Anyone who keeps rabbits should know that there are a few things to consider when it comes to digestion. Because rabbits need a special, species-appropriate diet to ensure that they stay healthy. We tell you what you need to know about digestion in rabbits.
The Rabbit Digestion
It is important to know that ingested food is first of all foreign substances to the rabbit organism. These have to be broken down into tiny building blocks so that they can be absorbed by the intestinal wall. The long-eared ears have a stuffing stomach or intestine, which has only weak muscles. In order to keep digestion going, the rabbit has to eat a lot in order to keep feeding in and to keep its organs busy. If there is no feed, further transport comes to a standstill – the consequences are digestive disorders and even dangerous circulatory breakdowns.
Digestion in rabbits begins almost in the mouth: this is where the animals chop up the food. Because of the few muscles in the stomach, rabbits are not able to move the food pulp from the stomach into the intestine, so they have to push it in by taking in more food. In contrast to us humans, the appendix has a vital function for rabbits: It takes up most of the digestive tract and uses the food components that are not broken down in the small intestine. Many of the ingredients are excreted as so-called appendix feces. Don’t be alarmed: the appendix will be eaten by the rabbits again, which is completely normal. With this type of food intake, rabbits ensure that important nutrients are filtered out of the food and that food is always replenished even when there is not enough food.
Drum Addiction is Very Dangerous!
Rabbits can barely deflate, which means they can gas up. For example, as soon as a rabbit stops eating, the pulp remains in the stomach and intestines, and ferments. The rabbits get gas, become listless, eat little or no food and hardly move. The stomach and intestines continue to expand, which makes breathing difficult and no more feces are deposited. This condition is life-threatening! Rabbits often show pain by tapping their back legs – this is why the term “drum addiction” is also used. The animals look round and fluffed up and are sensitive to touches on the stomach.
Inflation can only be diagnosed on the basis of an X-ray. Drum addiction can have various causes: changes in food, as well as dry and unhealthy food, can be the cause of flatulence. Rabbits can be particularly sensitive to fresh green, especially if, for example, a lot of dry food has been fed in winter. This is why the animals should slowly get used to the garden again in the spring if they are allowed to run outside – with too much fresh grass all at once, the digestive tract of the rabbit is quickly overwhelmed.
Antibiotics can also disturb the balance of the intestinal flora, as can dental problems: If insufficiently chewed food gets into the digestive tract, it becomes too stressed. Worm infestation, coccidia or giardia can also cause flatulence.
If You Suspect, Go to the Vet Immediately!
If you suspect that your rabbit has flatulence, you must go to the vet immediately. If in doubt, insist on an X-ray. Unlike in humans, for example, inflation in rabbits is not just uncomfortable but can lead to circulatory collapse and death.