LIFE-SAVING EMERGENCY INFORMATION
The information on this page -- and your ability to take action -- can save your rabbit's life in an emergency.
This page primarily covers GI Stasis with a section on head tilt at the end. It is critical to recognize the early signs of both order to effectively treat your rabbits, as their health can deteriorate rapidly.
If you are reading this for reference, please find useful information on identifying and preparing for emergencies below.
If you are in the midst of an emergency, follow the steps below and get in contact with your vet. If your vet is closed, reference the emergency contact information below.
IDENTIFYING GI STASIS
Gastrointestinal stasis occurs when a rabbit's intestine can become static for a variety of reasons, such as stress, dehydration, pain from an underlying disorder or illness, a blockage such as hair or food, or insufficient fiber.
Untreated GI Stasis can result in a painful death in a relatively short period of time.
Common signs of GI Stasis can include:
Not eating, drinking or pooping.
Very small fecal pellets, sometimes stuck to the bunny.
Not hopping around like they usually do
Sitting in a 'hunched' position
Grinding their teeth -- in pain.
If your rabbit stops eating or pooping for significantly longer than usual (you know your rabbit best, but this is frequently a sign of stasis is as little as 12 hours without eating or pooping -- see https://rabbit.org/gastrointestinal-stasis-the-silent-killer-2/).
If this happens to your rabbit, follow the steps below. You can begin by taking their temperature, contacting your vet (or an emergency vet if yours is closed), and beginning treatment at home until you can get to your exotics vet.
TAKING YOUR RABBIT'S TEMPERATURE
The first thing you should do in a suspected GI Stasis -- or during any other health issue -- is to take your bunny's temperature. This is something every bunny owner should know how to do before it is an emergency!
Each rabbit has a slightly different resting temperature. If you don't know this, we've provided some reference numbers below.
If you do not know how to take your rabbit's temperature already, please ask your vet to show you. You can also learn this during one of our rabbit tune-up classes.
If this is an emergency and you do not know how to take your rabbit's temperature, please watch this video, courtesy of the Georgia House Rabbit Society.
To help you interpret what your rabbit’s temperature means:
Temperature between 101.5°F to 103° F is normal.
Anything above 103° F is a fever!
Anything below 101.5°F is hypothermia, which is more dangerous than a fever.
If a rabbit’s temperature gets close to 106° F, there is danger of seizures and brain damage.
If your rabbit's temperature is normal but your rabbit still has not eaten or pooped for 12 hours, this is still an emergency -- contact your vet and begin treating your rabbit at home until you can take them in.
Cooling a rabbit with a fever:
Wet a towel with cold water, wring it out as completely as possible, shake it in the air to get it cool, and wrap it around the rabbit. Please ensure you are taking your rabbit's temperature frequently.
Warming a hypothermic rabbit:
Heat up a microwavable “bunny warmer” in the microwave and put it against the rabbit.
Heat a bath towel in a microwave, 30 seconds at a time to see how warm it gets, and when it is very warm, wrap it around the rabbit (this doesn’t last long, but it gives heat all over the body).
CONTACTING A VET
You should contact your current rabbit vet during an emergency. However emergencies can often occur outside of typical vet working hours. If this is the case, you should contact an emergency vet clinic.
We have included some below, however always call in advance to confirm there is a rabbit-savvy vet available.
If an emergency veterinary clinic says that they can “see” your rabbit, ask them how much experience the veterinarian has with rabbits and how many they typically see in a week.
Sadly, some clinics will say that they can see your rabbit, but don’t have anyone on duty with the specialized knowledge required to treat rabbits. This can be very dangerous for your rabbit.
Having an exotic specialist “on call” has always meant that, if that specialist is needed, he or she would come to the clinic. However, some unscrupulous clinics will say they have a specialist on call, but then require you to pay an additional payment for them to call the specialist, who will talk only to the veterinarian calling, and will NOT come in to see your rabbit.
So please, get a definition of what any emergency clinic means by having a specialist on call before you go there.
Also, if you’ve taken your rabbit to a veterinarian claiming to be able to treat rabbits, but doesn’t treat yours appropriately, you can file a complaint with the Board of Veterinary Medicine. Please let us know as well.
If your rabbit gets sick when the regular rabbit veterinarians are closed, and you can’t find an emergency vet who knows rabbits, don’t despair!
Call for help in the order listed below. If you don’t reach a human, leave a message, including your phone number, spoken slowly twice, at each number.
RMHRR 24-hour Health Line
If you have called all of the numbers without reaching a human, wait 10 minutes and repeat the calls. Except for these calls, please keep your line open, so someone can call you back.
These people are volunteers and have jobs and families of their own. They attempt to be available 24-7, but can’t always guarantee this.
Please be considerate of our volunteers. If you are not a member of the Rocky Mountain House Rabbit Rescue and have used this service, a donation to the organization would be greatly appreciated.
If you have taken your rabbit to a veterinarian and need help with nursing tasks, you can also call our 24 hour Health Line.
If you are unable to provide nursing care for your rabbit, yourself, some of our Bunny Sitters may be willing to do so, but you’ll need to work that out with them, individually. We do not care for other people’s rabbits in our shelter.