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Managing obesity in rabbits

Obesity in rabbits can be fairly common, especially rabbits who have been kept in small accommodation or regularly overfed.

Unfortunately, obesity in rabbits doesn’t just mean they have a few extra curves. They are at greater risk of being exposed to fly strike, excessive amounts of grape-like smelly poo which is visible daily. They can suffer joint mobility issues, matted fur, and even gut blockages. Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to help get your rabbits back to their happy, binky-loving self.

Provide a spacious environment

Rabbits need a large spacious environment 24/7 to help keep them fit and active. If your rabbits are currently spending many hours in an indoor cage or hutch, it’s time to look at adding more space. However, you should do this slowly and cautiously, especially if the rabbits have been housed in a smaller space for some time, so they can adjust to the extra space. Slowly over a few weeks, increase the space. You can do this in by following either of these two suggestions:

  1. Set them up in a new enclosure, but do not give the whole space to them all at once. Slowly allow them more and more of it, plus add in new enrichment items gradually each time

  2. Slowly extend what you have already been using by adding attachments from companies such as www.runaround.co.uk. After a few weeks, your rabbits will have been able to safely adapt to extra space and have the ability to hop further, reach up, dig, and even run.

Find out more about suitable rabbit accommodation in our advice article.

Maintain a healthy diet

Rabbits need a healthy diet made up of 85% hay/grass, 10% fresh forage and 5% nuggets, plus constant access to a fresh water supply. Read our article for more information on what should be included in your rabbit’s diet.

If you have noticed any of the above health concerns with your rabbit, making slow but key changes to your rabbits daily diet can make a big difference. Firstly, ensuring your rabbits are eating plenty of hay is very important. Rabbits like to browse, so dotting large fluffy piles about, or garden hanging baskets filled with hay can help. Even replacing litter in the trays with newspaper and lots of meadow hay will encourage them to eat more.

Switching up their diet

If you have a fussy hay eater, try mixing up hay types and sprinkling some dry forage in it for extra interest and taste. One of the biggest culprits of obesity in rabbits tends to be giving them far too much dry-feed. Whether this is nuggets or muesli, make sure you’re not giving them too large a bowl. It’s very important to move your rabbits off muesli-type dry feeds, as these are often high in sugar and can contribute to dental disease. If your rabbits are used to this, you will need to slowly wean them onto a nugget dry-feed, such as Burgess Mature or Adult Nuggets, over a period of 2-3 weeks to ensure their digestive system safely adapts to the change.

We recommend each rabbit has no more than what would fit into a feed ball once a day. Feed balls are also a great way to get your rabbits moving, and help you to not give them too much. You can buy feed balls from most pet shops or Amazon.

It’s really important to provide fresh food as close to rabbits’ natural wild diet as possible. This will help reduce obesity and aid healthy digestion.

Feeding forage

Foods such as carrots, various fruits and vegetables are not part of a natural diet. They are often too fattening, and can lead to other health complications. Try going back to basics and slowly swapping these unhealthy foods for plants such as bramble, strawberry, or raspberry leaf. Handfuls of fresh picked grass, wild geranium, safe woods such as hazel/willow/apple/hawthorn, are all great for their teeth and digestive system. Find out more about foraging for your rabbits in our article.

Looking for more advice?

We have plenty of information for you to continue learning more about keeping rabbits. And if you have any further questions or need support, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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