What Happens When Your Rabbit Eats Plastic!
It can be incredibly frightening to gaze upon your rabbit as he is chewing through a plastic water bottle. This is something that happened to me. And you wouldn’t believe how fast I ran over to my buddy and stopped it.
You already know that rabbits are prone to digestion issues which can sometimes be fatal!
So what do you do when you find out that your rabbit has eaten plastic?
It’s important to understand that rabbits have a very sensitive GI system. However, the chances of plastic causing a real threat to your rabbit’s health depends on how much it’s eaten, and how easily it would be to pass through. The best course of action would be to monitor for any life-threatening signs and symptoms and provide your rabbit with plenty of hay and water, which helps support the pass-through rate of food in your rabbit’s system.
I want to dive deep into exactly what you should consider and what you should do when you come across a situation such as this.
Why Rabbits Chew On Plastic
One peculiar fact about rabbits is that their incisor teeth (the two front teeth) are always growing similar to the hair on our heads.
Now there’s no real definitive answer to why rabbits chew on anything. Rabbits aren’t the only animals that chew on things. In fact, many mammals habitually do this. Some people theorize that this may be due to reasons of boredom or it might even be a hobby. One thing is clear for rabbits, chewing provides one major benefit.
One way rabbits prevent their incisors from getting too long is to chew on really tough foods. And that’s why you might always be seeing your rabbit chewing.
From an evolutionary standpoint, rabbits naturally chew by habit and instinct.
The best thing for rabbits to chew in most cases is hay because of its rigid and hard texture. When rabbits are chewing on hay, it’s slightly grinding away at their incisors keeping it short.
But rabbits don’t only chew on hay, they chew on basically anything they can find that’s hard and rigid. And in your case, they’ll chew on plastic and eventually swallow it.
It’s also brought me to thinking about how dogs are always chewing on things. They don’t necessarily have teeth that are always growing but it has become an instinct to chew on anything it can find to satisfy that itch.
Similar to how dogs are when it comes to chewing, rabbits will pretty much chew on anything they can find and plastic is no exception.
A rabbit can go after and chew on practically anything that is made of plastic. If you have children, you’ll likely have toys made of plastic. Even the containers, feeders, and litter boxes are made of plastic.
What happens when a rabbit doesn’t chew? Its incisors will continue to grow and it could either pierce the rabbit’s gums or cause a really big fracture which will cause excruciating pain and require immediate medical attention.
How to tell if your rabbit did eat plastic
This is going to be a bit of a tough situation. But you’re going to have to figure out whether or not what kind of emergency to look forward to.
A big question you’re going to want to answer is whether or not your rabbit did consume the plastic it was chewing on.
If you find your rabbit, out of nowhere, chewing on plastic for an unknown range of time, you have to consider two things.
One is that your rabbit may have chewed the plastic and eventually spat it out. Or two, your rabbit was chewing and swallowing those plastic pieces.
Here’s how to tell.
- Start by looking at the plastic piece that your rabbit is chewing on. If it’s not missing anything on it then your rabbit is okay and there’s nothing to worry about.
- If there are parts of the plastic piece missing, then you either have to find out whether your rabbit swallowed it or spat it out.
- Look around the area where your rabbit could have been. Rabbits usually eat in one place so you shouldn’t have to look very far. Try to locate where those missing pieces are. If you find them, and those pieces make up the whole, then you’re rabbit should be fine.
- If you can’t find any of those pieces that were torn away from the whole plastic, then it’s safe to assume that your rabbit may have swallowed it.
- Take precautions, and monitor your rabbit’s behavior for the next 5 to 20 hours which is how long it takes your route to digest its food.
Will Eating Plastic Kill Your Bunny?
Rabbits are known for chewing on virtually anything and everything. In most cases, they’ll even eat what they’re chewing, and come out perfectly fine.
A little bit of plastic most likely won’t kill your rabbit. The small bits of plastic have a good chance of passing through your rabbit without any issues.
However, there is somewhat of a risk that still exists if your rabbit swallows plastic. Plastic simply doesn’t digest well in a stomach. It will likely keep its shape and form as it travels through the body.
Can be an issue especially if it ever gets clogged up inside your rabbit’s intestines. We all know that one of the biggest dangers for rabbits is anything that deals with GI issues.
Particularly speaking, a frequent and well-known illness for rapids is often called GI stasis. It’s the slowing of food as it passes through the GI tract. Plastic can make this worse. It can log off the stomach thus leading to a serious emergency.
Rabbits can and do oftentimes die from GI stasis.
Can your Rabbit Vomit the Plastic Back Up?
Vomiting is actually very important to our biological systems. It is used to get rid of any obnoxious chemicals, poisonous foods, and diseases from your gut.
Unfortunately, rabbits can’t vomit. Their digestive tracts only go in one direction into the stomach and out the other end.
Rabbits are physically incapable of vomiting due to their digestive systems shutting off doors throughout the stomach and intestines.
If you like to learn more, I’ve published an article specifically about the benefits, disadvantages, and dangers of rabbits and vomiting.
What to do when your rabbit has swallowed plastic?
Step 1: Monitor Your Rabbit
It could take a rabbit anywhere between 15 to 24 hours for ingested food to be fully processed through the entire GI tract.
What I recommend here is to continue monitoring your rabbit for at least 3 to 7 days to make sure there are no issues that come about.
Plastic does not break down in your stomach and so often it can either become trapped if they are too big, or flow right through your rabbit’s system if they’re small enough.
You going to have to look out for any signs and symptoms that may arise from this plastic in your rabbit’s stomach.
A few things you should be looking for are any signs of discomfort, pain, or constipation.
You may also find that your rabbit is no longer showing an interest in eating or drinking. It might even be breathing very heavily. If the plastic had any sharp owners, there could be potential tears and bleeding in the stool. If you happen to find deep red/brown stool, there is a possibility that your rabbit is bleeding internally.
I highly recommend contacting your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Step 2: Give your rabbit plenty of water
A big part of getting rid of food throughout your system can be accelerated if your rabbit is hydrated.
Another symptom you might typically find if a rabbit has consumed something inappropriate is that it will be constipated. An interesting fact is that rabbits typically take about 200 to 300 pellet-sized poos a day.
If you notice that your rabbit isn’t pooping as frequently as it’s supposed to then try providing it with plenty of water.
Water is a powerful and natural method of easing constipation. It helps make the stool softer so that it can easily pass through your rabbit’s digestive system.
In most cases, if your rabbit is constipated, it may very well be due to your rabbit being dehydrated.
If your rabbit does not like to drink water or is refusing water then you can try giving it something sweet.
You can also add a little bit of juice to the water so that your rabbit can enjoy it more.
There are plenty of fruits and vegetables that also have a high amount of water in them. Can be a great alternative for a pure rabbit who is refusing to drink water.
Now, if you realize that your rabbit hasn’t pooped in over 12 to 24 hours then it might be time to get in contact with your veterinarian. This issue might be much graver than it seems.
Step 3: Give your rabbit plenty of fiber
There are all types of rabbit food with an emphasis on fibers. Fiber can also be found in fruits, vegetables, and even hay. These natural fibers can help ease constipation for your rabbit, helping it pass food through its system much faster.
This is in conjunction with providing your rabbit with plenty of water as well.
Often you can use fresh hay or even pellets with high fiber contents.
Fiber has an amazing property to it. It helps increase the weight and the size of your rabbit stools and helps soften them in the process. In fact, bulky stools are often easier to pass through your body.
How To Keep Your Rabbit From Chewing On Plastic
Your rabbit has a normal instinct when it comes to chewing anything it can get its teeth on. Not only can chewing on hard objects beneficially wear down a rabbit’s teeth, but it can also eventually keep your rabbit from having any dental issues in the future.
But how do you prevent rabbits from chewing plastic?
The best thing I can recommend that you do is to keep your rabbit away from the plastics in your house.
Now I know that’s going to probably be difficult but you have to consider your rabbit’s health in this situation.
Pick up all the plastic containers, the plastic toys, and anything within your rabbit’s reach that is made of plastic.
I would also argue that this would be a good opportunity to decide on getting your rabbit some proper rabbit chew toys. And if you love your rabbit as much as I do mine, you can pretty much grab dozens of toys for a really affordable price at the pet store.
These toys will undoubtedly keep your rabbit’s attention away from chewing on things that it shouldn’t be chewing on.
What’s funny is that sometimes you might even find chew toys for rabbits that are also made of plastic. These are different types of plastic and are often times much harder and more durable than the typical plastics you would find in toys like army men.
Typical children’s army men plastic toys are much less durable and can break off easily with repeated pressure. Rabbit chew toys, and generally any animal chew toys for that matter, are built with certain types of plastics that are more elastic and difficult to break apart.
This keeps your rabbit safe and protects it from any accidents that might occur from ingestion.
You’ll need to rabbit-proof your house
I know most of us to want our rabbits to run around and play this much room as possible. But with all the clutter, all the toys, and all the dangerous substances around, you can’t help but be concern about what your rabbit may unwittingly start chewing on and eating.
That is why we must plan far ahead. I recommend you make sure that you make your home rabbit-proof.
Here are a few tips and suggestions that I recommend you start with.
- Remove any electrical cords that are lying on the floor or hanging not too far from the ground.
- Put away your children’s toys and instead replace them with durable, tough rabbit toys.
- Put your shoes up somewhere high.
- Rabbits can be allergic to certain types of plants and flowers so put your what’s in plants on the countertop or shelf.
- Look for a removable and expandable pet fence that you can place in your home and let your rabbit run free within it. The bigger the play area is, the better your rabbit will enjoy it.
Things your rabbit should not chew on around the house
Most of the things in your house are probably safe for rabbits to chew on whether or not it’s something you want it to chew on or not.
However, there are certainly obvious and common things around the house that you should avoid letting your rabbit chew on at all costs.
I created a list of things you should not allow your rabbit to chew on.
- Printed cardboard.
- Cardboard with aluminum foil wrapped around it.
- MDF boards.
- Boards that have been painted on or even the walls.
- Electrical wiring that may be hanging on the floor.
Things that are okay for your rabbit to chew on around the house.
Here’s a list of things that I came up with that is probably acceptable for your rabbit to chew on.
- Grass and hay.
- Branches from trees.
- Cardboard without any markings or print on it.
- Animal chew toys.
The bottom line
If there aren’t any immediate concerns about your bunny eating plastic, then you should try to keep an eye on him/her until they finish their meal. If you notice anything unusual or if your rabbit seems lethargic or unwell after having ingested some plastic, please contact us immediately so we can help.
What happens next?
Once your rabbit feels better, you’ll probably want to give them fresh grass and hay to eat. Make sure to be aware of your rabbit’s environment and always keep in mind whether the place you allow your rabbit to frolic around is safe or not.
And always make sure your veterinarian’s contact info is within arms reach.
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