7. Wool Block and Finicky Eaters

Does the rabbit have wool block? Angora rabbits ingest wool fibers from grooming themselves. The wool may ball up in the stomach, mixing with undigested food, and the rabbit will feel full and not eat. Eventually, the rabbit may die.

Individuals vary in their susceptibility to wool block. For some, it simply never becomes a problem. Others may require treatment frequently. It is better to select for breeding those individuals who are always ready for dinner with healthy appetites. The formation of the stomach and associated organs probably has a lot to do with how easily trapped wool fibers slide on through the rabbit’s gut, and therefore, a tendency to block up is genetic.

To prevent wool block, I feed high-fiber rabbit feed, and offer plain grass hay or clean straw to the rabbits. You may offer the rabbits papaya tablets once a week. You may also offer them fresh pineapple or Dole brand frozen pineapple juice. These things all have enzymes that seem to be helpful in preventing wool block. It is also good NOT to overfeed the rabbits, as overfeeding may aggravate a tendency to wool block.

Here are some things which I have found helpful in treating wool block:
Give the blocked-up rabbit 1/3 of a whole banana, with the skin on it, daily. I don’t know why this is helpful, but it often is.

Give the rabbit 1/2 tsp. or so of Colace Syrup (also available as Diocto Syrup), which is a stool softener. It is a surfactant, and is effective.

Mix 1 tsp. of meat tenderizer with a little bit of mashed banana and offer that to the rabbit.

If wool block is not the problem, just giving the rabbit 1/3 banana daily for a few days in a row will often help them get their appetites back. I will also offer finicky eaters alfalfa (you should know that some breeders have had the experience of their rabbits dying from “overdosing” on alfalfa), elm leaves, elm twigs, dandelions, and chemical-free grass. Be cautious–you don’t want to offer your rabbit something which might be toxic.

In desperation, some breeders have given Ensure Plus to pregnant does which quit eating halfway through their pregnancies.

I would be cautious about offering a rabbit any feed which is meant for other livestock, such as horse sweet feeds, as some of these may have ingredients which are toxic to rabbits.

Update 23 April 2014
Nowadays, I don’t bother with treating wool block in any way other than administering a product such as Laxatone or Hairball Remedy to the rabbit. Dr. Wendy Feaga recommends this; she said one client she had with a severely wool-blocked rabbit managed, over a 24 hour period, to get almost a whole tube of Catlax into the rabbit, after which he “pooped out a rope.”
Furball treatment products (5-15 mls (1 tsp to 1 tbsp) per dose orally once to twice daily – dosage recommended by Dr. Alfred Mina):

Alfred J Mina DVM, an Angora rabbit breeder and veterinarian, offers the following clarification about wool block and its underlying cause, gastric stasis:

“GI Stasis – Rabbits ingest hair routinely in the process of grooming. However, rabbits cannot vomit to eliminate ingested hair like other mammals (dogs, cats). If GI motility is normal, ingested hair moves along with food out of the stomach at regular intervals and  expelled in feces. If GI motility is impaired due to inadequate fiber in diet or ileus secondary to anorexia caused by stress and/or concurrent disease, hair and normal ingesta accumulate in the stomach. This leads to fluid absorption from the stomach, causing further compaction of the contents (firm stomach mass).”

“The compacted stomach ingesta may cause discomfort and pain, leading to further anorexia and a hypomotile GI tract. A vicious cycle can result, leading to large amounts of hair and compacted ingesta accumulation in the stomach. The accumulation is referred to “hairball,” “wool block, ” or “trichobezoar. ” These terms incorrectly imply that the hair accumulation is the cause of  disease rather than being the consequence or a symptom of impaired intestinal motility.”

“Rabbits that are not groomed routinely and/or rabbits that excessively molt due to genetic  predisposition and groom themselves excessively can trigger wool block that leads to GI stasis. The best way to not deal with GI Stasis is provide a diet that is high in fiber, strive to breed  sound rabbits that are resistant to disease, parasites, stress, and anything that could disrupt the rabbits’ sensitive GI tract.”

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