A rabbit’s digestive system is a delicately balanced system. Disruptions to the motility (movement through the GI tract) or bacterial balance throughout the system could cause the GI tract (gastrointestinal tract) to slow down and eventually stop - a fatal situation for rabbits called GI Stasis.
Rabbits are classified as strict herbivores. This means they get all their energy comes from eating plants. Indigestible fiber particles help stimulate the system but are eliminated quickly. Then their system begins to break down the digestible food to extract the nutrients for use by the body.
The stomach massages, sterilizes and breaks down the digestible food to smaller particles that will continue through the system. After it leaves the stomach, it enters the small intestine. The small intestines job is to begin extracting nutrients and add more water to create fluid matter. The matter then flows into the cecum. The cecum is a sac that contains a specific and delicate balance of yeast, micro organisms and bacteria that further break down the food content. Some of the nutrients are absorbed directly through the walls of the cecum, some are eliminated through the large intestine, then out the anus as cecotropes, and the indigestible portions are eliminated as waste.
To keep the digestive system running properly, rabbits need appropriate amounts of fluid, digestible and indigestible fiber, and exercise. We will continue with other common causes that slow the GI tract and cause GI Stasis in the next article.