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Loss of Appetite in Rabbits

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Anorexia / Pseudoanorexia

 

Anorexia is a loss of appetite. Pseudoanorexia, on the other hand, refers to animals that still have an appetite, but are unable to eat because they cannot chew or swallow food. Among this type of anorexia, dental disease is one of the most common causes in rabbits.

 

Symptoms and Types

 

There are various symptoms to look out for when you suspect anorexia or psuedoanorexia in your rabbit; among these:

 

  • Refusal to eat
  • Fecal pellets that are small in size or amount
  • Weight loss
  • Pain while swallowing (Dysphagia)
  • Pain while eating (Odynophagia)
  • Chronic bad breath (halitosis)

 

Additional clinical signs will vary depending on the underlying cause of the condition. For example, signs of pain such as teeth grinding or a hunched posture may point to oral disease -- one particular cause of pseudoanorexia.

 

Causes

 

There are many causes that can lead to anorexia or pseudoanorexia. Anorexia may occur due to:

 

  • Stomach ulcers
  • Dental diseases
  • A metabolic disorder (e.g., kidney failure)
  • Cardiac failure
  • Infectious disease
  • Respiratory disease
  • Neurological disease
  • Tumor growth
  • Poisoning
  • Environmental or dietary changes

  

Conversely, pseudoanorexia may result from any disease that interferes with the rabbit's swallowing reflex. Dental diseases such as gingivitis, diseases of the esophagus, and disorders affecting the jaws or teeth are other causes for pseudoanorexia.

 

There are also a number of risk factors that may contribute to the development of anorexia or pseudoanorexia, including diets with an inadequate amount of long-stem hay and immediately following a surgical procedure.

 

Diagnosis

 

Diagnostic procedures vary depending upon which underlying condition is causing the animal’s refusal to eat. Some possible procedures may include a dental exam, X-rays or ultrasounds (to rule out cardiac or lung disease), and urine analysis. The tests performed will depend on the symptoms observed and the suspected cause of disease. Examining the history of the animal’s environment and diet is also important, as it may reveal any changes that lead to psychological anorexia.

 

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