Rabbits love to eat. Not only does eating help their gastrointestinal system keep functioning normally, but it also helps maintain dental health.
So if you notice that your rabbit won’t eat, there’s definite cause for concern. Loss of appetite can be a sign of several serious bunny health problems, including GI stasis, so you must closely monitor your pet’s eating habits. In many cases, you may need to seek veterinary attention immediately to get to the bottom of the problem.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the common reasons why your rabbit is not eating and what they could mean for your pet.
Reasons Why Your Rabbit Has Stopped Eating
Most of the time, when a rabbit isn’t eating, it’s for a far more serious reason than the fact that they aren’t all that hungry. It can even be a symptom of a life-threatening problem, so let’s take a look at some of the common causes of loss of appetite in rabbits.
Gastrointestinal (GI) stasis occurs when your bunny’s digestive system slows down or stops completely. Also known as ileus, it’s potentially fatal and requires urgent treatment.
To function properly, your bunny’s digestive system needs a constant supply of food. GI stasis is typically caused by another health problem, such as dental disease, stress, pain, or a lack of water. A diet that doesn’t contain enough fiber can also cause the condition.
The result is a buildup of bad bacteria and gas in your bunny’s stomach, which can be very painful and make them want to stop eating and drinking. Aside from a loss of appetite, other symptoms of the condition include:
- Reduced fecal matter
- Abnormal fecal matter
- Decreased weight
- Reduced activity levels
- Teeth grinding
If you suspect GI stasis, take your bunny to the vet immediately. The good news is that the condition can be successfully treated — as well as addressing the underlying cause of GI stasis, treatment may involve assisted feeding, rehydrating your pet, pain control medications, and other drugs.
Anyone who has ever undergone root canal therapy will know just how unpleasant dental problems can be — and they’re a common cause of pain for rabbits as well as for humans.
Good-quality hay and chew toys are important to help wear your rabbit’s teeth down and stop them from growing too long. If your rabbit doesn’t have access to them, they can develop painful ulcers and deformed or broken teeth. Dental disease is also more common in older rabbits.
Unsurprisingly, if dental problems mean it is painful for your bunny to eat, this could be the reason why your rabbit has stopped eating.
The pain doesn’t necessarily have to be in your bunny’s mouth to stop them from eating. It’s quite common for a rabbit in pain to reject their food, such as if they’re recovering from surgery, have an upset stomach, or are suffering from an intestinal blockage.
Depending on the cause of pain, you may also be able to notice other symptoms, so monitor your bunny closely for changes in their behavior or general health. And because the pain could be caused by a potentially serious health issue, you’ll need to get your bunny checked out by your vet as soon as possible.
Rabbits are timid creatures that evolved as a prey species. As a result, there are plenty of situations that may seem innocuous to you, but that can cause a great deal of anxiety for your pet. For example, moving to a new cage, getting a new pet, or hearing an unexpected loud noise nearby are simple situations that can upset your pet.
And when a rabbit is overly stressed, they may stop eating. With this in mind, it’s important to minimize your pet’s exposure to stressful situations and monitor them closely when changes to their environment occur.
Your rabbit’s digestive system is quite delicate, and a sudden change in diet can throw it right out of whack. The resulting upset stomach could be the reason why your rabbit is not eating hay or other food.
That’s why it’s important that whenever you introduce a new food into your rabbit’s diet, you do so gradually and in small amounts.
Other Common Causes
There are several other reasons why your rabbit may be off their food. Your bunny might have a reduced appetite due to:
- Stomach ulcers
- Ingesting poison
What Should I Do If My Bunny Is Not Eating?
The best thing you can do if your rabbit has stopped eating is to take them to the vet. While a loss of appetite may be a short-term thing that will quickly resolve itself in some cases, it can also be a sign of a serious health problem — so why risk it?
Your veterinarian will be able to give your rabbit a full examination to determine why they’re not eating. They can work out the best course of treatment and give your pet the care they need to get back to full health. And in cases of GI stasis, veterinary treatment is essential to save your bunny’s life.
How Do I Encourage My Rabbit to Eat?
If there’s no serious medical reason that has caused your bunny to stop eating, there are several simple things you can do to encourage your pet to eat more. For example, you may want to consider switching to a different hay that your bunny finds more appetizing — just make sure it’s safe to give to rabbits and meets your pet’s dietary fiber needs.
Another option is to add some of your bunny’s favorite treat, such as pellets or fresh vegetables, to his hay. If you mix them all in together, chances are he’ll consume some hay along with the treats.
Other ideas that may help include:
- Reducing stress, for example by ensuring that your bunny has adequate hiding places
- Putting hay in your rabbit’s resting and toilet areas so they can chew while taking care of other business
- Adding some rabbit-safe dried herbs to make hay more appetizing
- Adding hay to your bunny’s toys
- Making sure your rabbit always has access to plenty of fresh water
How Long Can Rabbits Go Without Food?
If your rabbit stops eating or pooping for 12 hours or more, the situation is an emergency. Even stopping eating for a few hours is extremely dangerous, so don’t hesitate to seek veterinary help if you notice any change in your pet’s eating habits.
Why Is My Rabbit Losing Hair and Not Eating?
From stress to parasites, there are many potential reasons that can cause these symptoms. The best thing you can do is take your bunny to the vet for a full checkup.
Aside From Leaving Food, What Are Other Common Signs That My Pet Isn’t Eating Properly?
One telltale sign that your rabbit isn’t eating properly is a reduced amount of feces or a lack of feces altogether. Changes in the texture of feces can also indicate a problem, while lethargy, behavioral changes and signs of pain are some other red flags.
If your rabbit has stopped eating, don’t ignore the problem and hope that it “fixes itself”. From pain to GI stasis, there could be several serious reasons why your bunny has lost their appetite.
The best thing you can do is get your pet to the vet as soon as possible. Your veterinarian can examine your rabbit and run and necessary tests to determine the cause of the problem and the appropriate treatment.