Pet Factsheets

Pyloric stenosis

Stomach anatomy
©Supreme Petfoods

A rare condition involving thickening at the outlet of the stomach, preventing digestion and absorption of nutrients needed to grow and thrive. Pyloric stenosis is usually fatal.

What is pyloric stenosis?

Also called gastric outlet obstruction.

It is a condition where the opening between the stomach and small intestine thickens (hypertrophy) and blocks food from entering the initial part of the small intestine (pylorus) from the stomach.

Pyloric stenosis can be congenital (a disease present from birth) or it can develop shortly after birth. It is a rare condition in rabbits, seen almost exclusively between the ages of 2-18 weeks of age.

What causes pyloric stenosis?

Causes of pyloric stenosis are largely unknown, but in other species like dogs, cats and humans it may be associated with excess digestive hormones or abnormal digestive neuromuscular stimulation.

Environmental causes may also play a role in development of the condition.

What are the clinical signs of pyloric stenosis?

Signs include a failure to thrive, lack of appetite, reduced faecal and urine output, reduced growth rate, lack of energy, weight loss, signs of pain (hunched posture, lack of activity, rapid breathing, and painful tooth grinding).

Sudden death may occur.

How will my vet diagnose the problem?

A thorough medical history will be obtained, and a complete physical examination will be performed.

Diagnostic tests, including blood tests, as well as plain and contrast radiography, will help your vet confirm the diagnosis. Endoscopy (using an endoscope to examine the stomach) may also be performed.

Unfortunately, in most cases, a complete diagnosis isn’t obtained until death with a post-mortem examination.

Can my rabbit be treated?

Initially, supportive care will be provided to make the rabbit as comfortable as possible, including pain relief, fluid therapy, cage rest, and placement of a feeding tube.

The rabbit will not typically survive without urgent surgical intervention to correct the defect. Surgery is complicated and if the rabbit is already debilitated, the prognosis is extremely poor.

Euthanasia is usually recommended. 

Is there anything I can do to help?

If you suspect your rabbit has pyloric stenosis, seek urgent veterinary care.

It is important to provide immediate pain relief, as well as urgent surgical treatment, or euthanasia so that your rabbit doesn’t suffer.

Can pyloric stenosis be prevented?

As the causes of this condition aren’t known, it is impossible to determine a definitive prevention.

If you are breeding rabbits and one or more kits in a litter develop this condition, it is prudent not to breed from those parents (or their offspring) again, just in case there is a genetic cause for the condition, and to prevent future kits from being born with the condition.

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