerous bacteria. In cases of ISC in rabbits, there is also an alteration of the flora in the cecum, but it is less severe than that seen with enterotoxemia. Affected rabbits are often still bright, alert and eating well. In any case, they usually do this when you're not watching (quite polite of them). Affected rabbits are often still bright, alert and eating well. Dr. Chlebeček explains: When a rabbit is severely dehydrated, the peripheral circulation shuts down in order to maintain circulation to internal organs and the brain. It is important to keep any recommended recheck examinations and phone reports for your pet as suggested by your veterinarian. However, the most common cause of cecal motility disorders is food, especially a diet too rich in carbohydrates – including starchy vegetables, fruits, and grains – and lacking in fiber. Cabbage (red, green, Chinese) Normal Fecal Pellets. Stress and inappropriate antibiotics may also be factors. For one thing, they are generally part of the problem and two, they will provide enough calories that your rabbit may not get hungry enough to have an incentive to change to a new pellet or to start eating hay. Other, more uncommon causes of ISS include: partial intestinal obstruction particularly in the area of the junction of the cecum with the small and large intestine, internal abscesses, neoplasia (cancer) and other systemic disease that causes changes in the cecum, such as kidney or liver disease. Cecal hypomotility (slowdown), which can lead to serious problems, results in fewer cecotropes – something not easily observed by the caregiver. There is no doubt that your rabbit will not be happy with you for a while and will probably throw a few tantrums. Regardless of origin, unhealthy or foreign materials can become lodged in the cecum or they may create cecal imbalance. It is important to differentiate this condition from true diarrhea. These high-starch foods – which are also highly fermentable – are quickly broken down by the cecal bacteria, resulting in cecal gas, possible overgrowth of dangerous bacteria, and an imbalance in the delicate cecal flora. The soft stools are actually malformed cecotropes that should have been eaten directly from the anus by the rabbit. Though the condition can affect more than the cecum, the cecum is key in the initiation of the disease. Image Source Similar to humans, rabbits may be checked for any medical condition or rule out any illness by evaluating their poop. Green or red bell peppers Collard greens  Dock It is believed that the cecotropes can protect the rabbit from harmful pathogens. I would also have concern about the long-term prognosis for the rabbit. SIGNS OF THREE STAGES OF CECAL MOTILITY DISORDERS. If you cheat and feed treats during this process, the treatment will not be effective and you will only perpetuate the problem. If the soft cecotropes return no matter what brand you feed, then you may have a rabbit that simply cannot tolerate pellets. Cecal impaction is extremely serious. Cause of Intermittent Soft Cecotropes (ISC) A common complaint of rabbit owners is having their pet produce normal dry stools along with soft, semi-liquid droppings that stick to the rabbit and to the surroundings. However, problems are most often caused by previous damage from chronic inappropriate diet and lack of exercise. The soft stools range in consistency from a thick “pudding” to large semi-formed “blobs.” This material becomes smeared on the cage, carpeting and ultimately ends up caked on the bottom of the rabbit’s feet. This condition results in a serious imbalance of the cecal flora, and the rabbit becomes gravely ill. Cecal impaction (confirmed with radiographs) will result in a slowdown and subsequent stasis of the GI tract. (Please read our handout Care of Rabbits for details on this diet.) Rarely, parasites such as coccidia are seen and can be easily treated, but they are not the primary problem. The focus should be on coarse fibrous plant materials [grass hay]. Mushy, mucus-coated droppings called cecotropes are consumed and are full of vital nutrients that will be absorbed by the body upon reingestion. The mucous covering of the cecotropes makes them sticky and hard to remove. Like many small animals, rabbits have a finicky digestive system. I give a small handful of SS to my buns everyday along with the greens and hay. When a bunny has soft, poorly formed cecotropes, it is recommended that caregivers discuss the daily feeding regimen with a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about the appropriate diet before making major changes. Before the rabbit is dismissed from the hospital, sterile fluids are given subcutaneously to help soften the mass and get it moving. Cause of Intermittent Soft Cecotropes (ISC) *Please note that it will be helpful to the understanding of this disease if you first read the Care of Rabbits handout in order to understand the normal diet of the house rabbit. The condition may involve only a slight decrease in size and/or frequency of stool production, and gut sounds may be normal. There is no specific test to diagnose the cause of ISC. Additional writings have covered topics such as aging and the environment. However, this messiness is not generally caused by fecal matter but is due to liquid or malformed cecotropes matting the fur. In addition, cecal motility disorders may be gradual and progressive. A rabbit who suffers from cecal impaction generally will not be returned home until he is no longer in critical condition. However, when the process does not work normally, disruption in cecal motility results. I like to monitor them closely because once the cecum has been stretched, it potentially loses tone and is more flaccid than it should be. Dr. Stahl mentioned that high-starch or refined carbohydrate foods (e.g., crackers, cereals, bananas) are highly fermentable. He monitors the rabbit very closely and asks the client to regularly weigh the bunny. Decreased water consumption; start of   dehydration, Cessation of water consumption; acute dehydration, May be very thirsty but too weak to drink well; may “drape” over the water bowl. This may happen if the rabbit is fed too many pellets, treats or rich greens in his diet or if the rabbit is unable to reach down and consume them (ex. Here is a list of what you should look for in rabbit pellets to guarantee your rabbit will not produce too many cecotrope. When researching complementary treatments, be aware of training and qualification requirements and give careful consideration to the health, nature, and needs of your rabbit. Food that passes into the large intestine (colon) is separated into two parts: indigestible fiber and digestible fiber. If the problem has been going on for months or the rabbit doesn’t browse the required amount of hay (making it necessary to feed some pellets), then the turn-around time may be longer. During this pellet conversion it is important to STOP ALL TREAT FOODS! It won’t be easy at first as your pet becomes frustrated at the loss of the unhealthy but tasty treats, but the end result is a rabbit who is more active, more responsive and no longer needs high maintenance care. Try pulverizing the pellets your are feeding in a blender or food processor, sprinkling some hay with some water and then dusting the pellets over the top to entice your bunny to try the hay. Digestible Fiber and Cecotropes (UK spellings include cecotrophs and caecotrophs), In contrast, digestible fiber, along with some fluid, is moved backwards from the upper part of the colon into the cecum. Blackberries The healthy functioning of the cecum is critical to the overall health of a rabbit. Parsley (Italian or flat leaf best) Rabbits will overproduce cecotropes when they have too much sugar in their diet. So when I palpate doughy contents in the cecum instead, my diagnostics may include radiographs and blood work to assess the severity of the situation. Broccoli (leaves and top) Few caregivers ever see the cecotropes, as it looks like the rabbit is simply grooming his anal area. If a rabbit cannot eat the cecotropes, then she may be missing vital nutrients those special droppings provide. Cecotropes also aid in the replenishment … and E. coli bacteria are normally found in small amounts in the cecum and do not cause a problem. Note that alfalfa is often mixed in with orchard grass, so it is wise to ask about content before purchasing. Rabbits do not become underweight on this diet so you do not need to monitor the weight. Alfalfa hay may be the only hay available in your area, or your pet may absolutely refuse to eat grass hay and will only eat alfalfa. Contents of the cecum are normally semifluid. All rights reserved. Rabbits have a complex and efficient gastrointestinal (GI) physiology that allows them to digest materials that are indigestible to non-herbivore species. There can be several reasons, such as the hay is old, moldy, too “stemmy” (not soft and grassy), it is put in an area that is not appealing to the rabbit and so on. They are rich in minerals, vitamins, proteins, water, and bacteria. Bok choy Since the condition can also result from other stress factors, a careful review of known stressors will aid the caregiver in making necessary changes to the rabbit’s environment. Used by permission. Mucoid enteropathy results in excessive mucus. Utilizing the principles of behavior and training, she is teaching ways for people to live in harmony with their companion animals. However, as previously noted by Dr. Brown, a rabbit will not necessarily proceed through each stage. Antibiotics can also put a rabbit at high risk, especially oral administration of those contraindicated for them, such as clindamycin, erythromycin, penicillins, or cephalosporins. In rabbits, as the intestinal motility decreases, the material in the cecum is retained for excessively long periods of time, which then changes factors such cecal pH and volatile fatty acid production resulting in alterations in the flora. For most veterinarians, surgery into the cecum is the last resort; thus, it is carried out primarily on critically ill patients. The discussion below includes information about foods that disrupt the proper working of a rabbit’s GI tract as well as foods that enable it to function as it should. Dr. Lennox is the author of numerous professional articles, coauthor of Clinical Radiology of Exotic Companion Animals, and editor of the Rabbit and Rodent Dentistry Handbook. Behaviors signaling pain (reference below). As adjunct professor at Purdue University, she teaches both veterinary and veterinary technician students. Regardless of the condition, appropriate diet plays a crucial role in the recovery and health of the rabbit. The remaining material is turned into cecotropes: small packets of tiny-bodied, nutrient-rich flora. Susan Brown, DVM is the founder and former owner of Midwest Bird and Exotic Animal Hospital (originally in Westchester, Illinois) and the current owner of Rosehaven Exotic Animal Veterinary Services and The Behavior Connection (North Aurora, Illinois). Only you have control over the success of this treatment. Brief mention of cow pile syndrome, which shares some similar signs with cecal disorders, is included at the end of the article. or E. coli can result in the production of iota toxins. This is how rabbits get all the nutrients they can from their diets. If the pellets are alfalfa-based, they should be replaced by grass-hay-based pellets as soon as possible. If these droppings decrease to half or less in size or greatly decrease in number or become greatly misshapen, then your rabbit is not eating enough and you need to check with your veterinarian to make sure there is not some other disease process going on. If cecotropes are not ingested, the rabbit may experience dietary insufficiencies. (Alfalfa hay as opposed to grass hays can also cause the diet to be too rich.) The dry, round pellets that consist of undigestible material are not consumed. Susan Brown, Tomáš Chlebeček, Bill Guerrera, Angela Lennox, and Scott Stahl. However, Dr. Brown advises that any rabbit, especially those fed a high-starch or high-sugar diet or those on inappropriate antibiotics, can develop enterotoxemia. Put the hay in the litter box – this is often the favorite place to eat hay! It can be caused by stress, illness or a diet too rich in starch, fat or sugar. Dr. Brown shares additional information: Anytime the pH of the cecum is altered, a rabbit is at risk for enterotoxemia. Dandelion greens (and flower) In mucoid enteropathy there is production of clear mucous stools followed by gradual wasting, which if left untreated will lead to death.Clostridium spp. Peas It is usually caused by an alteration in the flora (microorganisms) of the cecum, which is the fermentation area of the rabbit’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The caregiver can assist in the process by providing astute and accurate observations about the problem. Too many cecotropes is another reason rabbits stop eating their cecotropes. severe arthritis or obesity). The stomach and small intestine alone are not able to extract all the nutrients from the fibrous plant material that is a rabbit’s primary food source. Different Types of Rabbit Poop. When the contents of the cecum are retained for longer than normal periods of time the cecotropes are eventually excreted in a more liquid state and it is impossible for the rabbit to eat them. my rabbit is not eating his cecotropes We have taken our lop eared castrated male rabbit, mischief, to the vet for a check up, as he doesn't eat his cecotropes. The primary author has a special interest in cecal function because of her rescued rabbits. A rabbit produces two types of excrement: regular fecal pellets and cecotropes. Bean or alfalfa sprouts These clinical signs are generally caused by production of loose cecotropes secondary to cecal dysbiosis. That means that subcutaneous fluids are not absorbed quickly enough to do much good. In addition to House Rabbit Handbook: How to Live with an Urban Rabbit, the following list of publications, although by no means comprehensive, may assist those who desire additional research. Excess amount of cecotrope-Too many cecotropes are a sign of an unhealthy diet. Some rabbits get upset tummies during mating season, during pregnancy, or while nursing their kits.. If the rabbit who has gooey cecotropes grazes freely on hay throughout the day, Dr. Brown’s guidelines (provided above) will help clear up a diet-related problem. The decision to go to surgery is never easy. Offering a variety of grass hay (timothy, orchard, brome, oat) may create interest and is healthiest for most adult rabbits. Romaine lettuce Treatment for the early stage of cecal hypomotility (slowdown) leading to impaction is much the same as for ileus, the cessation of GI tract movement. “Doughy” contents in cecum felt with gentle palpation (caution: cecum easily bruised/ruptured; rabbit-savvy   veterinarian should make this determination), Distended abdomen (cecum full of fluid and gas), Inflammation around anal area due to   accumulation of cecotropes, In early stages behavior may be deceivingly normal, “Water sloshing” sounds from liquid-filled cecum; soiled hindquarters, Irregular cecotrope production (in number and timing), Occasional mucus from the anus (without the usual accompanying cecotropes), Inflammation around anal area (due to accumulation of cecotropes), Decline of normal appetite and water intake, Pain (e.g., hunched appearance, inability to stretch out; unmoving; teeth grinding). Caregivers can also help reduce a rabbit’s stress by discerning what causes anxiety or fear. Additional factors aid in the diagnostic process, including the history of medications, description of the diet (including dates and details of change), any possible foreign materials ingested and date of occurrence(s), and stress factors. In addition, many clients neglect to mention that they feed treat foods, such as crackers and cookies or commercial rabbit treats, because they are fed in small amounts and owners don’t feel that these items are significant. Rabbits have a very high mortality rate with this disease, and it can happen very suddenly. Some rabbits will have a gradual decline in appetite and develop smaller and smaller waste droppings, ending eventually with a complete cessation of food intake and a shutdown (ileus) of the intestinal tract and cecum. Caregivers can become knowledgeable about drugs considered safe for rabbits by perusing articles on this website, including where to find additional medical information. They are nutrient-packed dietary items essential to your rabbit's good health. NOTE:  How do you know your rabbit is eating enough hay? Gaining an understanding of how this large organ works – and what causes disruption – will help caregivers monitor their rabbits’ health, detect early signs of cecal disorder, and take steps to prevent a bunny’s condition from worsening. Pineapple They are covered in a thin layer of mucus to provide initial protection to the bacteria from the low pH stomach acids. Although appetite and activity level may appear normal, the caregiver may notice the following signs in addition to the abnormally soft, possibly gooey, cecotropes: The term “poopy butt” is often used to describe a rabbit who excretes soft stools that soil the hind end. Your veterinarian may prescribe a vitamin supplement during the initial treatment for ISC, particularly if this has been a long-standing problem. Additionally, note that a rabbit may not eat cecotropes due to dental or other oral pain as well as obesity or restricted movement (e.g., spondylosis) that prevents the bunny from physically reaching the anus to eat the cecotropes. ISC is most often caused by an inappropriate diet and in these cases it is not difficult to treat. The condition can last for months or even years. Dr. Guerrera says that he’s had success emptying the cecum: Fluids are critical to the working of the cecum, so hydration is the key. She currently lives near Indianapolis with her husband of more than 20 years and four daughters. To help move contents out of the cecum, very gentle massage to the belly may be beneficial, depending on the condition. There are times when combining the expertise of both standard and alternative treatments offers the best supportive care. In the early stages of cecal hypomotility, the rabbit is usually healthy enough to be at home, and he’s generally less stressed there as well. Signs to watch for include those listed above for obviously soft cecotropes as well as: Another sign may be lumps in the cecum; however, a rabbit-knowledgeable veterinarian should make this determination. If there is no improvement or if the rabbit’s temperature drops, it’s vital to reexamine the situation. The indigestible fiber is collected and then pushed into the second half of the colon where water is removed, leaving the small, dry, nearly odorless fecal pellets that are excreted as waste. A non-profit rabbit rescue and education organization. This should be the only food given until the stools return to normal. May exhibit mild to moderate pain (e.g., less active), Severe abdominal pain due to gas accumulation. *NOTE:  Prior to treating your rabbit for ISC, it is advisable to have your veterinarian do a complete physical examination and perform any additional tests that might be needed as described above. 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