lop-eared chubby rabbit sitting in grass
Obesity is not uncommon in rabbits, especially those who don’t get much exercise. iStock.com/declanmair

You adore your fluffy rabbit friend. You look after your pal and offer everything a bunny could want. A safe, enriched environment? Check. Companionship of other bunnies and yourself? Check. All the food a rabbit could eat? Check. Wait a minute. All the food? Depending on the type of food offered, you might send your bunny buddy down the path to rabbit obesity.

That’s right. Being overweight is not strictly a human, dog, or cat problem. There’s even an association dedicated to preventing pet obesity. Packing on the pounds can happen to any animal who regularly takes in more calories than they expend. Bunnies are no exception. And being overweight can cause quite a few health problems. So how do you avoid rabbit obesity, recognize it, or help your rabbit lose weight?

Feeding Your Bunny The Right Food

Offering your rabbit a proper diet is part of a plan to keep your rabbit at a proper weight, and one food your rabbit can eat practically all day every day is hay. Specifically, grass hay. Rabbits should have access to fresh, clean grass hay 24/7, as they are herbivores and prefer to munch it on their own schedule. The type of hay matters, because alfalfa hay has too many calories and calcium to be part of a regular diet for a healthy, adult rabbit. Growing, pregnant or sick rabbits might need alfalfa hay temporarily, but not healthy, adult rabbits.

Pelleted rabbit food is a small but important part of a rabbit’s diet. Homogenous, low-fat, high-fiber pellets formulated for rabbits provide nutrients to help rabbits thrive. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended portion for the size of your rabbit, or the added calories from larger portions could quickly become added weight for your rabbit.

Other foods to offer your rabbit include vegetables and, to a lesser extent, fruit. Both of these are treats that add variety to your rabbit’s diet. Opt for green, leafy vegetables or root vegetables that are low in calcium, oxalic acid, or sugar. Sugar is a main reason that fruit should be limited, but many rabbits appreciate a small slice of banana or strawberry once or twice a week. Not all vegetables and fruits are safe for rabbits, though, so do your research before offering something new to your pal.

Other rabbit-specific treats, such as Hey!Berries, should be offered as directed by the manufacturer. Treats are a great way to increase your bond with your rabbit, enrich his or her diet, and boost training. Just be sure that your pal doesn’t fill up on treats and fail to eat enough hay, which has fiber that is critical to your bun’s digestive process.

Bad Food For Rabbits

Foods to avoid for rabbits include practically everything else not mentioned above. Water is the only drink for your rabbit. Although your bun might slurp down milk, soda, or beer, these products are not meant for rabbits. The same is true of salty snacks or cookies. Processed food made for people is pretty much a no-no for rabbits.

Promoting Rabbit Exercise

Besides eating, the other key to maintaining weight is exercise. Rabbits in the wild spend a lot of their time finding and eating food. Your bunny has a much smaller territory and food is plentiful. Help your rabbit stay active by:

1. Providing toys he or she can play with on their own
2. Playing gentle games with your buddy
3. Adopting bunnies in pairs or groups so they can play together
4. Hiding treats for your pal to forage or placing hay in multiple locations
5. Offering treats that encourage play, such as Hey!Berries or a food puzzle toy
6. Supervising a few hours of daily out-of-cage or playpen time in a rabbit-proofed area

Observe your rabbit to find out what types of activities he or she enjoys. Jumping, exploring, playing games? Find ways to encourage more activity.

How To Tell If A Rabbit Is Overweight

Rabbit obesity is a major health concern. An article on the Washington State University College Of Veterinary Medicine states that obesity is the second most common problem seen in pet bunnies.

Rabbit anatomy can sometimes make it difficult to tell if a bun is carrying some extra weight. The fluffy fur can hide a lot. And sometimes a normal dewlap might be mistaken for excess weight. So how do you tell if a rabbit is fat?

1. Go by numbers. Weigh your buddy once a week on a scale that measures in grams. Track the weight and watch for any trends. Some fluctuation is expected, but a trend up or down for several weeks could signal either a medical problem or too many calories. Consult your veterinarian if a trend emerges.
2. Do A Home Checkup. Give your rabbit a checkup of your own weekly when you pet him or her. Feel the skin under the fur. You should be able to feel the ribs and spine easily. Be gentle, as rabbit skin is delicate.
3. Observe your rabbit. Is your furry friend having any problems hopping or grooming? Changes in locomotion or grooming habits can also indicate a rabbit is carrying too many pounds. Additionally, the Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association in Britain created a Pet-Size-O-Meter for six species of pets, including rabbits. It offers more tips on spotting rabbit obesity.

What To Do If A Rabbit Is Fat

If you suspect your rabbit is gaining weight, consult your veterinarian. Rule out any medical conditions that could cause weight gain, such as pregnancy or tumors. If your veterinarian clears your rabbit of any medical issues, discuss what steps to take to reduce calories and increase activity. Perhaps your buddy needs fewer pelleted food or treats. Developing a weight loss plan with your veterinarian allows your vet to tailor the plan to your individual pet’s needs. Losing weight too quickly can cause serious health problems. Any changes in diet must be done slowly to prevent upsetting the usual digestive process.

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