Being a good bunny parent means knowing your pet’s daily diet and routine so that you’re able to recognize any changes to it. This way you’ll be alert and able to catch if they are getting sick.
Getting your rabbit to eat a healthy diet can be simple at first, but over time things happen and they can stop eating the hay they need. What happens when your rabbit doesn’t eat?
Rabbits have instincts that protect them from potential prey, so they tend to hide whenever they are sick or injured. While this is a great survival instinct in the wild, it doesn’t benefit pet rabbits. Look for the subtle shift in their behavior.
For instance, does your rabbit usually jump up when you bring hay into their hutch or cage but lately seems uninterested? Also pay attention to how many droppings are in their litter box and how much hay is uneaten.
Every rabbit has their own definition of “normal” behavior, which is why it’s so important to understand their daily diet and routine. Here’s a list of different ways for a rabbit to show you they aren’t feeling well.
Quality of Hay
Make sure that the hay you’re feeding your rabbit is high quality. Nothing can get a rabbit sick quicker than hay that is moldy or has something wrong with it. The high quality hay you feed your rabbit should be fresh and stored properly. Excessive moisture and/or sunlight will cause damage to the hay and make it unhealthy for consumption.
If your rabbit has access to high quality hay but still isn’t eating, try feeding them their favorite treat. If they refuse to eat the treat, then you have more evidence that there is something wrong.
Rabbits are grazing animals, so if your bun hasn’t eaten for 4-6 hours then you need to call your vet immediately.
Have a Veterinarian
It’s important that your little bun is seen at least once a year by a vet to make sure they are in good health. It’s important to establish a history with a vet so that when there is something wrong with your rabbit, or they’re not eating, your vet will already have an idea of what vitals are “normal” for your rabbit.
If you’re looking for a veterinarian, it’s a good idea to call and check to see if the vet has experience taking care of rabbits as not many do. Sadly, the United States doesn’t have “rabbit specialists” like they do with different breeds of dogs or cats.
Health Concerns When Rabbit Doesn’t Eat
Gastrointestinal Stasis (GI Stasis) is a potentially deadly condition that is the result of your rabbit's digestive system slowing down or stopping completely. Also known as the “silent killer,” it refers to the fact that a rabbit stops eating and then suddenly passes away.
When your rabbit doesn’t eat hay high in fiber, bad bacteria can build up in their intestines, releasing gas into their system and causing them extreme pain that keeps them from eating. This makes the problem even worse because they stop receiving the necessary nutrients that help keep their digestive system healthy.
Their digestive tract will continue to get smaller, making it even harder for anything to pass through. This bad bacteria, now sitting in their digestive system, can release a toxin that will overwork their liver and cause it to fail (this is why GI Stasis is often called the silent killer).
Symptoms include small or malformed fecal pellets, no fecal pellets, loss of appetite, and a lethargy/hunched posture. If you notice any of these symptoms take them immediately to your vet.
To help prevent GI Stasis, make sure your rabbit is eating a lot of fibrous hay like Timothy Hay, Orchard Grass, or Mountain Grass. Grass hays should make up at least 80% of their diet. If you haven’t been giving your rabbit an endless supply of fresh hay every day, then this needs to change immediately - their life may depend on it.
Just like cats, rabbits love to personally groom themselves. When cats groom themselves, they get rid of the hairballs within their systems by vomiting it up, but rabbits aren’t capable of vomiting up the hair they ingest. Rabbits need to be able to pass the hairballs through their guts. When they stop eating high fiber hay, it will leave hairballs sitting in their digestive systems causing blockage.
If this becomes the case, surgery may be the only way to unclog their digestive system.
Rabbit teeth are constantly growing, and in need of being worn down. The best way to help your rabbit wear down their teeth is by feeding them coarse grass hay (like Coarse Timothy, Medium Timothy, or Coarse Orchard).
When your rabbit doesn’t eat enough coarse grass hay they are susceptible to growing spurs on their teeth. Molar spurs are a medical condition that form on their teeth and end up cutting their tongue, cheeks, and other soft mouth tissues. The presence of a molar spur (or spike) will have your rabbit avoiding the use of that particular tooth which causes unnatural pressure on other teeth, making the uneven wear even worse. Not only will it cause discomfort when eating, the misalignment of the jaw can cause other problems with jaw muscles and ligaments. In some cases, tooth spurs have to be corrected by your vet, which can lead to unnecessary expenses for you.
These health concerns are prime examples to pay attention to, especially if you notice your rabbit isn’t eating. Once you recognize a change in your rabbit’s habits, act quickly by calling your vet.