Excess body weight, or obesity, is as much a problem in rabbits as it is in any other species, especially household rabbits. Rabbits that are obese are not able to function normally because of their large size and body fat percentage.
Although certain breeds of rabbit, including the dwarf rabbit, are more at risk for obesity due to their shorter stature and inactivity, it occurs most often among middle-aged rabbits that are caged, and is independent of their gender.
Symptoms and Types
Typically rabbits prone to obesity tend to be more than 20 to 40 percent overweight. An easy way to determine this is to give the rabbit a physical exam. If you cannot find the ribs under the layer of fat and skin, then it is probably obese.
Other signs of obesity may include flaky dermatitis, as the rabbit has difficulty fully cleaning under its skin folds. The animal may also have difficulty breathing and be excessively tired.
The causes for obesity in rabbits include being caged too often, along with excessive feeding habits. If it is fed too many treats or snacks during the day and not allowed to exercise it off, then it is sure to become obese.
To diagnose obesity a veterinarian would naturally rule out conditions like pregnancy, a tumor mass or other abdominal and intestinal masses; fluid in the abdominal cavity can also mimic obesity. Other tests include those which measure the rabbit's body fat.
Proper nutrition is the key to treating obesity. Often high-quality grass hay and fresh greens, including lettuce, parsley and carrot tops are generally recommended over an exclusive pellet diet. Fresh fruits and other non-leafy vegetables are not recommended during the obese period, as these can lead to other health problems in the rabbit.
Living and Management
With proper education from the veterinarian, you will establish long-term, reachable weight loss goals that will guide the rabbit toward a healthier and more productive life.
It is also important for the animal’s overall wellness that its caged area be kept free from debris or fecal matter. Clipping excess hair and brushing matted hair will also help keep the rabbit clean.