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Sometimes, Do Eat Poop

Hi All,

Oscar here. Last week. I wrote a post titled Dont Eat Poop. Now, although generally speaking, I continue to maintain that poop is best left uneaten, in some VERY UNIQUE cases, feces is in fact a vital part of an animals diet, specifically, when it comes to a class of animals known as cecotrophs.

20140516_160650One such creature is a bunny rabbit. I know when you think about bunnies, the first things that come to mind are adorable and fluffy; not poop-eaters. Fret not, bunnies are still in fact both adorable and fluffy. And Im sorry if Ive burst your bubble in telling you that they are also just a little bit gross. That said, the consumption of their feces is an integral part of their diet and if/when they stop this behavior, its cause for concern.

Last week, an anorexic bunny named Chestnut was brought into the PPAC (by the way, anorexia just means he wasnt eating). He also wasnt pooping—or eating his poop as per usual—and, he had a fever. Dr. S. inquired if there had been any changes in Chestnuts life and his owners notified the doc that they had recently run out of food pellets. If youve ever owned a widdle wabbit (I couldnt help myself), youll know that hay, vegetables and some supplemental form of food are fairly standard facets of their diet. Dr. S. had a hunch that the elimination of this dietary component had caused Chestnut to have a mild panic attack and stop eating all together.

Following up on his hunch, Dr. S. took Chestnuts bloodwork and found that he was not only feverish, he was also pretty dehydrated. Looking for an explanation, he took an X-ray and found that the absence of pellets (and subsequent loss of appetite) had caused Chestnuts stomach to cease in its motility-essentially stop processing its food- a sadly common occurrence in rabbits. In Chestnuts case, a few things happened as a result of this halted digestion:

  1. His stomach was filled with food even though he hadnt eaten in two days
  2. Whatever food was in his stomach looked denser than usual because the fluid in his stomach contents had been reabsorbed.
  3. His intestines were filled with gas
  4. He had a fever that had been caused by bacteria seeping out of his gas filled intestines and going into his blood stream
  5. He stopped defecating

So how do you treat a rabbits halted digestion? First off, to counter the dehydration, Dr. S. gave Chestnut an IV. He also put Gatorade—yup, the sports drink—into a syringe and fed it to the bunny which moistened the food in his gut and allowed it to resume its normal flow though his bunny body. Lastly, he gave him meds to promote motility (movement) and pain meds to chill him out so his body would return to normalcy. Well, the treatment worked and Chestnut has made a full recovery!

Pretty nuts, huh? I suppose its all just a day in the life of a rabbit.

Til next time,

Oscar

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