This post highlights the importance of x-rays in anorexic rabbits, and why we always recommend x-rays of our non-eating rabbit patients. These different x-rays were obtained from 2 different rabbits, with 2 very different problems, but similar presenting complaints. Both rabbits came in because they were not eating, but the diagnosis, and the treatment was very different. Take a minute to look at these images. Can you tell the issue based on the x-ray for each rabbit? Answers below, so try to answer on your own before you continue reading.
The top image is an acute gastrointestinal obstruction in a rabbit, and is noted by the large fluid filled stomach on x-ray. This is an emergency presentation, and requires very aggressive care. Shock doses of intravenous fluids, active warming, multiple forms of pain medication in the form of injections and CRIs, gastric decompression, intensive care for multiple days, and possible surgery are required for these rabbits. These rabbits should NOT be syringe-fed liquid food, and early diagnosis is imperative for treatment success.
The bottom image is gastrointestinal stasis syndrome, and is noted by the large food-and-gas filled stomach. This condition is generally the result of underlying disease (dental disease, respiratory disease, neurological disease, urinary tract disease, kidney, liver disease, pain, etc.). This condition can often times be treated on an outpatient basis if caught early. These rabbits require fluids, pain medications, and should absolutely be syringe-fed a liquid diet. These rabbits normally respond within 1-3 days of therapy depending on the underlying cause.
Acute gastrointestinal obstruction and gastrointestinal stasis syndrome are not the same condition, and it is important to know the difference when treating these cases. X-rays are a simple and fast way to get an idea what is going on, and it can make all the difference in the outcome of the case.