One morning my American Chinchilla doe refused her favorite wheat grass fodder. She didn’t move from the corner of her cage.
Something is definitely wrong, I thought.
Every couple of hours, I went and looked: Her body was colder to the touch than usual. She hunched up in the corner and looked in pain. She showed no interests in hay, straw, pellets, fodder or water. No urine or droppings were seen at all in the dropping pan.
I decided that GI stasis was “in progress”.
After consulting my trusted “rabbit expert” and much reading, I decided against antibiotics and waited patiently until 1am.*
Like a thief in the night, I wore my headlamp and walked into the bedroom-transformed-to-rabbit-residence. Opening the cage door of my healthiest New Zealand White buck, I scooped up a few of his a-bunch-of-grapes-look-alike cecotropes (night droppings) and then offered them to the sick doe.
To my utmost surprise, she gobbled them up in what felt like a split second, right off my hand. A few minutes afterwards, she took a drink of water and started munching on some hay.
Encouraged, I did this every hour or so for the rest of the night.
The very next morning, she produced some irregularly shaped small droppings and a “healthy” amount of pee. Her body temperature seemed back to “normal”.
Becoming the regular rabbit-poop-thief, I raided all the “grapes bunches” I could find the next couple of nights from my NZW buck’s cage and hand-fed them to the doe.
On the third morning, she produced some healthy looking droppings and reverted back to her jumping-around-hay-munching-social-self.
Cecotropes came to the rescue indeed.
Not sure if my American chin doe is “polite enough” to say a big “thank you” to the NZW buck for saving her life – perhaps the next step is to send her to an old English public boarding school…. 🙂
The experience reminded me of a paper I read a few years back about fecal microbiota transplant.**
“I’d have trouble eating poop”, my friend Olivia voiced.
“If it’s the most effective treatment for your fatal disease, then you pinch your nose and swallow!” I inserted.
But of course, it wouldn’t have to come to that with humans. Most of the time, it will be done with colonoscopy, endoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or enema. My friend and all other “precious” humanoids will be “safe”.
On the other hand, my sick doe didn’t hesitate for a moment: injecting night droppings was a natural thing to do. This is why I was warned by the research literature that cecotropes may be difficult to obtain – the researchers didn’t know I was a stealthy “poop thief” and on first name basis with my NZW buck. 🙂
Once again, humans may need to learn a thing or two from other species.
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