Beware of OTC bloat treatments

Here at the RWAF we are often asked about over-the-counter (OTC) medications for rabbits with gastrointestinal disorders, such as bloating. The two products generally discussed are simethicone and dimethicone and, less commonly, gripe water.

Simethicone and dimethicone are types of medication known as surfactants, rather than drugs as such. The way that surfactants work is that they help small bubbles of gas in the gut form into larger bubbles, which can then be “burped” up and provide relief. They are marketed for human infants as a colic treatment. Rabbits, don’t get this ‘frothy’ kind of bloat and are unable to burp, so it is difficult to say how helpful these treatments can be.

Less commonly enquired about is gripe water. Older versions of this contained alcohol, often at quite high percentages, and may have helped babies to sleep this way! Nowadays, alcohol is no longer included, and the ingredients seem to be mainly designed to reduce stomach acidity. Again, this is unlikely to be of any help to rabbits so we would generally advise against its use.

Other products are available, both over-the-counter and prescribed or dispensed by a vet, these cannot be discussed here as it would breach the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) rules.

In short, if you have any concerns about your rabbits’ gastrointestinal health, please contact your vet as soon as possible. Beware of giving your rabbits products developed for human use without your vet’s approval.