A rabbit throwing up is a common problem for those who have rabbits. It can be difficult to know what is happening and why it’s happening, but we are here to help! Rabbits will often throw up bile or food that they cannot digest. Sometimes these symptoms may mean there is something more serious going on, so it’s important to get your rabbit checked out by a vet if you notice any of the signs of vomiting.
So why is your rabbit vomiting?
The truth is, rabbits are incapable of vomiting. Physiologically, vomiting is the forceful expulsion of contents from the stomach. It’s associated with a series of events involving esophageal, chemical receptor trigger zones, and gastrointestinal stimuli. Rabbits are biologically incapable of producing such a series of events. However, this isn’t something you want to overlook when your rabbit merely looks like it’s vomiting. You need to know the signs. There could be a serious underlying condition that requires immediate attention.
Rabbits are one of many animals who suffer from a condition known as gastrointestinal stasis. Gastrointestinal stasis is when the stomach stops moving food and liquid through the digestive system, which can lead to rabbits being really sick and even dying.
Why don’t rabbits throw up?
The anatomy of a rabbit was extensively studied in an article from G. S. Muller Botha, in which he states that a rabbit (unlike bats and mice) has a “tremendously powerful muscle mass consist(ing) of both smooth muscle as well as striated muscle.” He goes on to explain how the “sphincter and the folding act synergistically to form the most wonderful closing mechanism between stomach and esophagus” he’s ever studied.
The anatomy of the rabbit’s esophagus and stomach has a strong muscle that’s surrounded by a fold of mucous membrane. The sphincter acts like a cork that closes so hard that there’s very little chance of anything coming out of the stomach after it’s come in. It’s a one-way ticket into the stomach.
When other animals eat, food is carried from the esophagus to the stomach in a process known as peristalsis. Peristalsis squeezes food from your esophagus down to your stomach in a wave-like motion. Sphincters usually close the chambers and block off food from exiting back up after it passes a certain point. Right before we start to vomit, a process called RETROperistalsis occurs which reverses the involuntary contractions of peristalsis.
Vomiting occurs because of irritation, bacteria, or food poisoning, which activates receptors in the brain to signal the vomiting reflex.
Rabbits have been known to “vomit” on rare occasions
It’s been studied and recorded that on some occasions right before death, a rabbit can vomit. But why?
Studies have observed that it’s because their stomachs are so full, the walls of their abdomen finally burst and release everything. This is accompanied by a failure of the muscles to shut and the sphincter to open. The rabbit will then “vomit” before death as if they were trying to get rid of all this food.
The dangers of not vomiting
One-way digestive systems can be extremely dangerous to rabbits because everything they eat has to make its way all the way through their system.
Now, this is dangerous because whatever it is that they eat may be poison or something rotten.
Unfortunately, if it’s a one-way system into their body, rabbits won’t be able to remove this substance immediately (through vomiting) and the food may end up causing the rabbit to end up sick.
Rabbits also suffer from an illness called gastrointestinal stasis. Gastrointestinal stasis is when a rabbit’s digestive system slows down and begins to stop working. This happens because the food in their stomach is taking too long to digest, and this can be fatal if they don’t end up getting rid of the food before it develops into gastrointestinal stasis.
Also because of such a strong one-way digestive system, rabbits can also suffer from trapped gas in their stomach. This can lead to a bloated stomach and cause the rabbit to become very irritated and very ill until it is released.
What can cause GI stasis?
There are a lot of signs and symptoms you should be aware of when taking care of your rabbit. Gastrointestinal stasis is fairly common in the world of rabbits and so it’s best to familiarize yourself with the possible signs and symptoms that might arise from such occurrences.
These signs and symptoms may include:
Rabbits will eat pretty often. If your rabbit is not eating like it usually does there might be a problem. Keep track of the frequency of their meals and be vigilant about how often they eat and if it’s suddenly stopped abruptly.
No bowel movement or constipated
Keep watch over their daily excretions. Look at the size and shape of the feces. Are they any different from usual? It’s important to notate the size and shape because obstruction in the intestines of your rabbit may change the shape of the poop.
You must also take note of whether the feces are coming out liquidly or overly soft. Diarrhea can be associated with stomach irritation and even food poisoning. Your rabbit can be very irritated and not feel well.
Growling or no sounds from the stomach
If you place your ear directly on your rabbit, you’ll actually be able to hear the body processing and digesting food. You should hear a regular rhythm that’s almost clockwork. However, if you start to hear a lot of irregulars (non-rhythm-like) growling sounds or no sound at all, it’s time to be concerned.
Your rabbit might be in pain or its stomach might be irritated. You notice that he/she’s hunched over and not feeling well.
Your rabbit might have no energy at this point because of the multitude of symptoms it’s feeling. Be alert to its behavior because it’s important to catch this sooner than later.
Prevention of GI stasis
While it’s not possible o completely avoid gastrointestinal stasis, it is good to follow a certain set of rules that will help lessen the occurrence. Generally speaking, a good balance of diet and exercise is the key to prevention. This will keep your rabbit healthy and happy.
- Feed them lots of vegetables.
- Give them plenty of clean water.
- Allow them plenty of space for exercise
- Visit the vet’s office regularly
Remove any potential poisonous foods and objects
The dangers of eating poisonous foods are not the fact that they are poisonous, but it’s because the rabbits cannot vomit to clear out this food. So it’s very important to pay close attention to whatever your rabbit is eating and even nibbling on. Below is a compiled list of any possible dangers that you may have in your house that could be rather poisonous for rabbits to accidentally chew on and swallow.
- Poisonous plants
- Rotten materials that are chewed on
- Poisons for both rodents and insects
- Styrofoam and plastics
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but I do want to stress that it doesn’t only have to be inside your home. A lot of us take our rabbits outside and so you have to be very considerate about what your rabbit might find interesting to put in its mouth.
Hairballs can clog up your rabbit’s stomach
Like all furry mammals, rabbits will tend to groom themselves by licking themselves like cats normally do. They can eventually ingest large clumps of hairballs. This can be very dangerous, specifically for rabbits, because of the way their one-way digestive tract works.
Now I know it’s definitely not possible to capture all the hairballs that your bunny May pile up before it actually swallows it. But you should try to take as many away as possible.
Signs and symptoms of your rabbit eating hairballs
It’s pretty normal to find the occasional rabbit poop pellets that are linked together in a series. This linking is thanks to all the hairlines that connect them together.
In most cases, you may find that your rabbit will stop having bowel movements as well as stop eating regularly. This might be due to the digestive tract being clogged up.
Prevent hairball clogs in the rabbit’s stomach.
I would recommend that you continue to groom your rabbit more often if you’re finding more and more of these linked feces coming from your rabbit.
You can brush his or her hair as often as you can to get rid of the extra hair that it might ingest. This can help keep your rabbit’s digestive tract free and clear of things that may obstruct its process.
It is also perfectly normal to find traces of hair in your rabbit’s feces. However, it can be a cause for concern when your rabbit is having trouble excreting because of ingesting too much hair.
What can cause my rabbit to be bloated?
As common as it is for humans to be bloated, it’s actually very dangerous for a rabbit to be bloated. The science behind the danger is not yet fully understood however if gas is trapped inside a rabbit’s stomach, and the rabbit is unable to remove it, this buildup may become an emergency situation.
Signs and symptoms of a bloated rabbit
There have been lots of situations where a rabbit will basically inhale its food. If your rabbit is not feeling well, and you believe this has to do with it overeating, the first thing you should attempt to try is feeling the sides of its stomach. Look for any hard areas. This may be the gas build-up.
Some symptoms of bloating can include:
- Heavy breathing
- Not eating or having bowel movements
- Not moving
- Being hunched over
How to prevent a rabbit from being bloated
Again, it all falls down to diet and exercise. A healthy and balanced diet for your rabbit can prevent a lot of illnesses.
But, you can always do a little more.
Make sure you feed your rabbit with a healthy diet of vegetables and hay. Your rabbit should also be eating the same types of food regularly. Changing up his or her diet can cause a shock to its system that it doesn’t recognize.
Gas is actually quite normal for a rabbit. Ultimately, just waiting for the rabbit to pass it out is the way to solve it. If your rabbit is becoming excessively ill or sick, you might need to go see a veterinarian.
What can cause my rabbit to choke?
When a rabbit is choking, oftentimes it will try to cough it up. You’ll actually hear it regurgitate the food and make sounds such as it was vomiting. It almost sounds like a human.
Choking is an extremely dangerous occurrence no matter what animal or species has it.
The signs and symptoms of a rabbit choking
In any case, there are certain signs and symptoms that will be obvious when your rabbit is choking. It is very important that you familiarize yourself with this situation.
- Hearing gagging noises
- Your rabbit is lifting its head in the air
- Your rabbit’s eyes are open wider than usual
- The skin from your rabbit is beginning to turn blue especially near the lips
How to perform the bunny Heimlich maneuver
Now, this is the last resort. You never want to try and attempt this procedure unless you absolutely know that there is no other option!
The risk of using this procedure may end up permanently disabling your rabbit if done improperly. Even if it was done properly, there’s a massive risk of breaking your rabbits back in the process.
- Lay your rabbit across your forearm on its stomach with its head supported by your hand.
- It should be facing away from you.
- With your other arm hold firmly onto the back of your rabbit.
- Now one arm should be holding the rabbit from the bottom and the top.
- With both arms, bring the rabbit up in the air and then forcefully swing them down to create some force so that the food gets pushed out through the rabbit’s mouth.
The process must be done swiftly and quickly. Check out the video I’ve included and it’ll show you exactly how it’s done.
My final thoughts
Taking care of rabbits can sometimes be a tough chore. Watching over them and making sure they are healthy and well is not always an easy task. However, with this blog post, you should have a better idea of some of the things to look out for when it comes to your rabbit’s health if “vomiting” or “throwing up” becomes a problem.
Make sure you are aware of all the potential risks and how to stop them from happening. Hopefully, you can avoid this unfortunate circumstance and your bunny will be happy and hale for many more years to come!
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