Unlike humans, what goes in can only come out of one end.
It’s important to know the basics of how your rabbit’s insides are working. This page highlights how vital a good diet is to their health.
Good diet = good poo
There are two kinds of bunny poo.
The first sort is caecotrophs (caecals), you should see them only occasionally. If you see a lot of them, if your rabbit leaves them lying around or if they are stuck to his fur, then you need to do some investigating. Is he arthritic? Is he eating foods that are too rich? Discuss this with your rabbit-savvy vet.
Caecals are soft, shiny and smelly. They look a bit like a bunch of grapes, small beads all joined together and covered with a slimy coating. These are entirely normal and your rabbit should eat them straight from his bottom as he produces them. Don’t be repulsed, this is entirely normal and he needs to eat them as a natural stage in his digestion.
Your rabbit should leave behind faecal pellets. They should be quite large, about quarter of an inch (.75cm) across. They should also be dry and you should be able to see bits of chewed up hay in them. They don’t smell at all and should crumble if you squash them.
If faecals are very small, hard or joined together with fur (string of pearls) there is something that needs to be changed in your rabbit’s diet, usually he needs to eat much more hay.
Runny poos are not healthy
If you spot any watery poos, your rabbit should see a vet at once . If too many caecals are made or if your rabbit’s diet has had too many carbohydrates, he won’t want to eat them. You’ll see them lying around or stuck to his fur. Change his diet. Less sugary or starchy treats and much more hay or grass. Or he may not be able to reach them to eat them direct from his bottom because of a painful back or swelling in his joints. If you see him scoop caecals up from the floor, it’s time to get the vet to examine his joints for arthritis.
Find out about the importance of water as part your rabbits’ digestive system.
How rabbit digestion works
The grass or hay is well chewed before swallowing. After travelling through the the upper digestive tract it goes to the lower digestive tract, to organs called the colon and caecum. The colon of the rabbit is unique in the way it efficiently separates the ingested food into two parts. A part that can be digested and used, and the other indigestible part that can’t be used by the rabbit for nutrients. The digestible part is sent to the caecum, where it’s mixed up with healthy digestive bacteria.
It is kept in this fermentation vat for at least 4 hours. During this time the bacteria work hard to break the useful parts of grass or hay down and release the nutrients and energy. It is then coated in a mucus package and sent quickly out to be re-eaten. It pops out as caecals from your rabbit’s bottom and is eaten immediately and swallowed whole. The mucus protects it from the very strong stomach acid for a few more hours to allow more nutrient production by bacteria fermentation, before the mucus is dissolved and the nutrients and energy are absorbed in the stomach and small intestines. Some new digestive bacteria may make its way to re-seed your rabbit’s caecum. All the rest is now broken down and it’s possible for your rabbit’s gut to extract the nutrients he needs. The indigestible part of ingested grass or hay is also important to help move the gut along and come out as faecal pellets.