*Veterinarians serving Clayton, Garner, and surrounding areas since 1986*
We have recently obtained a young rabbit as a family pet. I
had no idea that a rabbit could be such an engaging indoor
pet. However, I am worried. My neighbor's pet rabbit
recently stopped eating for a couple of days and suddenly
died. They took it to their veterinarian to have the body
examined and she told them it died from trichobezoar. What
is this, and could it be a problem for my rabbit?
Trichobezoar is the doctor word for hairballs. Rabbits, like
cats, are very fastidious animals. They spend a lot of time
grooming themselves and ingesting the hair. However,
unlike cats, rabbits are incapable of vomiting. Hair can
collect in the stomach and intestines. If enough hair builds
up it can cause a partial or total obstruction. When this
happens the rabbit may eat less or stop eating completely.
Any condition that causes the rabbit to groom more, can
make the problem worse; fleas, boredom, stress.
Rabbits deprived of food can starve to death in less than a
week. Any problem that involves a rabbit that is not eating is
an emergency. It is important in these situations to seek the
advice of a veterinarian experienced with rabbits. Because
there are many reasons why a rabbit might stop eating, it is
important to determine as quickly as possible whether or not
a hairball is the problem. In most cases this is done by
taking X-rays of the rabbit's abdomen. A contrast medium
similar to barium may be required to clearly visualize the
The treatment for hairballs depends on how many days it
has been since the rabbit ate, and its general condition.
When caught early, a combination of nursing care, and
medications can be tried to get the hairball to pass. If the
rabbit has not eaten for several days its only chance may be
to have a surgery to open the stomach and remove the
hairball. Even successful surgeries require intensive
Rabbit hairballs are a problem best avoided. Dietary
management is the key. The diet should consist primarily of
roughage such as kale, collard greens, and mustard
greens. The rest of the daily diet should consist of ¼ to ½
cups rabbit pellets and a handful of timothy hay. Finally, a
1" strip of commercial feline hairball remedy twice a week
can go a long way to preventing this serious problem.
Rabbits are exotic pets and require you to be extra-attentive
to signs of medical illness.