When to Worry About a Poor Appetite
Any rabbit can go through a short period of poor appetite. Often, the appetite just picks up on its own after a couple of days. Other times, the loss of appetite precedes other symptoms and leads to death. How do you know the difference?
You can’t always know the difference when you first notice that a rabbit hasn’t consumed his normal share of feed. So I take any change in eating habits seriously.
If you notice that your rabbit hasn’t eaten much, check it’s water. Rabbits won’t eat if they don’t drink. I learned the hard way to check for a malfunction in my water system when pellets remain the in the feeder. Luckily I didn’t lose my rabbit, but she lost a lot of condition and I felt absolutely horrible.
If a rabbit is on a water system or water bottle for the first time, make sure he understands how to use it. If you provide a crock of water and he swills it, chances are he didn’t understand how to get the water out of the bottle or fount. If the bottle is stone-dry, it’s possible that your rabbit lay against it and all the water drained out, leaving the rabbit with nothing to drink.
Trust your rabbit’s instincts and check his feed. Perhaps his j-feeder has some moldy food stuck in it. Maybe the feed is stale or has another problem. Recheck the milling date on the feed. To be on the safe side, open a new bag.
The next thing I check is what’s coming out of my rabbit, which is much more important than what is going in, in my opinion. It can be difficult in hanging cages to determine which poops are recent. I place a clean sheet of newsprint over my manure collection bins to evaluate a rabbit’s current output.
If there is little or no new fecal matter, or the poops are unusually small, then I treat for GI stasis. If the poops hang together in strings, I would assume that my bunny has consumed too much fur. If there is excessive cecal matter, I would suspect that the gut flora is off, so I would increase hay, eliminate treats, and give probiotics. If I see blood or gel in the stool, then I’d assume I have some sort of infection going on.
When my rabbits are in a really bad molt, I do expect their appetites to be off a little and I do not worry too much about that (except for my concern over excessive fur consumption). For a day or two after I worm my rabbits, I see a general disinterest in feed. During the first hot days of the summer, I may see rabbits reduce their pellet intake. And I become accustomed to which rabbits don’t eat as well during traveling.
For rabbits that are just a little off in their appetite, I may tempt them with parsley or cilantro, raspberry leaves, or another treat. Often they will eat their pellets after their interest has been sparked. Conversely, if they are eating treats daily and leaving their pellets, they may have just become finicky eaters who are holding out for the good stuff.
If my rabbit with a poor appetite seems normal in his activity level, has a plentiful, clean water supply that he understands how to use, has normal poops, and hasn’t gone very long without eating well, then I don’t worry too much and just keep an eye on him. Usually he is back to normal in a couple of days.