Rabbit obesity can be easy to achieve if we are not careful. Once our little friends are carrying a few extra ounces or even pounds, it can mean the difference in whether or not they are able to groom themselves, get proper nutrition, and live a full life.
Rabbit obesity is a problem that can touch your rabbit in more areas than you could shake a stick at. It can cause problems as treatable as sore hocks, or problems as difficult and perilous as liver or even heart issues. Their nutrition can hang in the balance if they are not able to reach their cecotropes to eat them. Just like our bodies don’t function correctly when we are overweight or obese, our rabbit’s won’t either, and fatty deposits can collect in their lungs, liver, and bladder, causing myriad issues to your treasured friend.
Aside from weighing your rabbit weekly, there are a few things we can do for our bunny friends to help them to stay at their proper weight.
Preventing Rabbit Obesity with Exercise
Chances are, your rabbit lives in a cage or hutch most of the time, which means that they don’t have the same opportunities for exercise as their counterparts in the wild enjoy. Never fear–there are still some simple things that you can do to help your precious little lagomorph get his daily workout.
Set up a large fenced area in your yard where your rabbit can stretch his legs, and allow him at least one hour per day to do just that. If your fenced area isn’t predator-proofed, you’ll want to make sure that this time is not unsupervised. Here is an example of a predator-proofed bunny run.
If a bunny run isn’t available, or if you’d just prefer to have your bunny closer to you, bring her indoors to cruise around the house. Make sure all cords are out of reach, because bunnies do like to chew them!
Hang toys from the ceiling of their hutch, or put ‘furniture’ in their cage. Bunnies love to rearrange their rooms, which provides a bit of activity, movement, and calorie burning for during those days when you can’t bring your rabbit out for exercise.
Prevent Rabbit Obesity with a Larger Living Space
Often, people will give their rabbits a multi-level living space where their bunnies can traverse upstairs, downstairs, and all around a large area, while still remaining contained. This is ideal, however, if you do not have that kind of space in your home, make sure that your rabbit’s cage or hutch is tall enough that they can stand on their hind legs without their ears touching the ceiling, and wide enough for at least 2-3 hops.
Prevent Rabbit Obesity with Proper Feeding
In order to keep your rabbit at a healthy weight, she needs to be fed a proper diet, in proper amounts, which will go a long way in keeping your rabbit comfortable and well-nourished.
If you use pellets to feed your rabbit, he will need a specific amount to ensure that his weight remains balanced. House Rabbit Society suggests to feed as follows:
8-10 lb body weight – 1/2 c daily
11-15 lb body weight – 3/4 c daily
While the University of Minnesota Extension Office suggests:
Medium breeds: 3.5-4 oz per day
Large/Giant breeds: 4-8 oz per day
The instructions on your feed bag will also give some guidance on how much to feed your rabbit, according to the nutrients included in the feed itself.
There are many types of hay that you can give to your rabbit, but by far, Timothy hay has been the most recommended. Rabbits require clean hay every day, available at all times. Hay provides the proper roughage needed to prevent blockage in their GI area, as well as a way for rabbits to chew as much as they need to. Hay does not have the calories that feed does, which makes hay a fabulous and needful addition to your rabbit’s nutrition.
Rabbits love vegetables, and there are all kinds that are very good for your rabbit. There are also many kinds that can cause weight gain, diarrhea, and other issues for your rabbit. Check out our Safe Foods for Your Rabbit post for a complete list of vegetables to feed to your bunny.
Treats should be few and far between. Fruits and starchy vegetables can present problems for your rabbit due to their sugar content. Avoid sugary foods on the whole, and feed nutritious foods that cause weight gain (think oats and sunflower seeds) only in the proper amounts, and not daily unless they are part of a carefully blended homemade feed with proper amounts added.
Rabbit Environment – PDSA for Pets in Need of Vets
The Perils of Bunny Obesity by House Rabbit Society
University of Minnesota