Rabbit Health: A Guide to Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Keeping an eye on your bunny’s weight will make sure he doesn’t pile on the pounds or become too thin – both can be a sign of health problems as well as dietary issues.
Petplan takes a look into maintaining a healthy weight for your rabbit, and how to tell if your bunny is overweight or underweight.
The ideal weight for your rabbit:
Body condition scoring is a technique used in many animals to assess if they are in good body condition, too thin or overweight.
There’s a wide variation in body weight of different rabbit breeds that are commonly kept as pets – from the average 1kg Netherland dwarf to the 8kg Continental Giant rabbit.
When body condition scoring your bunny, you should feel his/ her ribs at the area just behind the elbows.
If your rabbit is fat, the amount of pressure required to feel the ribs will be increased. If your rabbit’s ribs feel sharp and pointed, then your bunny is either thin or emaciated.
The ideal body condition for a rabbit includes:
- Pelvis and ribs easily palpated but rounded edges
- Ribs feel like a pocket full of pens
- Rump area is flat
Lack of exercise, poor diet, and overfeeding can result in your bunny piling on the pounds.
Increased weight can interfere with normal activities and can put your bunny at higher risk for many health problems, including: cardiovascular, joint, gastrointestinal, urogenital, and liver diseases.
Signs of Obesity:
Along with visible changes in your bunny’s shape and agility, you may also notice:
- Difficulty grooming, causing a dull coat
- Loose skin around the throat interfering with eating or drinking
- Inability to posture correctly
- Folds of skin around the anal area, where faeces and urine collect
- Decreased activity levels
An incorrect diet is the primary cause of weight gain; thus, diet becomes the focus for treatment.
The best diet is comprised primarily of grass hay, fed daily in unlimited quantities.
Your vet can determine whether there are additional health issues, such as arthritis or pododermatitis and suggest the ideal weight for your bunny.
If you notice that your rabbit isn't eating (referred to as anorexia) this can be indicative of underlying health issues, most commonly dental problems.
Rabbits' teeth grow all the time and grind and wear down naturally. But when rabbits are fed, they often pick out the bits of the mix they want to eat, leaving out the pellets that contain calcium.
With a lack of calcium, the jaw becomes weaker and the teeth start moving, causing them to overlap and sharpen, and making it uncomfortable to eat.
Signs of anorexia:
Apart from your bunny refusing to eat, you may notice the following:
- Dirty hindquarters
- Caved in abdomen
- A dull coat with some dandruff
- Minimal activity
- Fewer faecal pellets, often smaller and drier
- Search for water or for food - due to the incorrect diet
- Pain (e.g., hunched appearance, reluctance to move; grinding or chattering of teeth and partially closed eyes)
If your bunny appears to have anorexia, it is advised that you visit your local vet, who will conduct a physical exam.
Your rabbit's teeth will also be examined to see if dental problems are stopping your rabbit eating properly.
If there are any sharp teeth, the vet will smooth them down so it becomes instantly more comfortable for your rabbit to eat.
Unfortunately teeth that aren't growing straight can't be reversed, but with a more complete diet and management of the teeth with regular clipping, rabbits can continue to go about their life normally.
If you’re unsure whether your bunny is underweight or overweight, you can check your rabbit’s weight hands-on, through body condition scoring and if you have any concerns about your rabbit’s health, contact your vet
Have you ever experienced an underweight or overweight bunny? Have you any further advice? Let us know in the comments…