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Obesity in rabbits: symptoms, causes and possible problems

Obesity in rabbits

What if your rabbit eats too much and gets too little exercise? Let’s find out all about rabbit obesity.

Obesity is a problem for all species, including rabbits. As with people, dogs, cats, and even birds, being overweight has a major impact on the health and well-being of the rabbit.

Causes of Obesity

Generally, the main cause of obesity is an excessively abundant diet; highly active rabbits, however, may not be affected by too much food. Rabbits need to take in a lot of calories in order to stock up on them, and since many rabbits are unfortunately kept in cages for several hours, they are likely to experience weight-related problems.

Rich snacks of sugar may promote weight gain; commercially available snacks often look good, but the rabbit doesn’t care about the appearance of the food. Unfortunately, many people give in to the tricks of the market and buy every snack that exists for their little friend thinking they like it.

Even the lack of physical exercise has a profound effect on rabbit weight, as well as for any other animal species. Rabbits need to run and jump but unfortunately, they often remain locked in cages too small for their needs or, if they exercise, they do too little and for limited periods of time. A sedentary lifestyle can generate various problems and leaves the rabbit nothing to do but eat, sleep, and gain weight.

How to tell if your rabbit is obese

Being obese means having a lot of fat in relation to your body size. Each rabbit breed has its own standards for size and weight. Rely on your little friend’s breed standards to determine, together with your veterinarian, whether the bunny is of normal weight or overweight.

Establishing a score for your rabbit’s physique will help you control its weight. The score is nothing more than a number that refers to the physical characteristics of the rabbit, based on a scale of levels from one to five; the ideal conditions are located on the third level. The easiest way to tell if the rabbit’s ribs are too protruding (if so, the rabbit will be underweight) is to touch the rabbit’s ribs and your closed fist, touching the knuckles.

If the rabbit’s ribs are similar to your fist to the touch, your little friend is underweight. Then pass your hand over the fingers, in the area where the rings are placed, always with a closed fist. Your rabbit’s ribs should be finger-like to the touch. If, on the other hand, you cannot feel the ribs, or can only feel them with a lot of pressure, then the rabbit is overweight. However, your vet can certainly help you determine your bunny’s physical condition.

Why is obesity in rabbits bad?

Obesity in rabbits

Obesity can be associated with various disorders, such as myiasis , pododermatite, toxemia of pregnancy, and ileum (gastrointestinal stasis). It’s not the only condition capable of causing these pathologies, but it’s one of the few conditions that we are able to favor; therefore, pay attention and provide your rabbit with a balanced diet and time and space to exercise.

Myiasis is an infestation with fly larvae. Since overweight rabbits are unable to wash thoroughly, some areas of their body can remain dirty, attracting flies. Their behind attracts them in a particular way. Flies deposit their eggs, which then become larvae; if you don’t check and clean every part of your bunny’s body regularly, you may not notice anything. This disorder causes infections, serious injuries, and even internal damage.

Pododermatitis is often due to a sedentary lifestyle, or to the excessive weight of the rabbit that exerts too much pressure on the legs. Even a dirty or rough surface can cause inflammation in the sole of the foot. Paw infections are very painful and are not easy to treat. Typically, one of the first signs is a rabbit limping or walking badly.

Ileus (gastrointestinal stasis) is one of the most common problems in rabbits and can occur due to a variety of factors. Obesity itself does not cause ileus, but it creates other health problems that can lead to intestinal blockage.

How to prevent and treat rabbit obesity

The simplest and most intuitive rule to prevent obesity in your rabbit is certainly to offer It a healthy and balanced diet and to make It exercise. Hay is essential for a rabbit’s health and should be an important part of the diet. Generally, weight gain is related to excessive feeding of premium pellets and snacks, so limit consumption, especially in adult rabbits.

Foods such as vegetables should be offered in limited quantities, while fruit can be used as a snack to reward the bunny from time to time. Avoid foods high in sugar and fat, such as sunflower seeds and other snacks with grains that are bad for the rabbit. Instead, you can resort to some taste of strawberry and carrot: your little friend will love it.

Allow your rabbit to run and exercise. A rabbit should never be locked in a cage, rather in a “rabbit-proof” enclosed area, free to move and explore. This way It will not only have fun but will also stay healthy. If you have no alternative and need to keep your little friend in a cage, make sure you give It several hours each day to run and stretch.

If you do not want It to access some areas of the house, prevent It from accessing them by placing animal fences. You should let your rabbit free for at least three hours a day. Keep in mind that rabbits, in the wild, walk several miles every day – the least we can do is let them run and play for a few hours.

Written by Amanda

Passionate about animals, Amanda draws her expertise from her training as an educator, canine behaviorist as well as her extensive experience with animal owners. A specialist in dog and cat behavior, Amanda continues to learn about our four-legged companions by studying veterinary reference books but also university research sites (UCD, Utrecht, Cambridge, Cornell, etc..)

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