Most people know that rabbits can’t vomit, but did you know why?
When we, as humans, eat something that disagrees with us or consume something toxic, our bodies can purge those bad substances by vomiting. We have a gag reflex and our stomachs contract in order to retch or choke down the offending matter so that we may rid ourselves of it. Rabbits do not have this ability.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the reasons why rabbits can’t vomit and what that means for their health. We’ll also discuss some of the potential health risks associated with a lack of vomiting ability in rabbits. So, if you’re curious about rabbit digestion, keep reading!
Can rabbits vomit?
No! Rabbits do not have the necessary anatomy to vomit. This makes getting them over many types of illness, such as a hairball or toxicities, much more difficult and dangerous for them.
They cannot vomit because they do not have a gag reflex like we do. They also lack a true stomach and the ability to retch or choke down something that is causing them to be ill.
When we consume something that disagrees with us or ingests poison, our bodies may eliminate the undesirable compounds through vomiting. We have a gag reflex and our stomachs shrink to retch or choke down whatever is causing us distress so that we can get rid of it. Rabbits are unable to do this.
Health Problems Caused by Not Vomiting
Not Vomiting Blocks a Rabbit’s Digestive System
It can block the digestive track by lodging in the esophagus, stomach or intestines. This can cause an intestinal obstruction, which is often fatal.
Not Vomiting Causes Food to Rot
Unable to pass properly through the digestive system, food begins to rot and fermentation takes place. Toxins are released into your rabbit’s body causing a digestive upset.
Not Vomiting Leads to Fluid Build-up
As food ferments, excess fluid builds up in the stomach, causing bloat just as it would in a horse or cow. Bloat is very serious and can be fatal if not treated promptly.
Not Vomiting Can Lead to Blocked Airways in Rabbits
When a rabbit’s stomach is full of material that should not be there, it can push up against the windpipe. If this persists, the windpipe can become blocked and prevent air from getting into their lungs causing suffocation.
Bunnies Choking or Gagging same as vomiting?
Bunnies Choking or Gagging is often mistaken as vomiting. If a rabbit is choking, they will frantically move their head back and forth in an attempt to rid themselves of the offending matter or at least move it out of their esophagus. Rabbits do not have the ability to vomit, so gagging is actually a sign that something is stuck in their throat and they are having trouble getting it down.
Choking in rabbits (which may look like gagging) requires medical attention immediately. The rabbit’s air way can be compromised very quickly and without assistance, they could perish very quickly from lack of oxygen. This is why quick action on your part to bring your bunny to the nearest emergency veterinarian is crucial!
Rabbits who gag should not be encouraged to eat anything until such time as they can be examined by a veterinarian. I’ve seen too many rabbits who have been given the green light to eat something, only for them to re-gag on it and get more sick.
How to Help a Choking Rabbit?
A rabbit who has gotten something stuck in their throat should be assisted by a human and placed on their side or back. The bottom two front teeth of a rabbit are elongated and sharp, similar to the fangs of a snake. These teeth can cut through your skin very easily, so it is best to take caution when placing them on their backs. If there is a blockage in the esophagus, hold the mouth open slightly to prevent closure while you feel for any obstructions with your fingers.
If you cannot reach into his mouth far enough because he’s gagging too hard, place one hand over his forehead and neck to keep him from flipping onto his stomach again while you carefully push down on either side of his ribs. This will allow whatever is stuck in the throat to come out on its own. If you cannot reach into his mouth or he has something lodged in his windpipe, take him immediately to a veterinarian so it can be removed safely and without delay.
Why Can’t Rabbits Throw up?
Rabbits evolved as prey animals. This means that they were designed to be eaten and had to develop ways of protecting themselves from predators. We’ve all seen rabbits caught by the ears or leg, only to have a hawk swoop down and take them away in just a few moments. Rabbits can’t protect themselves from such threats with brute force like we humans can, so their bodies adapted other ways.
One way is simply to evade danger by fleeing from it quickly enough to escape its clutches before it gets too close. Another method involved developing the ability to make themselves ill very quickly when threatened and then convincing another predator (like a snake) that they weren’t worth eating because they would them sick if they ate them. This is why rabbits evolved the ability to make themselves very, very ill when they feel threatened by a predator in their environment.
The weakness of this anti-predator mechanism is that it doesn’t always work when we try to “protect” our domestic rabbits from predators. We have a cat in our house who has managed to pester and bother my rabbits into feeling uneasy enough for them to waste most of a day making themselves sick. My cats have hunted and killed rabbits in the wild, so my bunnies know that they are out there waiting for them every time they leave the confines of the house or playpen. In addition, I tend to handle my rabbits roughly when trying to catch them which also triggers their stress response.
Do Rabbits Regurgitate in Any Way? – Extreme Cases
Rabbits can regurgitate in some ways. This is a natural defense mechanism they use to rid themselves of fur or other matter that their stomachs cannot digest and which might make them sick. I’ve had many rabbits who have vomited up the contents of their stomachs onto my lap and floor during grooming and handling and it’s not fun for anyone involved!
Some buns will vomit when over-excited, such as when you try to get them into your carrier for a trip to the vet. Their body has gone into panic mode and this uses up all of its energy stores so that the rabbit feels weak enough to pass out (kind of like what happens when we become faint). At this point, the rabbit’s body might try to vomit up the stomach contents so that it can get more energy from them once it wakes back up.
Does My Bunny Need to Vomit?
When a bunny gags, there is a foreign object lodged in its throat or esophagus. This means that the rabbit is having trouble either swallowing it or getting it down to its stomach through reverse peristalsis where normal digestion takes place. The gag reflex triggers when this happens to rabbits and sometimes they will strain their necks to try and help push the object all the way into their stomachs.
The rabbit’s natural instinct in these cases is to get rid of the offending item from its digestive system as soon as possible because it could very well be toxic or just something that can’t be digested at all (such as small plastic pieces). Rabbits who have eaten large pieces of things like apples often need surgery in order to pass them safely, so it’s very dangerous if your rabbit is gagging on something like this.
I’m always wary of rabbits who are trying to regurgitate anything that looks like food because they might actually need medical attention for preventing an intestinal blockage or other serious problem. The only reason my cat was able to cause my rabbit to make himself sick (by pestering him) was because he had access to hay which isn’t toxic and consists of tough grasses that take longer for the body to digest than fruit or vegetables do. It’s okay for rabbits to eat some kinds of non-digestible objects , but there are others specifically designed for cats and dogs which could be fatal if eaten.
I’m not saying that rabbits who regurgitate food necessarily need to see a vet, but it does mean that they aren’t feeling well and might have an underlying health issue. Ask yourself what the rabbit has been eating in the last week or so and write down any changes you made to its diet or add new toys for entertainment. Make sure that you give your rabbit plenty of hay every day because this will help move things along in its digestive tract which is helpful if there is something stuck blocking the way.
If your bunny isn’t eating anything at all or vomiting up a lot of fluid with no solid object inside, then it needs to be seen by a qualified exotics veterinarian immediately because these could be signs of a blockage. Other signs to watch out for include lethargy, loss of appetite, and going to the bathroom less often than usual.
See how much liquid your rabbit is drinking each day and whether it’s eating any hay or other roughage because this could help you decide whether you need to get it into a vet’s office right away or give its digestive system time to pass whatever has been causing all these problems. You should be able to feel bulges in a loose, fluffed up bunny’s stomach after he eats which will let you know if there are large objects stuck inside his intestines because they take up space that can’t be used otherwise even though they don’t weigh very much.
If you’re not sure whether your rabbit is making itself sick, the best idea is to call or email an exotics vet in your area and make an appointment. They will be able to use their ears (just like when they feel things inside of our body) to tell what’s going on in your bunny’s belly and help you figure out the next step which might include giving it medication for nausea.
What Should I NOT Let My Bunny Eat?
While it’s okay for rabbits to eat some non-digestible objects, others are specifically designed for cats and dogs. These can be fatal if eaten, so make sure your rabbit is safe by keeping these out of its reach.
Bread isn’t particularly healthy or nutritious for any animal because it has very little nutritional value . It acts like a sponge that absorbs all the water in bunny’s stomach while also breaking down into sugars that aren’t good for their teeth. If they do manage to get the bread down safely, then their digestive tracks will struggle with digesting such a pliable starch. Rabbits should never eat bread even if it has been soaked in milk or honey because this will only make it even more dangerous.
2) Caffeinated drinks
Coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate are all substances that contain caffeine which is a very toxic substance to rabbits (and other animals). It stimulates the nervous system while also dehydrating their bodies which can be deadly for small animals no matter how much they drink afterwards.
3) Any bones
Rabbits should never eat chicken or turkey bones because these will splinter in their mouths and digestive tracts like shards of glass . These pieces may cause ulcers or perforations throughout their intestines or stomach if ingested. If you see your rabbit chewing on anything that has bone fragments , take it away immediately. While beef femurs aren’t as dangerous, you should still keep an eye on your rabbit just to be sure.
4) Ice cream or other fatty foods
Rabbits don’t need our ice cream because they are already getting enough calories from their hay and pellets . If they eat too much fat, this can clog up the tiny hairs in their bowels which leads to intestinal blockages that require surgery for them to survive. The same goes for carrots or lettuce that is dipped into ranch dressing or mayonnaise because these will only gain more weight if given to a healthy bunny.
5) Grapes and raisins
These are both toxic to rabbits , so make sure you remove any grapes before leaving them with your pet. While it’s unknown exactly why, these fruits can cause kidney failure in some rabbits. If you notice your bunny suddenly vomiting or having diarrhea after eating grapes, then get it to the vet right away because at this point it’s already too late for them.
6) Avocado leaves, skin and pit
These are all dangerous for rabbits because they contain a chemical called persin which is poisonous to many animals on earth . Even if only one of these three parts gets ingested, your rabbit needs immediate medical attention because its digestive tract will struggle to break down anything with this toxin inside of it. While the meat itself isn’t safe for them either, you should still make sure that all seeds have been removed before putting avocados in front of
Rabbits And Hairballs
Rabbits shed almost all year, but they only produce the most hairballs during their molting season of spring and summer (or autumn in some countries). During these times, it’s important to monitor your rabbit’s eating habits because they can get self-euthanize if there are too many clumps of fur inside their stomach.
If your bunny is vomiting more than usual or producing wet poop , then you should take him for an X-ray to see if he has any hairballs stuck in his intestines. If so, then the vet might be able to remove them with special tools while also giving your pet medication for nausea . A water-soluble lubricant can help move things along faster while getting rid of the nightmare.
Even after your bunny gets all of this out of his system, there’s still a chance that he will feel icky and want to vomit up anything else inside of him. You can help keep these down with some over-the-counter medication like Pepto-Bismol, Pepcid AC or Zantac if your bunny is prone to hairballs. This way you can provide support until they go away for good (or at least until next season).
Signs Your Rabbit Has A Hairball
Not every rabbit is going to get a hairball, but if you want to know what they look like then just take a peek at your pet after he has been shedding. You should be able to spot the broken-up clumps on his fur as well as in his droppings . If these go unnoticed for too long, then the first sign of a problem will be your bunny vomiting up any furry food or treats that he may have eaten before.
How To Prevent Hairballs
In order to keep this from happening again, try brushing your bunny’s coat with one of those special brushes so you can pull off as much excess as possible. Afterwards, you might even consider investing in some kind of water faucet sprinkler because most rabbits enjoy getting a bath every now and then.
Even with all of this extra effort, your house might still be filled with an abundance of shedding fur , so you should give your rabbit regular daily feedings to keep him healthy. If there is anything you can do to reduce how much he eats, then take it because the less hay they eat, the less hair they’ll be throwing up later on.
If nothing seems to work out for you, then just remember that rabbits are here to stay no matter what . At least they don’t produce any loud noises or leave lots of garbage behind their homes like other animals do. So if one ever gets sick after eating too many fatty foods or certain fruits, then at least they won’t destroy your house in the process .
How Veterinarians Treat Bunny Stomach Issues
According to a book called “ Exotic Veterinary Practice Management” , veterinarians have a few different options when it comes to treating their patients. They can use everything from lubricants and laxatives to enemas and laser treatment to get these hairballs out as quickly as possible. If any of those methods fail, then they may have no choice but to do surgery in order to remove the furry object .
Rabbits love hay almost as much as they enjoy carrots, the only difference being the whole hay thing is meant for their stomachs while carrots are meant for their eyesight. So if you ever find something clogging up your rabbit’s intestines, then be sure that you give them a large helping of leafy greens that will help them pass it out.
If you’re really nervous about this whole thing, then you can always take your bunny to the vet if their stomach is making too many gurgling noises. Not every rabbit likes getting carried around, but at least they’ll be able to relax while the doctor tries to solve the issue .
Just keep in mind that some rabbits might listen better than others, so make sure you talk with your vet ahead of time before taking them anywhere (especially if they are older). This way everyone will know what to do when/if anything goes wrong during the whole experience because it’s better to prepare for everything up front instead of trying to figure it out on the fly.
What does Rabbits Vomit look like? – Rabbit colors and what it means
Rabbits vomit in the same way that humans and most other animals do: by pulling their head straight back with their neck rigid and contracting their abdominal muscles. The resulting increased intra-abdominal pressure forces up the diaphragm, which compresses the stomach.
Rabbit vommit looks like a bunch of wet, slimy fur. If a rabbit vomits a large amount of fur, they may need to see a vet as they could have a blockage in their intestinal tract or an underlying medical problem that needs treatment, such as myxomatosis or enteritis. You have to understand what rabbit vommit’s colors mean:
- If rabbit vomit is yellowish or clear, it may be due to the fact that they haven’t eaten anything yet today. This might be because they’re not hungry or just don’t feel like eating today. If this is happening quite often however, then it is best to take them into see a vet for some tests as it could be indicative of digestive problems such as gastritis which needs treatment by your veterinarian.
- Rabbit vomit can also range in color from green to orange and sometimes even red depending on their diet over the past few days or even weeks. If the vomit is green, it’s probably due to their regular pellet diet or grass hay which is normal (though that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t go see a vet if they’re throwing up regularly).
- However, if your rabbit starts vomiting orange liquid with food particles in it, this could indicate the presence of some kind of infection which might require antibiotic treatment. This liquid may also contain partially digested food mixed with stomach acid and saliva (the same stuff you find in their droppings). When this happens, make sure to take them to see a doctor immediately as it can cause severe irritation to their esophagus and stomach lining. In the case of young rabbits especially, this condition could lead to dehydration so be sure to keep an eye on their water intake while they’re sick.
- Rabbit fur doesn’t look too dissimilar to vomit, which is why it’s important to know what it actually looks like when your rabbit is feeling under the weather. Most rabbit vomit only contains hair balls and not food (but this could be an indication of undigested food in their stomach or intestinal tract). If your pet has recently ingested long strands of hair, then you must take them to see a vet right away; this can result in anything from stress and discomfort to gastrointestinal damage .
Dr. Elly Cameron is a veterinarian who has always loved animals. She grew up with cats and rabbits, and knew from a young age that she wanted to help animals in whatever way she could. After completing veterinary school in New Zealand, she and her husband moved to North Carolina in 2009. There, she worked as a small animal veterinarian, seeing cats, dogs, and of course her favorite patients – rabbits! In the last few years, Dr. Cameron has been working as a locum vet while she concentrates on raising her two young daughters. She also started writing this blog to help other rabbit lovers out there.