Soft Stools

Jul 10, 2011 by

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Last September, the day before the due date of my son, our rabbit stopped eating and going to the bathroom. Luckily, we had time before I went into labor to take Smokey to the vet. Your article “Sluggish Motility in the GI Tract” helped us a lot! I’ve always given Smokey plenty of hay, but not many fresh foods. I started doing so after reading the article, and Smokey has been a lot more lively and, I think, happier.

Thank you.

Heather Christensen, Annapolis, MD

I found the article by Dr. Susan Brown on “Sluggish Motility in the Gastrointestinal Tract” very informative since my 6 year old Dutch bunny, Benjamin, was operated on three years ago for a “hairball.” Since his surgery, I have tried to feed him timothy hay. However, he just chews it and plays with it. He doesn’t seem to care for many vegetables and fruits either. Benjamin has very soft stools at some time during each day and then they become hard and firm again. This has been going on ever since his surgery. What causes this daily episode of soft stools?

Barbara-Jean Bayus, Colonia, NJ

Frequently my four year old, spayed female rabbit has problems with “clumpy” damp feces on her bottom. Besides her pellets, she has fresh water daily and plenty of timothy hay. A year ago, she had surgery for three rather large bladder stones.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Judy Gardiner, Jeffersontown, KY

Whiskers, my four year old, female dwarf rabbit eats pellets well and only nibbles at the timothy hay. When I got her, I was pleased that she ate fruit, vegetables, rolled oats, and anything else I set in front of her. The problem is she then produces a pudding-like feces blob (not cecal matter). She does this with everything I give her besides pellets. Am I harming her system by giving treats twice a day? What’s going on?

Kathy Butz, Lancaster, PA

Carolynn Harvey, DVM, responds:

Thanks to Dr. Susan Brown and Dr. Jeff Jenkins, we have come to realize that chronic soft clumping cecal stools (as opposed to the neat “bunch of grapes” of normal cecal output) result from a carbohydrate overload in the diet, and a relative fiber deficiency. This can result from feeding the wrong mix of foods, or just too much of a good thing. Limiting “concentrates” in the diet (pellets, grains, breads, fruit, etc.) is usually effective in controlling the problem. Start with a health exam and fecal flotation for parasites. If the veterinarian finds no other problems, gradually change the diet toward a goal of:

  1. High-fiber pellets (20-25%) in strictly limited amounts (no more than 1/4 cup per 5 lb. of ideal body weight)
  2. Unlimited fresh, appetizing grass hay
  3. One-half to 2 cups of fresh greens per day
  4. Carbohydrate treats (bread, fruit, pasta, etc) should not be fed during the recovery period, can be added back in small amounts (1-2 Tbsp per day) when stool has normalized.

Dr. Brown often takes rabbits completely off pellets temporarily or permanently with good results. I take the more moderate approach above.

House Rabbit Journal Volume III, Number 8, Summer 1996

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