Keeping an eye on your bunny’s weight is important to 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. However, it can be difficult to visually assess whether your rabbit is underweight or overweight – the coat of long-haired breeds, for example, hides parts of the body where weight is most easily assessed. The best way to check your rabbit’s weight is hands-on, through body condition scoring.
In order to condition score your rabbit, you need to focus on three areas: the ribs, the hips and the spine. The ribs are the easiest and most reliable to assess, whereas changes in the spine and hips become more apparent in extremely thin or extremely fat rabbits.
The condition scoring scale runs from 1 to 5, where 1 is very thin, 5 is obese and 3 is ideal. This is only a guide though – if your rabbit does not fall into the ‘ideal’ category, or if you’re in any way concerned, then consult your vet for further advice. A weight check at your rabbit’s annual vet checkup is also a good idea.
Begin by feeling over your rabbit’s ribcage, applying gentle pressure just behind his elbows – a rabbit’s ribs are easy to assess for small changes in subcutaneous body fat (fat beneath the skin). The amount of pressure required to feel the ribs will be increased if your rabbit is overweight and the rib edges may be difficult to feel. In comparison, the rib edges will feel sharp and pointed in a thin or emaciated rabbit.
The hips and pelvis
Changes in the hips and pelvis become apparent in very thin or very overweight rabbits. Run your hands over the hip and pelvis area. In very thin rabbits with a condition score of 1 or 2, the rump becomes flatter and sometimes, with a score of 1, even concave. Equally, the bones of the pelvis are sharp and easily felt. In contrast, in rabbits that are overweight and with a score of 4 or 5, the rump becomes convex and the bones are hard to feel.
Lastly, check your rabbit’s spine – it should be softly rounded to the touch, rather than sharp. A score of 1 means that the line of the spine feels sharp, with no fat covering, whereas a score of 5 means the line of the spine cannot be easily felt.