Pet Care & News

Megacolon in Rabbits 🐰
Megacolon is an inherited genetic condition that causes the nerve endings in a rabbit's intestinal tract not to function properly, and it often gets progressively worse as the rabbit gets older. It can lead to a slowing or stoppage of food through the digestive system and needs to be regulated with motility medication which help move the food through a rabbit's system so that blockages or back ups don't occur. Rabbits with megacolon typically have poops that are irregular shapes and sizes. Poops are wet, soft, mushy, heavy, maybe smellier than normal poops, at its worst becoming diarrhoea or can be constipation, dry, hard, potentially very large, prone to complete gut slow down, stasis and bowel obstruction at its worst. They can be one or the other or fluctuate between both. Without treatment, a rabbit's abdomen can become distended from backed up materials in the cecum.
🐰Spotted rabbits that are mostly white with fewer spots, or rabbits with only color around their eyes, or Himalayan/Californian-type rabbits with irregular markings on their nose/ears have more genetic predisposition to megacolon. The amount of color or more accurately lack of color is the issue. 10% or less color is where problems start. There are rare cases where rabbits with albinism (REW, BEW, & Himalayas) and lightly marked Gepard rabbits (Tri-color + Rex) have genetic MC also... the albino 'genes' and variants cover the expressing of (the lack of) color. Rarely, a white bunny with pink eyes can be affected. If a bunny has this coat pattern and irregular size/shape poops, we recommend visiting a rabbit-savvy vet to get a fecal test or an X-Ray to rule out coccidia and inquire about the possibility of megacolon and whether they would recommend starting regular motility medications before there is a problem.
🐰 For rabbits with megacolon, it's critical to notice any signs of discomfort. Lack of appetite, decrease in poops, or change in poops, as these are signs the condition could be worsening and veterinary help should be sought immediately. Rabbits with megacolon require more regular preventive vet visits than other rabbits as their condition should be checked by a vet to see if any medications need to be changed or adjusted. Motility medications have helped lengthen the lives of many rabbits with megacolon and they can help prevent stasis in these rabbits too. A GI crisis for a rabbit with megacolon can further damage their intestinal function, so prevention is key.
🐰Rabbits with megacolon may not absorb the nutrients from their food well. Without treatment, rabbits can lose weight and muscle, especially along their back. Rabbits with megacolon need pellets in their diet for the extra nutrition and calories, and they may need larger servings than other rabbits. They may do better on an extruded-type pellet - these are easier to digest as they are pre-cooked. Supreme Selective pellets are an example. Rabbits with megacolon often do well with up to unlimited greens for the moisture and fiber. Some rabbits are more sensitive to a particular vegetable so it's important to observe your rabbit when you introduce new greens. As sugars in the diet can cause overgrowth of the bacteria Clostridium in a rabbit's GI system and cause gas and toxins to be produced, we recommend not feeding fruit to rabbits with megacolon.
🐰 With more regular preventive veterinary care and motility medications, megacolon can be medically managed. It's critical to monitor rabbits closely for signs of a GI tract slowdown. It's also important to have a great vet who understands megacolon. Each case of Megacolon tends to be unique and what what works for one may not work for another with adapting their diet.
🐰 A Diet which may help with Megacolon 🐰
🔹Timothy Hay fed freely.
🔹Scoop of 100% Timothy pellets or scoop of hay based pellets with forage blended in.
🔹Handful of a dried forage mix (made up of Parsley stalks, Dandelion Leaf, Plantain, Nettle Leaves, Raspberry Leaves, Cornflowers)
🔹Couple of sprigs of fresh mint/ Fibre Sticks.
🔹Half a oxbow digestive tablet.
🔹Sprinkle of plantain and chamomile flowers in their evening hay tray.
🔹Dandelion root.
🔹Protexin Pro-Fibre.
Written by Lisa Bevan, Administrator and moderator on The Bunny Corner Facebook group