Gastric dilatation or “bloat” and gastrointestinal obstruction is an acute and life-threatening condition of pet rabbits commonly caused by an obstruction with pellets of compressed hair. The discussion portion of this Case Challenge reviews onset, clinical signs, and diagnostic test results of obstructive and non-obstructive gastrointestinal disease. This condition is considered a surgical emergency and key points of urgent care strive to stabilize the patient through analgesia, decompression when indicated, and supportive care. Surgery is discussed as well as recommendations for patients that cannot go to surgery due to clinical or financial constraints. Follow-up care as well as homecare recommendations, disease prevention, and prognosis are also explored.
Gastrointestinal problems are common in the pet rabbit. A thorough history, including a detailed dietary history, can provide invaluable clues to the problem at hand. Signs of gastrointestinal discomfort in the rabbit may include bruxism, reluctance to move, and anorexia. If there is a history of anorexia, it is imperative to differentiate whether the rabbit is not eating because it has no interest in food, or if it is showing an interest in food but unable to eat. A complete lack of appetite is most commonly seen with physiological problems such as renal failure, whereas a reluctance to eat is a classic presentation in rabbits with dental disease.