The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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You may have noticed that rabbits are almost always munching and nibbling on anything they can get their teeth into. That’s why, if you give your bunny its favorite snack and it refuses to eat, you should pay closer attention to the rabbit’s behavior.
Sometimes, it could be just a matter of picky eating. However, if your bunny refuses to eat for more than 10 hours, it could be a sign of something far more serious than just being picky about its food.
There are common health issues that can cause a rabbit not to eat. The most likely culprits are GI stasis, dental problems, diet changes, or stress. Rabbits may also stop eating for a while after certain surgeries, such as spaying or neutering.
In this post, we’ll look in depth at the possible causes of a rabbit not eating. We’ll also go over what to do if a rabbit refuses to eat anything, so be sure to stick around.
Common Reasons Rabbit Isn’t Eating
When rabbits stop eating for prolonged periods of time, it’s often serious because their health depends on the constant movement of their digestive system.
That’s why it’s crucial to find out what’s causing your bunny’s appetite loss as soon as possible to avoid any health complications.
The following are the most common reasons for rabbit appetite loss:
1 – GI Stasis
GI stasis, also known as gut stasis or ileus, is a life-threatening condition that happens when a rabbit’s digestive system slows down or stops moving completely.
It can be a condition in and of itself, or it can be a symptom of another underlying condition. In many cases, rabbits with GI stasis are usually treated for two medical issues rather than one.
If a rabbit doesn’t consume a healthy diet, gas can build up in its gastrointestinal tract, which can be uncomfortable and painful.
As a result, the rabbit may start eating less and less until it stops eating altogether, making the situation even worse. GI stasis can be a vicious cycle because it can both cause and be caused by appetite loss.
The longer the rabbit is left untreated, the smaller its digestive tract becomes until it can no longer pass anything through. The bacteria in the gas and poop will then produce toxins that can overwork and harm the liver.
That’s why it’s crucial to get your bunny to the vet if you notice any of the following signs:
- Decreased or total loss of appetite
- Diarrhea, then small, dry fecal pellets until there are no fecal pellets
- Bloated abdomen
- Teeth grinding
- Visible fatigue
- Hunched posture
Keep in mind that these symptoms can occur suddenly or gradually. They also don’t always occur simultaneously, so if your bunny displays any of these symptoms, you should have it checked by a vet as soon as possible.
2 – Dental Problems
Rabbits’ teeth are another reason they need to be constantly munching on something. Unlike our teeth, rabbit teeth continue to grow throughout their lives.
As a result, they must constantly gnaw on their food and toys to keep their teeth worn down to an appropriate length. A rabbit that doesn’t have access to hay coarse enough to wear its teeth may suffer from several dental problems, which can cause appetite issues.
Rabbits eating the wrong food or chewing the wrong way are at risk of getting overgrown teeth. This condition can cause pain in the jaw and ulcers that hurt every time the rabbit chews.
As a result, many rabbits will avoid hay in favor of pellets. They may also chew on one side, exacerbating the situation, or half-chew their food before dropping it out of their mouths.
If their teeth are left to grow and untreated, the rabbits may lose their appetite completely. They may also suffer from other dental problems.
Molar spurs are sharp points on the molar’s edges that develop from uneven wear or overgrown teeth. These spurs can lacerate the rabbit’s cheeks, tongue, and other soft mouth tissue.
This condition won’t just cause great discomfort to the rabbit. It can also lead to jaw muscle and ligament problems as well as jaw misalignment.
Keep in mind that rabbits with dental problems won’t stop eating entirely at first. They may avoid foods that are more difficult to chew. So, it’s important to keep an eye out for any reluctance to eat hay or decreased appetite in your bunny.
3 – Sudden Diet Changes
Rabbits, like many animals, are very routine-oriented, so any changes to their routine may distress them, including sudden diet changes.
If you abruptly introduce new food to your bunny’s diet, your bunny may lose its appetite and avoid eating altogether.
What’s more, because the new food isn’t what the rabbit’s stomach is used to, abrupt diet changes can cause digestive problems and even diarrhea. That’s why you should slowly and gradually introduce the new food to your bunny’s diet.
Sudden diet changes can also lead to the next cause on our list.
4 – Stress
Stress is a common reaction to unexpected or difficult situations in a rabbit’s environment. Rabbits are naturally anxious animals, and anything can trigger their anxiety.
Minor events such as moving from place to place, loud noises, new smells, pain, and lack of space, among other things, can stress out your bunny.
When a rabbit is stressed, it may temporarily lose its appetite. A rabbit suffering from chronic depression or anxiety, on the other hand, may lose its appetite for a longer period of time, increasing the risk of developing GI stasis.
Gastrointestinal problems are one of the main reasons rabbits are taken to vets. In fact, stomach ulcers are a common problem in rabbits due to their natural tendency to worry and stress.
If your bunny is exposed to stress for an extended period, it may develop stomach ulcers, which can be unbearably uncomfortable and painful.
So, you need to take your bunny to the vet if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Anorexia; visible weight loss due to appetite loss
- Bruxism; grinding of the teeth
- Fatigue or lack of movement
Other Possible Causes
Individually, pain and stress can cause rabbits to lose their appetite. If your bunny undergoes any type of surgery, there’s always the possibility that it’ll experience pain, stress, or both afterward.
Rabbit Not Eating After Spay
It’s not uncommon for a rabbit to have a decreased appetite after spaying. Your bunny may not eat as much as she normally would for a few days, but as long as she has some food in her system, she’ll be fine.
However, you should contact the vet if your bunny doesn’t eat anything for more than 10 hours.
During that 10-hour period, you should try to entice your bunny into eating. Start by giving her a favorite treat or fragrant herbs, such as basil, mint, parsley, or dill leaves.
Offer your bunny fresh leafy greens and hay as soon as she seems willing to eat. You can even offer her alfalfa hay because it’s rich and high-fiber.
You should also keep a ceramic bowl of water nearby to keep your bunny hydrated. Even if she’s used to drinking from a bottle, your bunny will find it more difficult and may avoid drinking altogether if she has to work for it.
Rabbit Not Eating After Neuter
Because neutering is less invasive than spaying, a male rabbit usually recovers faster. If all goes well, your bunny should return to its normal activities within 24 hours—but it’s totally normal if recovery takes a couple of days.
Just like with female rabbits, a newly neutered rabbit should drink lots of water and eat after the surgery.
If your bunny is reluctant to eat, you can offer it a favorite treat or fragrant leaves. Once your bunny shows eagerness to eat, you can offer it leafy greens and hay to munch on as it recovers.
However, if your bunny refuses to eat for more than 10 hours, you should consult a veterinarian to avoid GI stasis and any other complications.
How to Know Rabbit Is Refusing to Eat
If your bunny’s food bowls are full and you suspect that it’s not eating, there’s a simple test that you can do to help you determine for sure.
The Treat Test
Get a piece of your bunny’s favorite food or treat and offer it to your bunny. If it immediately takes the treat and eats it, there’s nothing to worry about.
On the other hand, if your bunny is hesitant at first but eats the treat, you should monitor its behavior for a few hours to make sure that it’s eating enough. You can also offer your bunny other foods, like leafy greens and pellets to encourage it to eat.
If all else fails, and your bunny is refusing to eat everything, you should take your bunny to the vet.
What to Do When Rabbit Isn’t Eating
There’s no need to panic if you haven’t seen your bunny eat in a couple of hours. However, if your bunny refuses to eat for more than 10 hours, you should consider the situation an emergency.
The only thing you should do if your bunny refuses to eat is to take it to the vet. The veterinarian will be able to diagnose your bunny and prescribe the appropriate medication.
In many cases, you may need to syringe-feed your bunny food formula until it’s able to eat enough on its own.
If, on the other hand, your bunny’s veterinarian has ruled out any medical causes for their lack of appetite, you may be dealing with a picky bunny.
Often, the issue isn’t that the rabbit refuses to eat anything. It’s that they won’t eat certain foods. In that case, there are some tips that you can follow to get your picky rabbit to eat.
How to Make a Rabbit Eat Hay
Hay is essential to rabbits’ diets, so it should make up the majority of what your bunny eats. Some rabbits may develop a particular liking to pellets and refuse to eat hay.
While pellets provide rabbits with some vitamins and nutrients, consuming too many pellets can cause digestive issues and weight gain.
Here’s how to get a rabbit to eat more hay:
- Provide the rabbit with fresh good quality hay
- Mix in different types of hay, but avoid alfalfa hay
- Place a hay rack by the litter box because rabbits like to eat and poop at the same time
- Put hay on the floor and on hay racks to give the rabbit different places to eat
- Give the rabbit only quarter to half a cup of pellets per day
How to Make a Rabbit Drink Water
If a rabbit doesn’t drink enough water, combined with an increased fiber intake, it may have urination and defecation issues. The blockage caused by not urinating and defecating can lead to appetite loss.
Here are some tips on how to encourage a rabbit to drink more water:
- Provide the rabbit with a bowl of water along with the bottle. The rabbit will have the chance to pick either way to drink from
- Change the water multiple times during the day because rabbits prefer fresh water
- Add a few drops of unsweetened apple, carrot, or pineapple juice to the water. The subtly sweet flavor can entice the rabbit to drink more water
- Add a few leaves of mint or basil to the water. The fragrant herbs will make the water more appealing, and the rabbit will undoubtedly drink more water as it fishes out the leaves
- Leave those extra drops of water on the rabbit’s leafy greens for better hydration
- Avoid warm water. Room temperature water is preferable, and cold water is advised on hot days
Because tap water can taste different from place to place, the rabbit may be hesitant to try it. Before filling the rabbit’s bowls or bottles, you can purify the tap water. You could also use bottled water.
How to Prevent Rabbit Loss of Appetite
Many of the reasons that cause loss of appetite in rabbits can be avoided by following the guidelines below:
Switching to a New Diet
If you want to make any changes to your bunny’s diet, you should do so gradually over a seven to 28-day period so that you don’t upset its stomach or stop them from eating.
Start by replacing about 10% of the old food with the new one for a few days. If your bunny doesn’t display any issues, increase the amount to 20%. Continue increasing the amount of new food until you’ve completely replaced the old with the new.
Keep in mind that each rabbit is different, so you should use this guide as you see fit for your pet. In addition, if your bunny develops an upset stomach, reduce the amount of new food and slow down the process until your bunny feels better.
Rabbits are naturally easily scared and stressed out by their environments, which is unfortunate because they can get sick from being too stressed. That’s why it’s crucial to reduce the stress in your bunny’s life.
First, you should address any immediate causes of stress, such as loud noise, cramped space, new smells, and irregular routines. If you can give your bunny a suitable environment, it’ll learn to trust you and stress less.
Then, you should maintain your bunny’s health. As long as your bunny eats a healthy diet, it should be safe from any medical conditions, such as GI stasis or overgrown teeth.
A rabbit’s healthy diet consists of mainly grass-based hay, one to three cups of leafy greens, and a quarter to half a cup of pellets. You should keep treats to a minimum so that they don’t cause any digestive issues.
Lastly, you should provide your bunny with toys so that it doesn’t get bored, which can lead to stress and, in turn, appetite loss.
Eating Before Surgery
Most animals need to fast before any operation to prevent vomiting during the surgery or recovery. However, because rabbits lack the vomiting reflex and can’t regurgitate, there’s no need to fast before surgery.
In fact, feeding your bunny before surgery is recommended to keep its gastrointestinal tract active and prevent GI stasis.
A rabbit not eating for a few hours or missing a meal shouldn’t put you in an instant state of panic. Rabbits can be picky about their food at times, so you may just need to help them regain interest in it by giving them a treat.
However, if your bunny refuses to eat altogether for over 10 hours, there could be an underlying medical issue that needs addressing. Usually, it could be GI stasis, dental problems, pain, and even post-surgery stress.
It would be impossible to cover every possible cause of a rabbit not eating, so it’s critical for the rabbit’s health to have it checked by a vet as soon as you notice any signs of loss of appetite.