Recognizing and Treating Obesity in Rabbits

Just as our cats and dogs have to worry about obesity, rabbits are at risk for developing excess body weight as well. Middle-aged rabbits that live in cages are especially prone to obesity. Here, your Upper Arlington veterinarian discusses the causes, symptoms, treatment, and preventing this disease.

Causes

The primary causes of rabbit obesity are being caged too often and for long periods of time, limiting exercise, and excessive eating habits. It’s basically the same as any pet, or even humans—too much food and not enough exercise will result in obesity. There is a chance, though, that a medical condition of some kind—tumors, fluids in the abdomen—could be making your rabbit appear obese. Take your rabbit to your vet’s office to have any medical issues ruled out as the cause.

Symptoms

Feel your rabbit’s sides. If you cannot seem to feel the ribs under the layer of fat and skin, obesity is likely present. In some cases, rabbits might have difficulty breathing and seem extra lethargic and tired. Some rabbits might exhibit dry or irritated skin, since the animal has trouble cleaning itself due to excess weight.

Treatment

Take your rabbit to your Upper Arlington veterinarian for a full examination. He or she will determine if obesity is in fact present and treat any immediate symptoms as necessary. Working with your vet, a diet plan will be developed that includes weight loss goals and dietary requirements. With proper nutrition, obesity can be treated and your rabbit’s health can be restored.

Prevention

You can do your part to keep your rabbit from gaining excess weight by maintaining a proper diet. Too much of the standard rabbit pellet diet and not enough fresh greens can lead to weight gain—make sure you are proportioning meals properly and feeding your rabbit fresh veggies regularly. Ask your vet about the frequency and types of appropriate vegetables.

Also make sure your rabbit exercises—allow him some time outside of the cage every day to hop around and burn off excess calories.