What is obesity?
Obesity is simply the name given when an animal is greatly overweight. This means that it weighs more than a healthy animal should. They have too high a percentage of body fat and are visibly larger than is normal. The dangers of obesity are often underestimated by many pet owners.
Domestic rabbits are more at risk of becoming obese than wild rabbits since they are more prone to not having enough exercise and eating too much of the wrong foods. Obesity leads to a variety of adverse health problems in rabbits and is, unfortunately, a common affliction for the majority of companion animals that are domesticated. An obese rabbit can generally be as bad as forty percent overweight and it is needless to say that it is an unhealthy rabbit.
What are the causes of rabbit obesity?
Rabbits become obese in pretty much the same way as we can become obese; eating too much of the wrong foods and by not having enough exercise. The gender of rabbits does not affect the risks of a rabbit becoming obese. Although it is a widely believed myth, operations such as neutering do not increase a rabbit’s weight or lead to obesity.
Domestic rabbits are often confined to unnaturally small spaces when compared to their normal habitats. This means that for the majority of their life they do not move enough to lose excess weight. Therefore, a lack in adequate exercise leads to an increase in weight gain.
In addition to a lack of exercise, a poor diet is the main contributor to obesity in rabbits. Owners often either over feed their pets with too many “treats” such as bunny biscuits and other such foods. Also, sweet foods including carrots and fruit can lead to an increase in weight if given in excess of twice a week. Cereals bought in shops advertised as rabbit food are often a cause of obesity whereas it is simple rabbit pellets that should be given. If the rabbit does not eat enough hay, this also leads to obesity.
How do I know if my rabbit is obese?
The Signs and Symptoms of an Obese Rabbit
Rabbits that are obese are easy to spot. If you gently feel along the sides of a healthy rabbit you should be able to feel the animal’s ribs. The ribs of rabbits that are obese cannot be felt as a result of the excess fat. The skin under the chin of an obese rabbit, known as the dewlap, is much larger than normal. The abdomen of a largely overweight rabbit almost appears swollen instead of having a more normal and healthy slightly inward sloping waist.
The animal will be reluctant to move, and may have difficulty respiring. Excess weight means that the rabbit finds it difficult to groom and so a poor coat condition can result. As a result of this problem, dermatitis can occur which can appear a little like human dandruff. The rabbit’s bottom also becomes especially dirty. The rabbit can also experience sore hocks if it is obese.
Medical Diagnosis of Obesity in Rabbits
The clinical signs and symptoms are observed by the veterinarian as well as the medical history of the rabbit being taken into account. The rabbit’s liver may also be dangerously layered with too much fat. The rabbit may also undergo obesity tests to determine how much excess fat it has. A differential diagnosis could include tumours or even a pregnancy in a doe.
What do I do if my rabbit is obese?
If you suspect your pet to be obese immediately bring it to the vets. The vet will attempt to find out whether the rabbit is overweight simply as a result of overfeeding or if there is another, more dangerous, underlying cause. Abnormal weight gain can sometimes be a result of dangerous tumours and so a veterinary diagnosis is definitely required. If diet and a lack of exercise are the cause then this can be easily regulated.
The rabbit should be treated so that weight loss is gradual, so as to prevent further problems in the pet. A large amount of hay should be given to the rabbit so as to reduce its appetite for the more weight gain inducing foods. Sweet foods and treats should be gradually reduced and pellet intake should be decreased to the adequate amount for the rabbit type. This can be advised by the vet.
How do I prevent my rabbit from becoming obese?
A good diet and adequate exercise maintains a healthy weight for rabbits and prevents obesity. Rabbits should be given large amounts of hay and small quantities of pellets for an ideal and healthy weight. Treats such as biscuits should not be given, although leafy greens are good if given in the correct doses.
Rabbits should be allowed to exercise outside of its general living area, ideally for a minimum of one hour a day. The bigger the cage, the more exercise the rabbit can have and thus, the healthier it can become. Regular weighing of the rabbit can allow the owner to know whether any changes in diet are necessary.
What problems come with obesity?
Obesity in rabbits can lead to many adverse health implications which can be especially severe. Dermatitis, fly strike, gastro-problems and diarrhoea are all possible problems occurring as a result of obesity. The obese rabbit is also more susceptible to arthritis at an earlier age. In addition, bladder stones, urine scald, and pregnancy toxaemia can occur. The rabbit can also have sore hocks, or even serious cardiac vascular problems.
Obese rabbits are often depressed and lethargic. Overall, obesity seriously reduces the quality of life for affected rabbits and decreases their chances of survival.
Can rabbits die from obesity?
Rabbits can die from obesity. As with most obese animals obesity does actually reduce the rabbit’s natural life span. The disease can also lead to serious health problems such as cardiac disease and this can also result in death.