What is ISS?
Intermittent Soft Stool (ISS) is a condition where by a rabbit produces soft, sticky droppings that may stick to the rabbit’s hindquarters, tail and feet, and often to the cage or floor. This condition makes it necessary to frequently clean the rabbit and his environment (see the section of this website on grooming, for tips on how to spot clean your rabbit). Despite the soft stool, rabbits affected with ISS appear to be healthy – they are bright, alert and have a good appetite. Rabbits with ISS produce regular fecal pellets, in addition to the soft stool. ISS is not the same as diarrhea.
It is important to note that true rabbit diarrhea is watery, with the absence of any formed stool. True diarrhea in rabbits, which is usually caused by an alteration of the flora in the cecum, is very serious. Please see your veterinarian if your rabbit has diarrhea.
What causes ISS?
According to Dr Susan Brown, a well-known rabbit veterinarian in the US, the most common cause of ISS is a diet that is too high in carbohydrates and too low in indigestible fibre. Other causes may include parasites, cancer, partial intestinal obstruction and various systemic diseases, such as kidney disease.
How is ISS treated?
If your rabbit suffers from ISS, you should consult with your veterinarian. Treatment of ISS is based primarily on clinical signs, health history and diet. Treatment may include dietary changes and/or weight loss (if the rabbit is overweight). It is also a good idea to rule out the presence of parasites, such as coccidia.
Rabbits on Antibiotics
Some antibiotics, especially when given orally, can cause diarrhea in rabbits. These antibiotics suppress the healthy population of intestinal flora, resulting in an imbalance of gut flora, which may lead to enteritis, entertoxemia and/or diarrhea. This condition, which is very serious, is not the same as ISS.
Antibiotic induced Enteritis and Entertoxemia -by Jeffrey R. Jenkins, DVM
For comprehensive information on ISS, including dietary recommendations for rabbits suffering from this condition, see:
Intermittent Soft Cecotropes in Rabbits- by Dr Susan Brown
What is a Cecal Pellet- San Diego HRS