Obesity is a common issue that affects different animals, including rabbits. Like humans, cats, dogs, birds, and rabbits may become overweight. Obesity is associated with several severe diseases.
For rabbits, obesity can result in various adverse effects like heart disease, hepatic lipidosis, or sticky bottom syndrome. Moreover, it is linked to several risk factors, including poor diet, insufficient exercise, and underlying health problems like arthritis.
Since obesity can result in long-lasting complications and impact the quality of life, you must talk to a veterinarian and get a care management plan. Obesity in bunnies is a serious concern wherein the animals carry excess body fat that results in opposing health effects. Veterinarians diagnose obesity if the rabbits are 20 percent above the suggested weight for their build and size.
Causes of Obesity in Bunnies
Overeating is normally the cause of obesity in bunnies. However, this factor does not necessarily affect those rabbits that are very active. Instead, rabbits are more likely to become obese if they overeat but don’t have enough exercise.
Before obesity takes place, bunnies have to eat more foods high in calories than they can burn through an exercise to pack on extra pounds. Since most rabbits are inappropriately caged for a long time, obesity is a typical issue when they start to become inactive than they should be.
Sugary treats also contribute to the obesity issue in bunnies. They may look so cute when eating sweets, but in reality, rabbits do not care what their food is. For as long as it is edible, they will eat it.
Rabbits that don’t get enough exercise every day are more susceptible to obesity and the associated health issues. When left caged for most of their lives, they can’t do anything else except for eating, sleeping, and gaining weight.
Signs of Obesity in Bunnies
Being overweight means rabbits have more body fat than the ideal based on their build. Every rabbit species comes with a specific range of breed standards, which will tell you the right weight and size of a particular breed. These standards must serve as a guideline that will help you and the veterinarian judge and confirm if your pet is in good body weight and size.
By designating a body condition score for your pet, you can better monitor its weight to correct or maintain it. The body condition score is the number linked to some physical attributes. Most body condition score measuring devices are a 1-through-5 with 3 set as the normal or ideal.
If you can feel your bunny but can’t feel the ribs when you hold, it can have a score of 3. The simplest way to find out whether the ribs are too prominent is to compare the feeling when you hold the body of your pet to how you feel when touching a closed fist. With your one hand, close it, and have the other touching the knuckles. Do the ribs of your pet feel like this? Then that can mean your bunny is thin and too skinny.
Then, touch your fingers on the part where the rings will normally sit with your fist still closed. It is the feeling when your bunny has the right body condition size. If you can’t feel or you have to push harder to feel the ribs, then your pet is obese. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to consult your friendly veterinarian.
Diagnosing Obesity in Bunnies
To diagnose obesity in rabbits, veterinarians perform a thorough clinical exam and talk about diet, exercise, and history with the owner. Through physical examination, veterinarians can determine the right weight for every bunny and confirm if your pet exceeds it.
Veterinarians can use different body scoring charts for this purpose. They may choose to perform diagnostic tests like blood chemistry that gives the baseline on the rabbit’s health. It may signify and exclude secondary diseases like liver disease. Also, veterinarians may conduct urine tests for checking the rabbit for a urinary tract infection. Skin biopsies are for secondary skin infections due to urine scalding.
Treating Obesity in Bunnies
Treatment for your bunnies will include careful home-based management. Veterinarians work closely with rabbit owners in formulating the right program for every rabbit. The program can be a fair share of 2 components: energy expense increase and energy intake decrease & diet modification.
Energy Expense Increase
Exercises will be considered and added to the program when there are no contraindications. Veterinarians need to consider different factors. Changing the setting will allow the rabbits to have more space to exercise. These include introducing climbing areas and inclines, stimulating movement through engaging and energetic play and activities.
In certain cases, introducing the companion might be helpful for rabbits. Giving opportunities to mix exercise and nutrition with foraging by putting food in fewer amounts in various locations. Whenever possible, outdoor exploration will also be useful as it encourages exercise while letting the rabbits forage for delicious plants. Just make sure the area has been checked safe and free from plants that can be toxic to bunnies.
Energy Intake Decrease and Diet Modification
Veterinarians and rabbit owners work together to find out the ideal diet for bunnies. Reducing calorie intake may be necessary in certain cases. However, the suggested diet must provide the ideal amounts of vitamins and minerals. Preferably, the diet is free from dry foods.
Moreover, the necessary dietary changes should be made one at a time within a few weeks. Feel free to introduce new food for some time and remove it if it’s causing diarrhea. During a diet change, make sure you consistently check your pet for any symptoms of reverse effects like loss of appetite, changed behavior, or diarrhea.
If you have been offering sugary foods to your pet, then you should start removing this routine. Replace them with high-quality greens, wild plants, and foods that are high in fiber like the Timothy hay. All these foods are beneficial to your pet.
If decreased or loss of appetite occurs, you can use appetite stimulants like the dandelion. However, you should use appetite stimulants with ease as they have laxative effects. Fresh and clean water must be given as well for your bunny.
How to Prevent Obesity in Bunnies?
The most effective way of preventing obesity in rabbits is feeding them right. Give your pet high-quality food in a good amount and make sure they are also getting the ideal amount of exercise every day.
You should feed your pet with natural foods such as grass hay and limit the amounts of pellets or treats because they are major causes of obesity aside from inadequate exercise. Feed your pet with vegetables and fruits instead of treats. However, give these foods only at the right time. Get rid of the fatty foods which are widely available in the pet stores.
Instead of keeping your pet in the cage, give it a room or space designed only for the animal. But make sure this space or room is secure enough, or else your bunny will try to escape. With this, your pet has time to exercise and keep itself healthy. However, when you need to keep the rabbit caged, then be sure you give it at least 2-3 hours per day to exercise.
Preventing obesity in rabbits is so easy. With proper diet and exercise, your pet will stay fit, active, and happy. Keeping a rabbit in good shape helps a lot in extending its lifespan.