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I READ with interest the paper by Schuhmann and Cope, entitled ‘Medical treatment of 145 cases of gastric dilatation in rabbits’ (Schuhmann and Cope 2014). This paper highlights the dilemma that practitioners face when presented with an acutely anorexic rabbit with an enlarged stomach and I would like to make some comments on the subject.
In rabbits, intestinal obstruction by a pellet of compressed hair is the most likely cause of gastric dilation and many of these cases will resolve without surgery because the pellet can pass through to the hindgut (Harcourt-Brown 2007). Any supportive treatment can aid this process and the protocol that Schuhmann and Cope describe is an example. However, if the pellet does not pass through to the hindgut, the small intestine will remain obstructed and the rabbit will die (Harcourt-Brown 2013). Its death will be a painful one. Rupture of the stomach or small intestine and peritonitis are just some of the possible consequences of gastric tympany. The dilemma that practitioners face is to know which rabbits need surgery to relieve the obstruction and which rabbits will …
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