They like to eat a lot of treats or other foods and in turn rabbits are more likely to become overweight bunnies. As a matter of fact, obesity is the most common health problem in rabbits after teeth issues. Eating too much coupled with being caged in an enclosure increases the chances of your rabbit becoming obese.
Obesity is a disease. Like any other disease, it kills if not managed properly. Obesity in rabbits is a common problem in rabbits, especially those that are raised in cages, because they don’t get enough space for exercise.
What You Will Learn
- What Causes Obesity in Rabbits?
- How to Make Your Overweight Rabbit Achieve a Healthy Weight
What Causes Obesity in Rabbits?
The rabbit’s diet is the main culprit in the causation of obesity. If you note that your rabbits are getting obese, you will have to look into their diet and allow them more space for exercise.
You should target a slow and gradual drop in weight. This means you will need a weighing machine for continuous measurement and monitoring of weight.
How to Make Your Overweight Rabbit Achieve a Healthy Weight
Consult your vet on the ideal weight before you start dieting your rabbit. The following are some of the tips that can help you prevent and reduce obesity in your rabbits.
1. Understand the effects of obesity in your rabbits.
Obesity predisposes your rabbits to renal, liver and cardiac diseases since cholesterol levels are elevated in obesity.These diseases make rabbits lethargic, unhappy and might cause death eventually.
Obese rabbits have greater difficulty in cleaning themselves and may have dirty parts on their skin. The dirty parts become suitable breeding grounds for flies. This leads to development of maggots on the dirty skin patches. Maggots cause irreparable wounds on the skin and damage internal organs.
Overweight rabbits exert a greater force on their feet and joints, and this may lead to development of pododermatitis and arthritis.
Other effects include; heat stress, chronic diarrhea and ileus.
2. Look out for the signs and symptoms of obesity.
A large rabbit size is not synonymous with obesity, some breeds are generally larger than others and their huge sizes can be confused for obesity.
There are specific signs that will be helpful in determining if your rabbit is truly overweight.
One is the shape of your rabbit: When sitted, a rabbit is pear shaped with a narrow body that widens at the hips. A round shape is a tell-tale sign of obesity.
The spine, ribs and hip bones of overweight rabbits cannot be felt even with application of pressure and this is very useful in assessing if your rabbit is putting on unhealthy weight.
Other signs of obesity include:
- double chins
- A Bulge in the abdominal area,
- Huge skin folds
- Rounded rump.
3. Weight measurements.
Once you establish that a rabbit has the signs and symptoms of obesity, take its weight measurements.
This will provide you with a baseline and help you assess the progress and success whatever techniques you employ subsequently.
The least cumbersome method of weighing your rabbit is by weighing yourself first and then weighing yourself while holding him.
Subtracting the first weight reading from the second weight reading will give you his weight. Taking direct weights of the rabbits is difficult as they jump off the scale when put on it.
Ensure you take weights at least twice a week, at the same time of the day for consistency. Take the average weight for each week to help you track his progress weekly.
4. Diet alterations.
Diet is the main cause of rabbit obesity. For a successful weight loss, the rabbit food must be examined and adjusted accordingly.
Diet change and modification should be done cautiously since rabbits have a multiplex system. Random addition or removal of foods from their diet will lead to development of gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, stomach upsets and constipation.
Introduce one type of a feed at a go. This will help you identify the type of food that will cause digestive upsets in the rabbit in the event that they develop complications due to food.
Careful selection of the rabbit’s foods is the key to weight loss. Some of the diet tips that will prove helpful include:
Hay has a low calorie content, making it the healthiest rabbit diet. You are supposed to supply rabbits with an unlimited amount of hay.
If the rabbit is unwilling to eat a certain variety of hay, provide a different variety, giving only small amounts at first and increasing the amount gradually with time to allow for their gut to adjust. If the rabbit has difficulties or is unwilling to eat hay, they may prefer fresh grass. Most rabbits that don’t like hay will love grass.
Alfalfa hay has a higher calorie content. Alfalfa can be supplied alongside hay for growing bunnies as they need a higher calorie content for their development.
Pellets have a very high calorie content and should be given in very small amounts to mature rabbits to prevent obesity. The pellets that will be appropriate for rabbits have a very high fiber content (greater than 18) and a protein content of about 12%. Don’t feed rabbits with pellets that have protein proportion of greater than 14% to rabbits.
They will worsen the obesity. Provide about 10g of pellets for every 1 kg of body weight for your rabbit. Although rabbits find pellets and dry foods tastier, pellets should be supplied in very low amounts to reduce obesity.
Fresh foods are good for the rabbit during the dieting period because they provide a lot of water and few calories.
Green, leafy and stalky vegetables like kales, spinach, herbs and dandelion are the best fresh foods for rabbits. Sugary fruits and roots like carrots may contribute to plumpness and must be avoided or replaced if already present in diet.
Most treats contain a high fat and sugar content. These kinds of treats must be avoided, or be given in very small amounts.
You may consider making your own treats that have a higher fiber content and a lower protein content or using dry feeds and fresh foods that have a low calorie content as treats.
Just like human beings, rabbits should avoid a sedentary lifestyle, exercise regularly. Rabbits remain inactive when the space available to them is small. The cage in which your rabbit is kept should be at least four times the size an adult rabbit.
Rabbit proof your house, to allow them to ran around your house for a few hours every day. Rabbit proofing ensures the rabbits don’t dig and chew your house items as they run and play in the compound.
6. Provide Your Rabbits Toys
Providing your rabbits with toys will stimulate them to play. If you haven’t house proofed your house yet, you can buy an indoor rabbit pen and let them play in there. Exercise will ensure your rabbit is always mentally stimulated, happy and lean!