Understanding Malnutrition in Rabbits

Is your rabbit underweight? Some bunnies suffer from malnourishment in the first few years of their lives. Parasites are among the most common causes of malnutrition in rabbits. 

However, malnutrition in rabbits can occur due to a multitude of reasons. If you feel your pet is in this situation right now, then this post will help you face the issue and get it solved starting today. 

What Are The Different Types of Rabbits?

What Causes Malnutrition in Rabbits?

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Decreased appetite is the leading reason for weight loss in bunnies. The same for decreased calorie intake. It happens due to diseases, including gastrointestinal, dental, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, metabolic, and cancer.

Many of those conditions include pain that makes it hard for a rabbit to eat. If not, these health issues involve the accumulation of toxins within the body, which affect the vital organs, especially the brain. The accumulated toxins will make your pet feeling not hungry or nauseated. Infectious diseases, particularly the ones associated with the upper respiratory system, making it hard for the rabbit to smell foods that contribute to reduced appetite. 

Moreover, a diet that consists of fresh veggies and greens rather than grass hay will be extremely dangerous for your pet. That is because the greens are not high in calories because of their increased water content. Continuously giving them will only result in unhealthy weight loss. Rabbits must have a well-balanced diet that consists of grass hay provided to them in limitless amounts. Inadequate water can also reduce a rabbit’s food intake. 

There are some other considerations. When your bunny becomes anxious due to the activity next to the feeding area like barking dogs, active kids, and something else that produces loud noises, your bunny will refuse to eat as it feels disturbed. When you 2 or more rabbits, the dominant one might guard the foods and prevent the other from eating. Hence, grass hay should be provided in multiple sections so that all rabbits have easy access to food. 

Signs of Malnutrition in Rabbits

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The signs of malnutrition in bunnies may vary from case to case. In most cases, the obvious signs are:

  • Emaciated appearances like prominent pelvis, ribs, and backbone
  • Abdomen “caved-in” instead of smoothness at a specific part surrounded by the last part of the ribs. You will notice the same on the rabbit’s thighs and spine (forming a triangle)
  • Rough and dull coat
  • Lethargy
  • Less fecal pellets
  • Unusual activity levels (signaling the need for food or water)
  • Pain (seen through your pet’s hunched look, incapability to stretch out, hesitating to move, grinding of teeth, and eyes are partially closed.)
  • Dropping of unconsumed foods

Being attentive to probable weight loss will help you protect your pet against severe problems. When the rabbit refuses to take its food for at least 24 hours, ask for medical assistance right away. Rabbits can’t fast, especially when they are injured or ill. 

A sudden stop to eat or reduced amounts of fecal pellets will mean there’s something wrong. Continued inappetence may immediately lead to a life-threatening condition. Without intervention, gastrointestinal hypomotility can result in GI stasis. Hepatic lipidosis can also be a concern. 

Taking Care of Underweight Rabbits

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When rabbits are injured or ill, veterinarians will suggest a home care plan. Reducing stress as much as possible is crucial for bunnies, especially for the underweight ones. A proper diet plus other important factors to consider are very important. 

Increasing the number of processed pellets in the diet for underweight rabbits is not a great idea. Determining the exact cause of malnutrition will help veterinarians prescribe the right home care plan for every bunny. 

In most cases, underweight rabbits benefit from increasing their consumption of the fiber-laden foods, particularly grass hay, while the leafy greens to a lesser extent. But excess greens lead to weight loss, not weight gain. A diet rich in fiber decreases dental and other related health issues. 

Aside from the underlying health problems, it is necessary to search for the factors which may be contributing to the eating behavior of rabbits. For instance, when an underweight rabbit eats slowly, this might be important to provide the animal uninterrupted feeding period apart from kids and other animals. 

In some cases, an aging or ill rabbit might need special dietary plans. They may require specific amounts of high-quality pellets and homemade ground-pellet slop. However, the rabbits must be stimulated to consume grass hay, too. 

Though it is reasonable to think that a less-active bunny will gain extra weight, the unexpected happens sometimes. Weight loss may lead to a decreased muscle mass, which is usually a result of inadequate experience due to reduced mobility, pain when trying to move, lethargy, or simply because you kept the rabbit in its cage for a long time. 

When you take your pet out of the cage, make sure it gets enough time to be active. Putting hay bins or litter boxes in different locations all over the house may encourage your pet to be more active. The rabbit will frequently feel easier to move when a rug or any other soft but heavy material is on the smooth floor like tile or wood. When you get a buddy for your pet, you will soon find the lonely one getting more and more active that facilitates increased exercise.

If there are 2 or more bunnies, you must be mindful of the possible social problems. Observe their actions when it comes to food. Do something if you notice the other is not getting enough food because the dominant rabbit prevents it from eating well. 

Preventing Malnutrition in Rabbits

Bunnies are quite easy to keep active and healthy. The key is giving them a well-balanced and healthy diet. Hay and pellets should make most of their diet. These foods are widely available, so you should never forget to include them in the daily food intake of your pet. 

When you go for a pelleted diet, then it must be free from nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. Also, they must contain 14 to 17 percent protein and fiber of between 12 to 24 percent. A good-quality rabbit diet must be available at the local store. 

Some types of hays like timothy and oat hay seem to promote enhanced gastrointestinal motility. Likewise, they might help in preventing hairball issues. Leafy hay, such as alfalfa does not encourage GI motility. Thus, while you can use it moderately as an excellent calcium source, it must not make up most of the bunny’s diet. 

Avoid all types of sugars, seeds, fruits, nuts, cookies, table scraps, and commercial treats for rabbits. These foods are high in sugar that can lead to obesity, especially if given in excessive amounts. Also, you must never give apple seeds, rhubarb, potatoes, and tomato leaves. 

When giving a treat to your pet, consider providing it only in smaller amounts. Do it for certain foods like fresh greens, mustard greens, dandelions, collards, and a teaspoon of sliced turnip, parsnip, and carrot. When fed right, your pet will not require salt sticks and vitamins. 

Moreover, you must pay attention to your pet’s water intake. Always give it fresh and clean water every day. Empty the bowl and refill it daily. 

A sudden dietary change or giving too many treats can lead to problems. If diet changes are needed, then they must be done one at a time. Add the new diet with the old one to help your pet in getting used to it. 


Proper nutrition and adequate water intake are keys to help your rabbit grow healthily and actively. If you need help, don’t hesitate to consult a veterinarian.

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