Obese Rabbit and unintended and serious health issues stemming from excessive weight. Identify rabbit obesity and provide a healthy weight loss regimen for your overweight rabbit.
For some pet owners, it is very easy to smother your rabbit in hugs and kisses, and spoil them to death. I mean, they are just so stinking cute!! However, spoiling a rabbit can lead to some unintended and serious health issues; namely obesity. Obesity in your rabbit can increase chances for heart disease, hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver), flystrike, arthritis, and decreased fertility, among other issues.
Luckily, if your rabbit is overweight, it is not the end of the world. You can help your rabbit regain its fit condition with a few adjustments depending on what your rabbit needs.
Determining if your rabbit is overweight can be tricky because all breeds vary in weight. The trouble figuring out your rabbit's ideal weight can be even more difficult if the animal is a mixed breed of unknown origin.
Knowing the standard weight for your rabbit's breed will certainly help you know whether or not your rabbit's weight is in the ballpark for its breed. Our All Rabbit Breeds page provides the weight range for each rabbit breed as specified in the Standards of Perfection for the breed.
If you have a general idea of your mixed rabbit's parentage, this page might also help you guestimate a likely normal weight for your pet rabbit.
Additionally, here are a few hands-on things to look for, whether or not the rabbit's ideal weight is known:
If you're not entirely sure whether or not your rabbit is obese we recommend consulting a vet.
Photo Credit: Mirror.co.uk
Pictured above is a blue silver martin. This is a female rabbit in good condition at a County Fair. She is not obese at all, yet has that bulge around the neck known as a dewlap.
Dewlaps are a result of genetics. While it is not entirely known exactly why female rabbits of certain breeds tend to develop them and males do not, it is believed that the dew lap provides extra fur to the doe which she will pull out when lining her nest in preparation for kindling.
Pictured at right is my red-eyed-white rex doe one day after kindling. While she looks a bit fluffy (read chubby), any extra weight is due to her pregnancy and will be used to make high-fat milk for her 8 babies.
Even in lionhead and angora rabbits, it is possible to verify whether the animal is overweight by running the hand along the back. Under all the fluff, one can "see" whether the bones are covered with excessive fat or not.
Below Left: this lionhead rabbit is in great shape, and has a definite waistline without being thin.
Above Right: This young castor rex doe has not had time to develop a dewlap, but she will at adulthood! Notice that you can see a slight ribcage bulge above her elbow. You can see the curvature of the back bone, and you can see the curvature of the hind leg. These are signs of a rabbit that is not obese.
Obese rabbits are usually overfed rabbits. Overfeeding is more often than not the cause for obesity in rabbits. It is a misconception that rabbits need to snack and must have food available 24/7. In addition to having food always available, feeding your rabbit sugary treats is also a factor for obesity. Treats such as yogurt drops can compromise your rabbits intestinal tract with an excess amount of dangerous bacteria. Feeding your rabbit too much sugar can also cause diarrhea, including fatal enterotoxemia.
Another contributing factor to obesity is a lack of exercise. How much exercise a rabbit needs is circumstantial to the breed, its weight, and how active it is. If your rabbit is a larger and more laid back breed such as the Flemish Giant, it may not require as much exercise as say, an active show rabbit such as the English Spot. It is difficult to put an exact label on how much exercise a rabbit needs, but this knowledge can be gained through observing your rabbit's behavior and habits.
Obesity can have harmful effects on a rabbit’s reproductive system, which is why it is of utmost importance to keep breeding rabbits at a healthy weight.
Obesity decreases fertility in both male and female rabbits, by choking their reproductive organs with fat. A study done in 2017 from the Public Library of Science shows that fertility in young, obese rabbit bucks is reduced by about 30% compared to normal bucks.
But worse than that, the fallopian tubes of obese rabbit does are clogged by fat, preventing eggs from passing through to the uterus. Litter sizes typically drop to near-zero. This can have catastrophic consequences beyond missed pregnancies or minimal litter size.
The kits in small litters are typically very large, and can get stuck in the doe's reproductive system during labor. This is called fetal retention, which can lead to infections, fetal mummification, and failure to ever get pregnant again. All of these conditions are capable of killing does, and frequently do.
In other words: obese rabbits have trouble breeding, and are much more likely to die from complications.
Helping rabbits lose weight is mostly a factor of providing less food, but may also include adding exercise to their day (or evening). Here are some ideas on how to help your rabbit lose weight.
A lower protein feed like Oxbow's Adult Rabbit Food, which contains only 14% protein, will keep your rabbit healthy as it supports your rabbit's weight loss, especially if the rabbit has opportunity for exercise. Once your pet has achieved a healthy weight, you can decide whether or not to continue with the low-protein ration
Make sure your pet is getting adequate exercise. Increasing their cage size, or purchasing a rabbit run will certainly help.
If you need help or guidance, don't hesitate to speak with your vet about an obesity treatment plan that is best for your rabbit.
In addition to a healthy diet, exercise can help your rabbit lose unwanted weight.
Tips for recognizing if your rabbit likely had enough exercise for one setting: