How to Help an Overweight Rabbit Lose Weight
Our fluffy pets look endearing in their chubby and rotund form, making them look all warm and cuddly. But the flip side to this is that the chubbier the rabbit, the more health risk it faces.
An overweight rabbit is prone to numerous health conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, cystitis, liver failure (from fatty liver syndrome), and even flystrike (this can be deadly if not treated hastily).
The ideal rabbit should be ‘lean and slender’. They are designed to be wild and athletic animals and should preferably be able to run, hop, and jump.
But obesity is a disease that rabbits are quite prone to. In fact, it is the second-most common health issue that rabbits suffer from, right after dental problems.
Veterinarians too stress the fact that it is significant to make certain that our pet rabbits have ideal body weight for a healthier and longer lifespan. Correct body weight enhances the quality of life for the rabbits making them happy pets and companions.
How to Know if Your Rabbit is Obese?
Rabbits can be tested for obesity by feeling their spine, ribs, and hips. Their tummy should also not bulge out. If there is a thick layer of fat in these areas and the bones are difficult to locate then we should help the rabbits lose weight ASAP. Ideally, they should not lose more than 1% of their body weight per week till they reach their target weight.
Same as an overweight person, we can help our pet rabbits reduce their body weight by giving them the right kind and amount of food. Adequate exercising too plays an important role in weight reduction for overweight bunnies.
How to Help Rabbits Lose the Extra Pounds?
- Proper Diet is Extremely Important
It is imperative to keep in mind that a rabbit’s digestive system cannot be stagnant and needs to keep on moving. Though, overfeeding can have the undesirable effect of an overly fat and unhealthy rabbit? Unlimited and high-quality grass hay such as Timothy, orchard, or brome should make up the majority of an adult rabbit’s diet.
Till a year old, rabbits need to be given alfalfa hay. It is important to switch to Timothy, orchard, or brome hay after they cross one year as alfalfa hay are very high in protein and would lead to weight gain in adult rabbits. Green leafy vegetables and fruits too should be reduced for a plump rabbit. Proportions can gradually be increased when the rabbits reach an ideal body weight.
Even rabbits with normal body weight should be given a maximum of 2 ounces of fruit per one ounce of body weight in a day. Anything more than that is avoidable as it will fatten the pet rabbits. To help obese rabbits lose weight, we should either reduce or totally stop giving them treats (anything other than fresh hay, vegetables, and pellets).
- Too Much Pellet is Not Needed
Contrary to popular belief, pellets do not need to make up a significant part of a rabbit’s diet. Actually, some rabbits do perfectly well without pellets being a part of their diet. If the pet owner wants pellets to be included in the diet then the contents should be thoroughly checked before the purchase or serving it to the rabbits. Pellets with around 18 – 20% fiber and 14-16% protein are ideal. Higher combinations or additives like dried vegetables, etc are superfluous and contribute to unnecessary weight gain. Only ¼ cup of pellets per 5 pounds of body weight is required to be given to an adult rabbit.
If excess rabbit droppings or ‘Cecotropes’ are found it implies that the pet bunny is not eating all of them. Pellet portions should be immediately reduced or else there would be a gain in body weight in a rabbit.
The right approach would be to ensure that any dietary change is made on a gradual basis and not done suddenly as this might lead to gastrointestinal upsets in the rabbit.
- Make Them Exercise
Exercise plays a super important role to help overweight rabbits lose their excess body weight. Rabbits are not high on endurance and generally follow short spurts of activity between long duration of rest.
While wild rabbits cover a minimum range of 2 acres every day in search of food, keeping our pet rabbits cooped up in the house all day is a sure-shot way to obesity for them.
First and foremost, we need to ensure that a rabbit has an adequate barricaded space to exercise (minimum 24 sq. ft. for general sized and a larger area for bigger rabbits). If space is a constraint then multi-level platforms and obstacles in a smaller space can also be a fun way to get them going as rabbits love to ‘jump’. The best approach is to rabbit-proof our homes so that they can have free access to the whole area of the house. As rabbits are crepuscular, we should encourage them to get more exercise at dawn and dusk as that is their most active time.
- Fun and Games Keep Their Minds Active As Well
Rabbits can be trained and it is a fine way to bond with them while they learn and exercise. Mazes and toys can be used to keep their minds sharp as well as their physiques.
There are innumerable ways to encourage our fluffy friends to be active. Due to their innate nature, rabbits love digging and foraging. As we provide food for our pet rabbits, we could keep a planter as a foraging tray for them with food hidden under scrunched up newspaper or pulled out grass.
Rabbits have a proclivity towards exploring. Pet rabbits do not get an opportunity to explore new places. Giving a variety of toys to them on a regular basis would also encourage them to be more active. Though, the toys would need to be constantly replaced as rabbits tend to gnaw on things a lot. Gnawing also helps them to be active and keeps their teeth in good shape.
To Wrap Up
Rabbits tend to put on weight quickly by way of poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. A healthy diet and loads of exercise can help the rabbit attain a long and healthy life.
An obese rabbit can benefit immensely via gentle massage and touch. Licensed massage therapist, Chandra Beal advises that “laying of hands or light fur strokes would be appropriate for showing affection and reducing stress while the bunny is dieting.”