Rabbits are prey animals, specifically, grazers. So you might have noticed that rabbits pretty much eat all the time, all day long. Practically every single waking moment of a rabbit’s life is concerned with either eating, drinking, or pooping. That pretty much sums up their life. So yeah, rabbits eat constantly.
But let’s say they were suddenly left without food, and without water. How long would they be able to survive? The answer is that they wouldn’t survive for very long at all.
Technically, rabbits could survive without food for around 3 to 4 days, give or take. As for water, they would only be able to survive without it for up to 24 hours, as the lack of water and dehydration would very quickly lead to complete organ failure, and death.
However, even though they could potentially survive 3 days or so without food, rabbits should be eating constantly. If they stop eating for more than 12 hours, then chances are they will go into GI stasis, a serious medical emergency.
But what is GI stasis, and how can you identify it? And what do you do about it? We’ll cover all this, and tell you more about rabbits and their eating habits. Let’s get right into it!
GI stasis in rabbits: Everything you need to know
GI stasis, also known as Gastrointestinal stasis, is the slowing down of a rabbit’s metabolism, until it reaches a point of stasis, therefore eventually stopping completely. This is a very dangerous medical emergency in rabbits and something that should be identified as soon as possible so that something can be done.
Basically, when the metabolism slows down and stops, the rabbit loses all appetite, and bacteria begin to grow, causing gas. This causes your rabbit to begin to starve, as well as your rabbit is exposed to life-threatening infections within the digestive tract. On top of this, pellets can solidify within the tract, causing an obstruction that is also life-threatening.
GI stasis can be caused by many different things or a combination of a few of them. These are the main and most common causes of GI stasis:
- A poor diet (for example, not enough fiber, too many carbs or fat, or an overall unbalanced amount of food)
- Stress (rabbits are super sensitive to stressful and uncomfortable situations, such as a change in their environment, the death of another rabbit, or other)
- An underlying illness
- Long-term use of antibiotics
- A combination of any of the above, or other serious conditions
Once you know the main causes of GI stasis, you can work towards making sure that your rabbits have a reduced risk. So you can make sure that they have the right diet, and you can do everything possible to reduce stress and uncomfortable situations, and you can double-check to make sure they drink enough water and keep an eye on their health. However, sometimes GI stasis just can’t be avoided, as it is a very common problem amongst rabbits, and sometimes rabbits with healthy lifestyles end up suffering the condition.
Luckily, if caught in time, rabbits should recover from GI stasis with no problem. Vets are used to this problem, and they know exactly what to do. The important thing is making sure you know what to look out for so that you can get them that expert help in time.
So basically, if your rabbit shows any of the symptoms of GI stasis, you should take them to the vet immediately because it is an emergency, and a life or death situation. And only a vet will be able to interfere and give them the right solution to put a stop to the condition.
But what does GI stasis look like? Well, here are the symptoms that you should look out for:
- Not eating or drinking, especially if this happens for a prolonged period of time (more than a couple of hours)
- Small, loose, or malformed fecal pellets
- Not pooping
- A hunched up posture, and not moving much
- Not liking to be handled (so if your rabbit shies away or rejects physical contact)
- Bloating of the stomach
If you notice any of these symptoms in your rabbit or a combination of a few of them, you should immediately contact a vet. It could be a hairball, or something else, and not GI stasis after all. But it’s better to be safe than sorry, and if it is GI stasis then you will want to get that solved as soon as possible before it becomes lethal. And don’t worry! Although it is very serious, your vet will know exactly what to do, and your rabbit will be back to normal and healthy again in no time.
How much food do rabbits need to eat?
In order to ensure that your rabbit is getting the right amount of food, and to be able to notice when your rabbit isn’t eating as much, you first need to know how much food rabbits need to eat in general. So that’s what we’re going to talk about now!
As a general rule, adult rabbits should be fed a quarter cup of pellets for every 6 pounds of body weight, 2 cups of vegetables for every 6 pounds of body weight, and 1 to 2 ounces of fruit for every 6 pounds of body weight. That is every single day. (So yeah, it’s quite a lot of food!)
But that’s not all! On top of all that, an adult rabbit should also have unlimited access to grass, oat hay, and timothy. This way they can graze and eat continuously all day long. So you get an idea, they will usually go through a bundle of this extra food every day, of roughly the same size that they are.
It’s also important to make sure that all of this food is of high quality, full of the proper nutrients. If you do get worried about your rabbit becoming overweight (because it is a lot of food), then you can simply limit the amount of fruit and pellets, but leave the rest as usual.
Senior rabbits, on the other hand, tend to lose weight, so as a general rule you should increase the number of pellets that you feed them. You can also add foods with a higher calorie count, there are plenty of pre-mixed packs available on Amazon and similar. You can also introduce alfalfa hay into their diet, as this is very good for them.
On the other end of the spectrum, baby rabbits will start to wean off their mothers at around 8 weeks of age. They should be able to eat unlimited amounts of pellets and alfalfa hay, until they are one year old, at which point you should switch them to an adult rabbit diet.