chronic weight loss and stomach pain

sorry in advance for my long sad posting

my bunny harriet was a good weight when i adopted her (first half of june this year), and has gotten too thin since. she leans hard into your hand while petting her right side, and that side of her stomach consistently feels more full than her left. that was before i got her but it's more severe now. her appitite has gotten worse, i need to spend extra time with her every day to make sure she eats enough hay, and it takes her a while to finish her pellets (i'm giving her two tablespoons of the red bag). she's gotten more timid and seems to be in pain. it isn't uncommon these days for her to go 7-8 hours without pooping, in the afternoon.
no teeth grinding but awkward stretching and flinching at weird things. i've been buying those digestive support things and they helped a lot for a while but she's still getting worse.
i've been giving three throughout the day; she's a netherland dwarf mix and around 3 pounds right now.

the death of my last rabbit looked nearly exactly like this, and vets weren't much help.
i thought the dumb mistakes i made for the first four years i had him, messed him up so bad that it didn't matter much if i
tried to correct it now. that i ruined his equipment, and that's why me and the the several vets i took him too couldn't make him better. vets go "idk" and give you critical care powder, subcutanious fluids and maybe pain meds, and those are the best ones i've found so far.
now that it's happening again, starting with a healthy bunny, i just feel like i'm made of poison or something; i'm a chronic bunny killer and it doesn't matter what i do.

i have no idea how to fix this.


  • DianeK1969 wrote

    Hi Solomon,

    First off, don't blame yourself. I've made some horrible mistakes myself, but unless the bunny already has some underlying health issues, it's unlikely you can kill them when they have the basics at hand (shelter, hay, fresh water). I blamed myself for my first two rabbit's deaths, so I know the guilt associated with it. We do the best we can with the information we have. We learn. 

    My first question - are you 100% sure that your vet is an exotics vet that is specifically rabbit savvy? I hate to sound harsh, but dog and cat vets are 100% USELESS when it comes to rabbits. I learned the hard way on this, and it delayed treatment by weeks. Check out the HRS list. If you are unfamiliar, let me know and I'll link it. Or, you could tell me your general area and I can reach out to the bunny community for a good vet. 


  • Sara_Hettle_CVT wrote

     I'm so sorry you and your little girl are going through this and Diane is absolutely right. Many of us have made many mistakes and all kicked ourselves for it. I remember as a kid we kept them outside in hutches, I'm sure their food was full of seeds and colored bits, and hay was never huge on the priority list. I hadn't ever heard of the term "exotic vet" so I went to my dog's vet and they had no clue how to help when they became ill. Thank goodness we have learned so much since those days, and can go online and find a lot of information and resources as well. Even vets screw up, but the great thing is you love her and are doing everything you can, in fact you sound like an amazing bunny parent! Is your little adorable dwarf, white with black around her eyes? I'm just wondering if she may have megacolon. It is progressive, so could be why she seemed fine, I dont think it is you at all. How long have you been using the digestive tabs? I definitely want to get Dr Sherwood's thoughts on how we might better be able to help you both!

  • solomon wrote

    both hospitals (bright eyes and bushy tails, all pets to a lesser extent) i've been to so far has been touted as rabbit savvy, which seems to be true for the most part.
    the big problem i'm having with vets is that no one seems to be making an effort or paying attention. i make an appointment and get a random doctor, they seem to have basic or above average rabbit knowlege, then they do what they normally do, then they collect $140 and send my poor bunny home.
    i need to find a good doctor and work with them consistently, maybe then we can break free from this mcdonalds routine. there has to be something i'm consistently doing wrong. it just feels like a pretty massive coincidence.

    I will look at the hrs list again. The foster organization i got her from has a list, too. this time around i'm gonna get as focused as i can. i'll look through the staff for the doctors with the most substantial small animal experience and work with one doctor specifically through multiple visits before trying another one. bright eyes has two that i see.

    Diane and Sara thank you both, you're right and i've let guilt and stress make my language dramatic haha. Harriet is silver otter colored i think is the name? she is silver grey on top and white and tan on her underside and around her eyes. I haven't seen cecotropes in a while but they were normal and i think i see her eating them. i've been giving the digestive tabs as few as 2 and as many as 5 for about 6-8 weeks i think.

  • DianeK1969 wrote

    Solomon, at the risk of appearing like a creeper stalker, I googled both and it appears you're in the Iowa area? Let me reach out to a couple of my hay customers that live there. A good vet will make all the difference in the world. I'll get back with you.

  • david_sherwood wrote

    Thank you all for jumping in and helping a fellow bunny parent. You are all so great! 
     , can you post a picture of Harriet? And provide more details about her favorite foods/treats, and type of hay (even let us know if it is 1st, 2nd, or 3rd cutting - or post a picture of what you currently have).

  • DianeK1969 wrote

    I'll add more as I hear back, (I'm still assuming you live in Iowa, lol!) but I’m finding Oaks Clinic is highly recommended by many in the bunny community, specifically Dr. Harmon:

    Rick Harmon, DVM
    Oaks Veterinary Clinic
    2030 27th St.
    Des Moines, IA 50310
    Phone: 515-279-3654

    Solomon, I found this very interesting too: (Mods, please remove if this is too slanderous, that's not my intention at all.)

    "I do not recommend All Pets Vet in Peoria, IL. Dr. Burmeister is advertised and refferred as a rabbit specialist, but he did not seem comforable with a rabbit. He didn't ask meaningful questions about the problem or offer long-term solutions. He may be perfectly well suited for dogs and cats, but All Pets (Charles Burmeister, Peoria IL) is NOT a rabbit specialist."

  • Sara_Hettle_CVT wrote

     thank you so much for helping!! It is definitely important to have a good vet, I definitely learned that even exotic vets have their specialties (the hard way). I am pretty sure I lost my guinea pig to stones because the vet was more into saving me money than doing the tests that were needed, so I spent two weeks giving my piggie panacur and antibiotics for a large stone painful stone (by the time a better suited vet saw him, he was suffering greatly and we lost him during emergency surgery. A radiograph day 1 would've saved his life. I've also experienced the lack of listening. Years ago around the same time as my piggie with stones, I had a guinea pig I took in because he could not eat. No matter how much I explained that he was trying and could not swollow, the vet saw nothing wrong with his teeth and wanted to send him home, saying he didn't want to eat because he didn't feel well (can't and won't are two very different issues). Another vet found that he had a strep infection and a cracked incisor as well just to name a few things. I later found out that exotics vet specialized in reptiles. Lesson learned, and of course I felt awful. I am so glad your rabbits have an excellent advocate in you. I hope you find the right fit for all of you.

  • DianeK1969 wrote

    It's so frustrating, Sara, I've been discounted because "it's just a rabbit" more times than I can count. I had a similar experience with my 2nd bunny, she was horribly sick (finally diagnosed with EC, unfortunately the parasite went to her brain which led to seizures that were so violent they would shake my bed), I took her over and over again to the regular country doctor here in rural Vermont - to which they diagnosed her over and over again with "wool block"! Can you imagine - that antiquated term from the 50's? They didn't even take her *temperature* or take radiographs or even blood! She literally lost 2 weeks that she could have been treated, by the time I found an exotics vet she was paralytic, completely dehydrated and literally circling the drain. And for those two weeks I was out of my mind, completely frantic with worry and sleep deprivation. We had her for another 7 months after intense recovery (I'm pretty sure she threw a clot because of the paresis) but I am convinced she would still be alive today if they vet had simply said "You know, as much as I want to help, bunnies are simply not my area. Let me give you a referral." Like you, lesson learned the hard way. A very heartbreaking lesson to say the least.

  • Sara_Hettle_CVT wrote

     that is so heartbreaking, I'm so sorry. That was my poor Squirty pig. He went in twice, but grew worse and worse until two weeks later, a great vet finally did a radiograph on him to find he had a huge stone. Sadly by this point (2 weeks after the initial visit) it was so far down into his pelvis and adhesed there that they couldn't reach it with any instruments and had to euthenize. I felt awful because I know all that pain he went through, all those meds we pushed, and a simple rad would have told us that he needed surgery. The vet on the first visit literally squeezed his bladder (the poor little guy screamed) and because urine came out, it "couldn't be a stone". Even though no bacteria was detected, it was "probably an infection". The crystals in his urine were "normal". He went downhill so much in that two weeks, that I know in my heart he could've been saved and wouldn't have had to endure so much. The last day at the vet he still licked my face and despite all, he never gave up, which made it all so much worse. I agree 100% that vets should just let us know when they may not have enough experience to handle our little guys. Vet care has come a long way, and they are expected to know so very much that it makes sense they can't do everything; that should be on the table right away though like you said so we can get them the best care. Thank you so much for being one of those who knows bunnies are so very worth it!

  • DianeK1969 wrote

    I'm so sorry about Squirty. I know how agonizing the guilt is, but I'm also convinced that in the end they know how dearly they are loved, how hard you rallied for them, and I think they take all that love with them to be shared again. Like you and Dr. Sherwood, I have such a soft spot for the earth's more vulnerable, tender creatures. It really is heartening to see the US catch up with Europe as far as rabbit and small animal medicine, and I thank you both so much for being an intrinsic part of this increasing awareness!

  • solomon wrote

    These stories are all brutal, i don't know what to say. thank you everyone for listening and reminding me i'm not alone.

    So far she likes oat hay 2nd cut timothy, i feed whatever she seems most interested in at the time. i'd say she ends up getting fairy equal amounts of both. i've been getting small pet select lately. not an orchard grass fan. one thing maybe worth noting is she will pick out seeds and flowers and just eat those, when she's not feeling well. it seems to slow things down when she does that.
    Another thing is she seems to be grooming herself noticeably more than normal? dunno about that. right now i'm giving her around a quarter cup of greens a day, mostly normal stuff. lettuce (not romaine!), cilantro, kale, etc. She doesn't really go for other vegetables like bell pepper; goes nuts for sweets tho. loves banana in particular; she's pretty shy but will run up and eat banana right out of your hand. those are maybe 1 or 2 teaspoons 3 or 4 times a week. giving 4 digestive support tabs a day right now. She is out of her cage (4x4-ft) around 10-14 hours a day, and i hangout and try to find stuff to do whenever i'm not working or something. i started putting her back for a few hours in the afternoon, when she looks like she just wants to sleep and be left alone. She has a guinea pig neighbor she sees a little everyday.

    Thank you for your initiative, Diane! I'll try that doctor first. That clinic is like two hours from us, but there should be a way to make that trip without stressing her out too much. i think i got that all pets doctor a couple times. he was worthless and not forthcoming about it, for sure.

    Harriet was doing a bit better ( more appetite, more energy, wanted pets again) yesterday, and a little better today, too.
    pictures are from yesterday

  • DianeK1969 wrote

    She just beautiful! Sorry to hear the doctor is so far away, he was the highest (actually the only) recommended. You might find something closer on the HRS list:

    So glad she's feeling better. If she ever slows down on the hay-eating, some of our blends have been very successful in turning inappetant or picky rabbits into good hay eaters, I can send you samples. One more thought: do you have access to any apple trees? Strangely, I've found bunnies will eat the tender twigs ends when they're in the weird gray area of pre-stasis. Maybe it's the salicylic acid they're craving (side note: if your bunny is on metacam, no branches.)

    You'll both be in my thoughts. Keep us posted if you can!

  • Sara_Hettle_CVT wrote

     Harriet is beautiful. Please keep us posted if you see that vet, we'd love updates on her. If you'd ever like to talk to Dr Sherwood via phone or anything please let us know, he loves to help too. The hay sounds great (oddly none of my rabbits or piggies will eat orchard grass). It sounds like you are giving her a great life with plenty of play time. This may sound crazy based upon what you are going through, but have you thought about trying to bond her to another bun? One of my girls used to have bouts of stress-induced stasis a lot, and we adopted Alister for her who was an older boy and very mellow but silly & cheerful. He really helped build her confidence and I think he probably saved her life when we moved from Oklahoma to Arizona. It was a long drive with plenty of car trouble so we overnighted in a hotel with at that time 6 rabbits, 3 piggies, 3 mice and 2 dogs. She got home and had a very tiny bit of gas, but was even still eating and I think it was her man that kept her calm. I'm not sure that is the answer to everything, but I have seen many times, especially with females now that I think about it, that just having another bun in the room can relax them. Just a thought and obviously not a cure all or fix. They are all so unique and special, that you just can't ever know what will work for that one bun.

  • Sara_Hettle_CVT wrote

    @DianeK1969 I would love to buy samples of your hay, the struggle is real. I have finally found hay my rabbits like, but my hay loving but very selective guinea pigs are another story. I have a ton of hay samples next to me and nearly all went untouched by both buns and pigs.

  • DianeK1969 wrote

    Of course Sara! Just send me your mailing address, we'll get them in the mail for you. Hopefully we'll have a hit with one of them. :)

  • Sara_Hettle_CVT wrote

     oh my gosh, I just learned about One Ear Up from a customer the other day. I actually bought two packs of samples and have yet to try them (I have samples from Farmer Daves, KMS, and several others Ive been using first). Apparently I have the samples! I will have to try them out soon, and see if we have takers. :) Thank you for your help!

  • solomon wrote

    Hey, sorry for ghosting. finally made the treck with Harriet to Harmon's.

    When they weighed her she was 3.1 pounds, he said that's not a terrible weight for her (again, she feels too thin to me). He checked her ears and felt/listened around her organs; looked in her mouth and took her temperature. then they set her on the floor and watched her move around a bit. she really does not like to be picked up or held at all, but they handled her really well. His assessment is that there is nothing physically wrong with her, everything looked fine to him. he gave me some pain/inflammation meds (meloxidyl) and critical care (oxbow) to try whenever she's having a bad day.

    even though he didn't find anything, he inspires a great deal more confidence than the other vets i've been to. way more effort, more knowledgeable,
    more thorough, transparent and honest throughout. so i'm inclined to trust him here; we're back to diet and emotions as causes.

    I didn't know that about apple twigs, haha. she is a big chewer and i bet she'd love them.

    Sara, i'm sure she'd love a friend. it is very common for her to be loafing but awake and hiding somewhere, then i will show up to hang out and she immediately is hungry and has a bunch of stuff to do. if she had a friend that could be around all the time, she'd be doing a lot better.
    i started reading about bonding rabbits, and the foster org i got from would be happy to help. they have a few non-bonded boys in their care as of now, should be able to setup a playdate in the next couple weeks.

    if a nutrition consultation with Sherwood is possible i'm definitely interested, i'm not quite sure how to time all this stuff

  • DianeK1969 wrote

    Solomon, I'm so glad your visit was a success, even if it just gave you peace of mind.

    I had a thought after re-reading your initial post. This leapt out at me: "she leans hard into your hand while petting her right side, and that side of her stomach consistently feels more full than her left". Honestly, that sounds like a rabbit that is too dehydrated for a mass to pass through, and it's creating pain/gas. Oftentimes pellets are the culprit, they can be quite dehydrating. Especially to a rabbit that is already struggling with low-grade pain.

    This of course, is no reflection of Dr. Solomon; a weird, vague problem like this won't show up with regular diagnostics.

    Anyhow, have you ever tried withdrawing pellets completely, at least for a while? Some rabbits are completely intolerant of them, even good pellets. I have two that are pellet-free, weirdly they have both GAINED weight, and it has cleared those strange pre-stasis symptoms when you KNOW something is off but they haven't completely quit eating.

  • Sara_Hettle_CVT wrote

     thats great news, finding a vet you can trust is so important. Bonding can also be a great thing for you both of you, its sure helped my Buns out, she was a nervous wreck. I'm actually adopting bunny #10 for the herd today, to bond with our last bachelor and am crossing my fingers it goes well. It wonderful you have resources there to help! We can absolutely talk on the phone if you like, Dr Sherwood loves to as well! You can PM Dr Sherwood or myself, or e-mail us your number, if you like? YOu can reach me at and/or

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