Obesity in Rabbits

Obesity in domestic animals is fast becoming a massive issue; our domestic rabbits are no exception. An increasing amount of rabbits are overweight, so its important to know what weight your rabbit should be and if they are overweight, how you can help them get to a healthy weight.

Associated health risks

There are many associated health risks with overweight rabbits. We will be looking at the most common risks:

Arthritis Rabbits with excess weight put more strain on their joints and bones; this increases their chances of weight related health issues such as arthritis. If your rabbit suffers from arthritis already being overweight will exacerbate the problem.

Cardiovascular Overweight rabbits put more strain on their cardiovascular system; this can then cause further heart related medical conditions.

Fly Strike Overweight rabbits are unable to groom themselves correctly. This can lead to a build up of faecal matter around their rear end. Rabbits will also be unable to eat their Caecotrophs. These sticky moist droppings will stick to their rear end, resulting in a messy bottom. This makes them more at risk to fly strike which in most cases is fatal.

Dental health Rabbits who are overweight will generally have a poor diet that is not rich in foods like hay and grass. Hay and grass keep your rabbits teeth worn down and can help prevent against dental disease. Rabbits with a poor diet will be less inclined to eat hay and grass because in general they will have access to foods and treats that are high in calories and sugar.

How to tell if your rabbit is the right weight

The best way to find out if your rabbit is the right weight is to take them to a rabbit savvy vet for a check up.

Vets use a body condition score to assess whether a rabbit is underweight, overweight or an ideal weight. Your rabbit should be a score 3, indicating that they are at an ideal weight. Any other score will require action under the advice of your vet.

 

Body Condition Score 1 (Emaciated) The pelvis and ribs are very easily felt and are very sharp to touch. The ribs will resemble touching a pocket full of rulers. The rump area curves inwards
Body Condition Score 2 (Lean/ Underweight) The pelvis and ribs are easily felt and feel sharp to the touch. The rump area is flat.
Body Condition Score 3 (Ideal weight) The pelvis and ribs are easily felt and have rounded edges. The ribs resemble a pocket full of pens. The rump area is flat.
Body Condition Score 4 (Overweight/ Fat) A firm touch is required to feel the ribs. The rump is round to the touch.
Body Condition Score 5 (Obese) The ribs are hard touch and can not be felt. The rump area curves outwards

Healthy Eating Regime

Overweight rabbits will need to go on a weight loss programme overseen by a rabbit savvy vet. Any weight loss needs to be slow as rapid weight loss can be harmful to rabbits.

All treats need to be removed from their diet, specifically high calorie high sugar treats. Rabbits require a specific diet to remain a healthy weight and to keep their teeth at a healthy length preventing dental disease. Follow this link for the ideal diet for domestic rabbits.

Exercise

Exercise is also essential for losing weight and having a healthy active lifestyle. Needless to say over weight and obese rabbits are less inclined to move around. Encouragement is key!

  • Scatter vegetables and herbs around their living area and inside hay. This will encourage them to forage for food, helping your rabbit to exhibit natural behaviours such as foraging and also staying active.
  • Put their pellets in a treat ball, they will have to continuously roll the ball around to eat their food, encouraging movement and making them work for their food.
  • Your rabbits should have access to a secure area where they can run around.
  • Provide toys and other enrichment that will keep them active and moving.

 

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