How to keep a rabbit at a good weight…
The ideal rabbit should be slim and sleek – they’re animals that are designed to be able to run, so they should look like the athletes they are! However, that doesn’t mean they should be too thin either – it’s important to get their weight just right. If you’re not sure whether your bunny is too fat, too thin, or just right, make an appointment to see one of our nurses for a rabbit weight check.
Rabbits are routinely scored on a scale of 1-5, where 1 is skeletal and emaciated; 5 is morbidly obese, and 2.5-3 is about right. There’s a nice “Rabbit Size-O-Meter” here: https://research.unc.edu/files/2012/11/Body-Condition-Scoring-Rabbit.pdf
In general, you should be able to feel the bones of the hips and ribs, but they shouldn’t feel sharp; likewise, your rabbit should have flat flanks and rump, not bulging or concave.
What’s the problem with rabbits being overweight?
Bulging bunnies are prone to a number of disease conditions, including:
- Heart disease
- Liver failure (from Fatty Liver Syndrome)
Overall, obese and overweight rabbits have a shorter lifespan, and lower quality of life.
OK, what about being too thin?
Well ultimately, they’ll starve to death. Being thin is also often a warning sign for a more serious underlying problem, such as dental disease, kidney failure, or a tumour,
So, what should I do if my rabbit’s too fat?
Basically, rabbits get fat because they’re eating too much of the wrong things! Typical causes include:
- Being fed too much overall.
- Too much concentrate and not enough hay or grass.
- Feeding a muesli mix where they can choose which bits to eat – inevitably, they’ll eat the unhealthiest bits first!
The answer is a diet, although increasing the amount of exercise they do will also help.
However, it is important not to starve them too fast – if they lose weight too quickly you can push them over the edge into Hepatic Lipidosis, a form of liver failure that may prove fatal. Ideally, they want to be losing about 1% of their body weight per week, until they reach their target, or healthy, weight.
How can I prevent my rabbit from losing weight?
Weight loss usually means one of four things:
- Not enough food being given.
- Poor quality food – for example, rabbits aren’t designed to live just on straw, or salad or green leaves – they need good quality grass or hay.
- Dental disease – bad teeth are the single most common cause of weight loss. If not treated, it will prove fatal.
- Underlying disease, such as a tumour or kidney disease.
If you’re worried about your rabbit’s weight (either way), make an appointment to see one of our vets to get them checked out!