Rabbit Mag

Rabbit Stomach Gurgling – Beginners Guide

Have you ever heard your rabbit’s stomach making strange noises? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! In fact, it’s quite common for rabbits to have upset stomachs and experience bouts of gurgling. While the cause of this phenomenon is often unknown, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate your bunny’s discomfort. Continue reading to learn more about what might be causing your rabbit’s stomach gurgling and how to make him feel better.

Today we will be taking a look at the digestive system of our beloved lagomorph, and what causes those stomach gurgles.

The rabbit’s digestive system is similar to that of other mammals: it begins with the mouth and ends with the anus. As with many things in the rabbit world, there are specifics that make them unique; for example, rabbits have intestinal microflora different from those of other herbivores such as horses or cows.

What happens before food enters the mouth?

To understand why rabbit stomach gurgling happens, we must understand the whole process. Before anything goes into a rabbit’s mouth (and remember: anything means food — including hay, pellets, and water), they must first smell it. This stimulates the vomeronasal organ, located between their nasal cavity and hard palate, which in turn stimulates the rest of their hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This is one reason why rabbits are so particular about what they eat. Once, I had a rabbit who loved to eat applesauce and bananas — but ONLY if it was homemade. She wouldn’t touch the store-bought stuff, no matter how much she loved it before!

Once food has passed under the nostrils, it enters the mouth where the process of mastication begins (chewing). Rabbits do not have large incisors for tearing their food into bite-sized pieces; instead, they must tear at their meal with vertical motions using incisors that grow continuously throughout their lives. Chewing also starts digestion via saliva production from chewing glands, as well as the production of amylase from the parotid salivary gland. After a rabbit has eaten a meal, you may see them sitting with an open mouth breathing heavily — this is normal! It’s not purring, it’s just allowing their saliva to flow and cool their mouths after eating.

What happens once food reaches the stomach?

Food enters the stomach through the cardiac orifice (at the top). After entering, it is mixed with gastric fluids and digestive enzymes which continue breaking down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for absorption. The pH in the stomach varies between 2 and 5; rabbits cannot vomit because of this low pH level that would destroy their oral cavity and esophagus. Gastric motility (peristalsis) mixes and churns the stomach contents to further break down food and liquefy it for proper digestion.

We often hear gurgling noises throughout a rabbit’s digestive process; this is normal as well! It usually happens when the stomach fills with gas, pushing against the muscles of the stomach wall. Digestive gurgles can also be triggered by feeding or drinking too much water at one time (although many times they don’t drink lots of water at once). When that happens, you will likely observe drooling from their mouths as they try to relieve pressure on their abdomens.

What happens after food leaves the stomach?

After leaving the stomach via pyloric sphincter contractions, food enters the small intestine. This is where most nutrient absorption takes place via villi projections on intestinal walls, which are covered in microvilli. These tiny projections greatly increase the surface area for absorption of digested nutrients, bile salts, and digestive enzymes from pancreatic juice that was secreted by pancreas glands into the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). The food then enters the cecum, which is similar to a large appendix in humans – it looks like a big pouch situated at the junction of the small and large intestines.

From here, food enters through an opening called the ileocecal sphincter before entering the large intestine or colon. Also known as the lower gastrointestinal tract, the large intestine’s main purposes are to reabsorb water and concentrate the fecal matter before it is excreted through defecation. The cecum, colon, rectum, anus — all of these parts work together in what is known as the gastrointestinal tract or GIT.

What happens after food leaves the large intestine?

Food finally exits via defecation about 24-48 hours after eating (longer for hay than pellets). You may notice your rabbit passing a small amount of stool at first that looks like sawdust; this is normal. It isn’t until they reach the final part of their digestive process that they produce more formed stools which you will recognize more easily by sight and smell (less grassy smelling and dark brown in color).

Rabbits produce two types of fecal stools: hard round ones made up of insoluble fiber such as grass or hay (caeca feces), and soft mushy ones called cecotropes (cecal droppings) which are produced after a rabbit eats its own fecal pellets. Cecotropes contain high amounts of water, protein, and lactic acid bacteria that the rabbit will absorb and recirculate into their bodies (especially important for rabbits to maintain healthy gut flora). These microorganisms help them digest food and stimulate their immune systems.

Rabbit diet to avoid stomach gurgling

Hay is the best way to help prevent gastric stasis. If you are feeding hay, be sure that it is fresh – not dusty or moldy.

Grass hays are preferable for house rabbits who have lower fiber requirements than those living outside, but if they’re eating lots of grass hays their digestive system may be too acidic which can lead to diarrhea and other health problems.

hay should not be fed because it’s too high in calcium for most adult rabbits unless they are pregnant or lactating. Note: Alfalfa is found in many types of commercial pellets as well as Timothy hay cubes.

Oat hay, Brome hay, Bermuda grass hay, Barley straw (not hay), Alfalfa hay, and Fescue hay are all safe to feed adult rabbits in moderation (1-2 times per week).

Feeding too many pellets or the wrong kind of pellet for your rabbit’s age, sex, or breed can lead to stomach upset.

Treatment for rabbit stomach gurgling

If you find that your rabbit’s stomach is gurgling during or after eating then try giving them a small portion of acid-free yogurt (goat milk-based for adults, sheep milk-based for babies) to mix with their food.

Diarrhea in rabbits can be fatal if left untreated so get medical attention immediately if it persists or is accompanied by other symptoms such as lack of appetite, lethargy, dehydration, no feces production over 24 hours.

A vet visit should be part of any wellness check-up if the rabbit shows signs of anything abnormal going on in their abdomen/stomach region. The most common issues are different types of GI stasis and food impactions that result from a rabbit not chewing its pellets properly.

Diagnostic testing can include x-rays, blood work, and/or an examination for any abnormalities. Treatment is directed at whatever the veterinarian suspects are going on with your rabbit’s gastrointestinal tract.

Laxatives, antibiotics, pain relievers (if needed), and careful monitoring of diet and supporting a sick bunny until they’re able to resume a normal diet again are all part of the process of treating GI stasis appropriately.

Treatments vary depending on what type of GI stasis is occurring in the rabbit’s system but most commonly they will need fluids injected under their skin or given orally via syringe if they won’t drink or eat enough on their own.

In addition to this treatment option, some rabbits may need a warm water enema or a complete abdominal ultrasound to check the health of their bladder.

In rare cases, surgical intervention may be required if there is a blockage in their gut that keeps them from being able to pass waste on their own. If nothing else is working then this would be considered as an option but it’s usually done with good success when other things have been tried first and proven not to work.

Prevention of rabbit stomach gurgling

Rabbits should always get daily exercise so they can assist in digestion by chewing on some type of woody fiber/timothy hay sticks while the stomach acid works its magic on digesting food instead of adding gas production while they’re inside or lounging around.

What to do if a rabbit has a hairball?

Some people may be concerned when they see a hairball being passed from a rabbit’s anus during or after defecation. Hairballs are simply the result of a rabbit’s system trying to rid itself of excess fur in its digestive tract, just like when dogs groom themselves by licking their coats. These will either stay in the rabbit’s stomach or pass through the GI tract into the cecum–from there they can be reinvested into the small intestine for further digestion, expelled via normal defecation, or sometimes passed out with cecotropes (although this is less likely to happen).

If your rabbit is frequently combed or brushed, sometimes their system gets overwhelmed and they will occasionally need help expelling the fur balls forming in their stomachs. When this happens it can either be done via tube feeding (if your rabbit is anesthetized) or organic mineral oil orally (if your rabbit isn’t in pain). This should only be done as a last resort and only when the health of the rabbits involved is worthy of potential risks involved with anesthesia and foreign substances in their GI tract.  

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