What to Feed My Overweight Rabbit
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Rabbits are always chewing on hay or leafy vegetables. One thing they love more than anything is eating sugary fruit and rabbit treats that give them a boost in energy. However, a lack of exercise and an excess of these treats can allow them to retain excess weight and become overweight. This can be serious as it will lower their quality of life and bring more health issues.
In this AnimalWised article we are going to tell you how to help your rabbit lose weight through diet and exercise. This way you can avoid future medical problems and get them back to a healthy weight.
Obesity in rabbits
Obesity in rabbits is a medical condition that occurs when a rabbit carries excess weight or body fat that might affect their health. Unfortunately, it is quite common in domestic rabbits. In fact, in the U.S., it's the second most common medical issue in rabbits right after dental problems.
An overweight or obese rabbit are both terms for having more body fat than what is considered healthy. Both are used to identify rabbits that are at risk for health problems from having too much body fat. However, the term "obese" generally means a much higher amount of body fat than "overweight."
Whether your rabbit is overweight or obese, it doesn't change the fact that you are worried for their health and want to help them get back to a healthy weight so that they can have a higher quality of life and live longer. To do this, you will need to determine whether your rabbit is indeed overweight and if so, adjust their diet and promote more exercise.
How to tell if your rabbit is overweight
Domestic rabbits are prone to becoming overweight when their natural diet is modified and they begin eating processed food. If you suspect your rabbit is overweight, there are certain signs that can help you determine that, such as:
- Apply gentle pressure with your fingers to find your rabbit's ribs or hip bones. If you have a hard time finding it or cannot find it with your fingers, your rabbit is overweight.
- They have a saggy tummy and extra fat
- Females have a large dewlap
- Has difficulty moving around
- Has difficulty grooming themselves
- Has folds of skin
- Decrease in activity
Taking your rabbit to the veterinarian for their regular check-ups can help in detecting their weight gain and treating it at home as soon as possible to avoid any future medical issued that can come from obesity in rabbits.
Weight loss diet for an overweight rabbit
Domestic rabbits need a diet that’s as close as possible to their natural food in the wild. Even though wild rabbits spend more than half their time feeding, thanks to their natural diet and daily exercise, they remain lean and healthy. They eat hay, grass and root vegetables. This type of diet is high in fibre which aids in their digestion and dental care.
When your domestic rabbit is getting overweight, it's due to the fact they have been consuming more calories than needed and need to go back to their natural diet and daily exercise.
- Hay: at least 85 percent of a pet rabbit's diet should be a grass hay. Some examples are: timothy, oat, or barley.
- Vegetables: the second most important rabbit food is fresh leafy greens such as kale, collards, romaine lettuce, mustard greens, beet tops, carrot tops and parsley.
- Pellets: you can supplement their diet with pellets but make sure they are good quality. An adult bunny only needs one-quarter cup of pellet feed daily for every five pounds of body weight.
- Fruit: this is a great natural dessert for your rabbit but should not be given everyday as it can lead to weight gain.
- Store bought rabbit treats: do not give your rabbit any processed food. Stick to a natural rabbit diet.
How often you should feed your rabbit
Rabbits spend a lot of their time eating and chewing on hay. You should be able to offer them fresh food and plenty of hay for them to chew on throughout the day. But, how much is too much? Your rabbit should be getting at least their body size in hay everyday as well as a handful of fresh vegetables in the morning and in the evening. Make sure they are plenty of dark leafy green vegetables that will be able to provide your rabbit with lots of fibre and the vitamins and minerals that they need in order to thrive. You can also add in some high quality pellets, a tablespoon for rabbits under 6,6 lbs (3.5 kg) and two for larger rabbits.
It should be kept in mind that if your rabbit is overweight and you wish to help them lose weight as soon as possible, it's best to not give them any pellets or processed rabbit food. Some veterinarians even suggest not giving them fruit for a couple of weeks. By sticking to a 100% natural rabbit diet and promoting exercise, your rabbit will lose weight quickly. You must also remember that hay and vegetables are low in calories so make sure you are giving them enough.
Exercise for overweight rabbits
Wild rabbits usually cover a home range of about 2 acres every day in their hunt for food. When caring for a domestic rabbit we need to make sure they're getting plenty of exercise. This will not only keep them in a healthy weight but also help them be happy and entertained.
For proper exercise you need to let your rabbit out of their cage for at least an hour each day. During this time, allow them to play and jump around. It's important to remember that rabbits won't run laps for the fun of it. You will need to give them reasons to do so by providing them with toys, tunnels and new objects to examine.
By keeping your rabbit caged up all day you're not only promoting weight gain but that can also lead them to feeling stressed and depressed. Make sure your rabbit has a playmate and enough time to play outside. Here are some ideas on how rabbits exercise:
- Hopping around outside
- Digging holes in the garden
- Examining new toys or objects
- Running through tunnels
- Spending time outside with their rabbit friends
- Exploring cardboard boxes or rabbit toys
For more information or help, consult with your veterinarian who will be able to examine your rabbit and provide you with a specific plan to get them back to a healthy weight.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
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