Stomach Impaction in Rabbits

October 24, 2012


This condition is very common in rabbits especially during heavy moulting (turnover of the coat).


Patients with this condition are brought to the veterinarian for partial or total loss of appetite, weight loss or poor body condition, and occasionally, for presumed constipation. Feces production gradually diminishes and the pellets are frequently linked together by hair. Eventually, the rabbit stops passing feces completely, leading many owners to believe that their animal is constipated.

In most cases, it is not actually a typical hairball like those found in cats. Instead, it is a rather dense mass of hair and food fibre with the consistency of wool termed a "trichobezoar". This mass allows the passage of fluid and some food, but it cannot move out of the stomach. Furthermore, like horses, rabbits are unable to vomit.

Because of the feeling of fullness in its stomach, a rabbit with this problem will gradually stop eating. Typically, the patient appears to be in good physical condition for quite a while then it will begin to deteriorate rapidly. This explains why many rabbits are not brought to their veterinarian sooner in the disease process.

What to do when your rabbit shows signs?

You should consult your veterinarian as quickly as possible! If the anorexia persists, it will be very difficult for the veterinarian to save the rabbit.

Making the diagnosis

A diagnosis is made by carrying out a combination of thorough history taking, palpating the abdomen, performing X-rays (radiographs), and evaluation of laboratory tests. Initially, the stomach will be virtually empty, and the doughy mass can be flattened and will retain the imprint of the fingers. Later, as the disease progresses, the mass becomes increasingly firm.


The first line of treatment is medical. The purpose is to partially dissolve the mass so that it can be eliminated. Supportive care such as fluids may also be given. Drugs that enhance the intestine and stomach motility may be prescribed also. Dietary adjustment is made to provide increased fibre content. Without treatment, this condition can be fatal.

  • Daily brushing
  • Exercise
  • Feline laxative twice weekly

Suitable food:

  • Hay free choice (timothy or oat)
  • Up to 60 ml dry food pellets daily
  • High quality green vegetables