Rabbits have very delicate bacteria in their gastrointestinal tract; this means that they need to eat in order to maintain the healthy levels of bacteria. Failure to eat can result in GI stasis and bloat. Both of these are fatal if left untreated.
A rabbit that doesn’t eat can die within 24-48 hours. This is an emergency and must be treated as such.
Why do rabbits stop eating?
Rabbits can stop eating for a number of reasons, the most common causes include;
- Post operation
- Intestinal blockages
- Lack of fibre in the diet resulting in slow movement of the GI tract
If your rabbit stops eating then syringe feeding is necessary. Always seek veterinary advice prior to syringe feeding. They will be able to inform you how much critical care to feed your rabbit and when to feed.
Never syringe feed your rabbit before seeking veterinary advice; they will need to rule out a blockage. If your rabbit has a blockage and you syringe feed you can push the blockage into a smaller part of the GI tract making surgery difficult.
How much should you syringe feed your rabbit?
Each critical care has its own directions for feeding, which you should follow. Generally speaking you should feed between 10-15ml per sitting four times a day. If in doubt syringe feed smaller amounts more frequently.
What do you need to syringe feed your rabbit?
- Small mixing bowl
- Wet wipes
How do I syringe feed my rabbit?
Before you start, make sure that you have everything that you need in easy reach to syringe feed. This can be stressful for your rabbit, so minimising stress is important. It’s preferable to have two people when syringe feeding.
- Hold your rabbit securely with all four feet on a flat secure surface. Make sure they can not jump away or reverse backwards.
- Using the syringe place it into the corner of the rabbit’s mouth, approximately 2-4 cm deep, depending on the size of the rabbit.
- Slowly syringe the food in to the side of the mouth 5-10ml at a time. Remove the syringe and allow the rabbit to swallow before syringing any more in.
- Use the towel to wrap around the rabbit it they are stressed or likely to try and move away from you.
- Use the wet wipes to clean up any spillages around the mouth.
- Provide plenty of fresh food to encourage the rabbit to eat on their own. Sometimes syringe feeding can encourage your rabbit to start eating again.
It is very important they you syringe the food in to your rabbits cheek. Do not syringe it directly down their throat.
It is likely that your vet will also provide you with pain medication and gut motility medication. If you are unsure how to syringe feed your rabbit your vet will be able to show you.