My Dearest reader,
Do you know there was a time in my youth when food was much harder to find. Not to mention the quality being nothing compared to the fortunate position I now enjoy as a brand ambassador for Nibble and Gnaw.
Sustenance is king for rabbits, we are what we eat. As I masticate away on these luscious long stems of 100% Canadian Timothy hay, I do think about my fellow bunnies and why they might not eat.
There are many reasons why. But as food is so vital to us the message is clear, something is very wrong and must be seen to URGENTLY when we stop eating.
My Rabbit isn’t eating, why?
If your rabbit isn’t eating, it’s a clear sign that something is not right and needs immediate attention. As their guardian and carer, it’s important to remember that your rabbit’s digestive system is extremely sensitive so any significant changes can cause upset. The common ones to look out for include:
Pain or discomfort
If you’ve ever had food poisoning, sciatica, migraines etc you’ll know that the pain limits your appetite. Us rabbits are no exception to the rule.
If your rabbit isn’t eating there is a chance that they are in enough pain is enough pain or discomfort. Be sure to consider possible internal pain where you can’t see, the answer may not be obvious from the outside. We’re prey animals and we have to hide our illness from those who would eat us (horrible, sharp-toothed fiends) so we pretend everything is ok so they don’t think we’re vulnerable.
We will chew lovely grass and hay all day, every day (even better when we can get our hands on a few flowers and treats). Whilst it is delightful to while away the day like this sometimes, if our owners aren’t careful, other ‘nasties’ get accidently consumed in the process.
This could be every day things like too much cardboard for instance. This will cause a blockage in the digestive tract which can cause all sorts of issues. If your rabbit has stopped eating, check that the only chewable ‘stuff’ around them is good for bunnies digestion.
(I’m obliged of course as a Nibble & Gnaw Ambassador to remind you of their wonderful hay and herbal treats)
Most rabbits don’t have to worry about deadlines or booking an MOT but despite that we still suffer stress. It can come in all forms, loud noises, other animals, moving house, moving hutch, changes in diet and so on.
The last thing on a stressed rabbits mind is food. If there’s been a change in circumstances, remove the problem (if possible) or change their setup and you should see improvement.
Sore teeth is Just as sore for bunnies as it is you humans, let me tell you from experience. Our teeth grow constantly, so we have to chew all the time to keep our teeth from taking over. (We’re talking about a cm of tooth growth per month here!).
If we’re not chewing high fibre hay, there's a risk of serious tooth problems.
I remember meeting one poor chap who had “malocclusion”, at least I think that’s what he said the vet called it. Anyway, the poor blighter’s teeth had outgrown his mouth and his jaw looked to be sitting very unevenly. Poor chap was in agony and was off to the vets for surgery under general anaesthetic to have the teeth sawn down. It sounded downright awful!
So, if your furry friend isn’t eating lovely long-stemmed natural hay, you could be building up future tooth troubles,
Infections or ulcers
I’ve said it before, but feeling ill means not feeling hungry. As I said above, we’re brave chaps and chapesses, who hide our illnesses. So you can’t tell there’s anything wrong until we keel over. Things like infections or ulcers for example.
So, when one of mu gang isn’t eating, and I know they’ve got good quality hay or grass available, then I tell their owners to get them off to the vet tout suite. They’ll check for might be able to tell if there is something that is bothering your buns respiratory, urine, or stomach systems.
But wait, how do I know that my rabbit isn’t eating?
Great question! I should have probably started there – sorry – got a bit carried away.
The most obvious answer is to keep an eye on their food and see if there is less in their bowl than what you put in. This is more difficult if you have multiple rabbits. If you see one of them looking less energetic than the others, isolate them to see if they are eating on their own.
Please forgive me for being somewhat coarse, but you should also be checking their, ahem, poo. As I’ve mentioned before we eat a lot and therefore produce a lot of droppings. If you see less poo, or the poo isn’t firm and a nice round shape, then this is definitely a sign that there is not enough food passing through your rabbit’s stomach.
How long can a rabbit go without food?
This depends on the rabbit (personally I struggle to go more than 20 minutes without snacking on something!) but a general rule of thumb is that the longest a rabbit can survive longer than 12 hours without food. Once we get to that length of time the word ‘fatality’ starts to loom menacingly on the horizon.
Time to wrap up
It is complete natural to worry when your rabbit isn’t not eating. All the advice above is a good starting point for checking the health of your rabbit and diagnosing problems. But sometimes it’s not a health issue.
It could simply be that your rabbit is a fussy eater or that their food is bland, unappetising, or bad for them. Like eating dessicated, brown hay for example – I remember the days, ugh. Or by eating the rabbit equivalent of McDonalds burgers every day (according to my human!).
In that case, it takes a time, patience, and experimentation to see what type of hay your rabbit will eat (we need 85% of our food to be hay). Then, gradually mix it with a sprinkling of herbs or the occasional vegetable as a treat to enliven their dining experience.
If you’re worried about your rabbit’s dietary needs and you’re looking for something to help, then be sure to try Nibble and Gnaw’s Try Me box. There’s a bag of first cut hay and a bag of second cut hay, and both are 100% dust free, long, green stem fresh hay.
Until next time,
Your wandering correspondent