Obesity in rabbits is caused by an incorrect diet that is too high in dry food (commercial rabbit food) and too low in hay...
Obesity in rabbits is caused by an incorrect diet that is too high in dry food (commercial rabbit food) and too low in hay. If fed ad lib dry food, many rabbits will choose to eat this instead of hay. As it is high in protein the rabbit gains weight, is then less inclined to exercise and the cycle begins.
Obese rabbits tend to have a much larger dewlap (the fold of skin under the chin). This can make it difficult for them to groom themselves properly, leading to further problems such as sticky or dirty bottom. They are also at risk of developing a fatty liver.
Healthy weight rabbits have a flat rump and ribs that are easy to feel but with rounded edges. Overweight rabbits have a very round rump and the ribs are difficult to feel or in obese rabbits sometimes can't be felt at all.
- rabbit unable to groom itself thoroughly
- large dewlap
- sticky bottom
- sore hocks
- unwilling to exercise, tires quickly
Prevention / Treatment
Any dietary changes must be made gradually and it is sensible, especially with very obese rabbits, to consult your vet beforehand.
Reduce the amount of dry food gradually every day until your rabbit is eating only about a tablespoon per day (for small/medium breeds). Feed hay ad lib - your rabbit should be eating its own body size in hay every day. Feed fresh vegetables or fruit in very small amounts to give variety to your rabbit's diet.
These supplements of dry food and vegetables can be used to encourage your rabbit to exercise more. For example, you could hide them so your rabbit has to sniff them out or feed your rabbit by hand, forcing it to run to you to get the food.
Correct rabbit diet
Feeding the correct diet is vital to your rabbit's health and wellbeing and should consist of approximately 80% hay, 10% dry food and 10% fresh food... - read more
Sore hocks are a relatively common problem, especially in house rabbits. As domestic rabbits are usually kept on hard surfaces, their toenails cannot dig in to the ground... - read more
"Sticky bottom" syndrome occurs when the fur around the rabbit's bottom becomes caked with soft droppings and is usually caused by poor diet... - read more
Dental disease (malocclusion)
The symptoms, causes and treatment of dental disease (malocclusion) in rabbits, commonly known as overgrown teeth... - read more