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Fat Rabbit – What Are the Health Problems Associated With Obesity in Fat Rabbits?

Health risks associated with obesity in cats and dogs have long been recognized, while rabbits may not. Therefore, veterinarians must recognise when a rabbit…

Fat Rabbit

Health risks associated with obesity in cats and dogs have long been recognized, while rabbits may not. Therefore, veterinarians must recognise when a rabbit may be overweight, discuss a weight loss program with them, and work towards managing their diet in order to bring weight down. Once examined by a vet they can advise how to decrease food consumption such as pellets, treats, hay etc. It’s also essential that owners learn how to body condition score their rabbit and book follow up appointments so progress can be assessed accurately.

Rabbits are herbivorous animals renowned for their light skeletons. Over millions of years, evolution has altered this trait so as to allow faster flight in order to evade predators and become predator-resistant. Therefore, excessive weight on a lightweight scaffolding can have devastating repercussions for animal health. Overweight rabbits are at increased risk for arthritis as the increased weight puts pressure on their joints, while poor flooring increases the likelihood of footpad disease and soiling (pododermatitis). They can also become susceptible to various forms of skin diseases, including scabies, ear mite infestations and avian poxvirus infection. Furthermore, their high fat diet with cholesterol supplementation increases their susceptibility to atherosclerosis; fat accumulates in their arteries over time reducing flexibility while altering blood flow and pressure levels.

Signs of overweight rabbits include an overgrown head, dewlap on shoulders or legs and fatty pads around the groin. There are also specific conditions associated with obesity in rabbits such as hepatic lipidosis; this metabolic condition results from excessive accumulation of fat in liver which produces ketones which ultimately result in life-threatening hypoglycaemia; pregnanacy toxaemia can occur in pregnant does that rely heavily on their fat reserves for energy and hence have negative nitrogen balances; pregnancy toxaemia also can occur among obese pregnant mothers who rely heavily on fat reserves as energy; pregnancy toxaemia can also occurs among pregnant does who rely on fat reserves as energy, leading to negative nitrogen balances during gestation resulting in preglycaemia after giving birth ; see here

This study investigated the effect of diet (fat level and source) on growth performance, mortality rates, nutrient retention rates and carcass composition of weaned (34 to 63 day old) rabbits. The experiment consisted of two stages with 32 female rabbits assigned as either control (CG) or experimental groups (EG).

Results indicated that increasing dietary fat content decreased feed intake while maintaining bodyweight while significantly decreasing nutrient retention and FCR. There was a notable interaction between fat level and source, with lower DFI from 34-49 days and BW at 63 days observed with FO than SBO; additionally fish oil caused higher mortality rates than SBO or PA.