Rabbits naturally tend to be on the slim side, but when they become too skinny, this can be a source of concern to the owner, and rightly so. A rabbit losing weight is never good, so once you observe that your rabbit is indeed losing weight, you should try to remedy the situation.
To know if your rabbit is too skinny, all you have to do is take a look at its ribs, if they are sticking out considerably well, then your rabbit is probably underweight. You can as well compare its ribcage to your balled up fists; if they feel the same, your is underweight.
Reasons why rabbits lose weight
- Ageing: As rabbits get older, they may start losing weight, and this is quite reasonable. They will not be as strong as they used to be, and they may not be able to see so well anymore. Therefore, they will move around less and will have a reduced appetite. Also, at old age, rabbits become more prone to sicknesses as their body gets weaker. For example, they may have ulcers in their mouths, which will prevent them from eating, and this can lead to weight loss.
- Stress: A rabbit that is not happy and is under pressure will naturally lose weight just as it happens in humans. The sound of loud noises or stress from other pets like dogs and even kids can stop your rabbit from eating, which will cause weight loss in the long run.
- Improper diet: The type of food that a rabbit is fed has a significant role to play in its weight. If a rabbit eats more of greens and veggies instead of hay, this may affect its weight negatively as there are fewer calories in vegetables.
- No access to food: If you have more than one rabbit in the same place and you observe one of them is losing weight, you should monitor them to find out what is happening. It could be that the fatter rabbit is monopolizing all the food and denying the other access. This could be the case if such a rabbit is the dominant or larger one, as it would attack the smaller animal and eat up the food meant for both of them.
- Health challenges: Your rabbit may also start losing weight from loss of appetite due to health challenges such as metabolic issues, dental issues and gastrointestinal problems.
- Parasites: The presence of parasites in the body of a rabbit can lead to weight loss as the parasites will feed on the nutrients obtained from the food that the rabbit has consumed. Also, a rabbit that suffered from malnourishment when it was little and did not attain the ideal weight size may be seen as underweight.
Symptoms of weight loss in rabbits
Most times, the symptoms a rabbit presents depends on the actual cause of the weight loss. Generally, thinness and reduction in appearance and size are observed.
Some other symptoms are:
- The rabbit is unable to eat and has little or no interest in food
- The rabbit is not able to attain a proper posture and instead, hunches over.
- It does not produce stool, or it produces only a little amount.
- The rabbit’s breath is terrible; it drools and grinds its teeth.
- The intestinal area around the animal’s stomach is bloated abnormally and distending.
- The rhythm of the rabbit’s heart is not regular, and its breathing may sound abnormal.
- There may be a presence of masses in the abdomen of the rabbit when it is felt with the fingers.
For a proper and accurate diagnosis though, you should have a veterinarian check your rabbit.
Rabbit weight loss due to problems with digestion. Sometimes, if you notice your rabbit is losing weight and has issues with digestion, those two things might be linked together.
Normally, rabbits eat cecotropes, which is a poop different from their regular poop. It is smaller, most times stuck together and oblong in shape.
A rabbit will eat these cecotropes to get the nutrients that its body was not able to digest initially when it ate its food. When your rabbit stops eating them, it begins to lose weight. This could be as a result of a diet that is very high in protein which isn’t really ideal for rabbits. They should be fed with grass hay and greens.
Rabbits weight loss due to dental issues
The weight loss your rabbit is going through maybe as a result of dental disease. If you observe that your rabbit has got swelling in its jaw or around its mouth, it does not eat as much as it used to, it has wounds or sores in its mouth, or it has problems with its teeth, maybe an overgrown tooth or a tooth that has worn improperly, get your veterinarian to examine it as all these could be reasons for its weight loss.
Treatment will be carried out by your veterinarian, and it depends mainly on what is causing the weight loss. The vet will treat the symptoms the rabbit shows, and pain reliefs and replacement for lost electrolytes could be given, especially when the rabbit is dehydrated and has lost a lot of fluid. The vet will also recommend a proper and balanced diet.
The next thing would be to help the rabbit gain back the weight it has lost. 80 – 85 per cent diet of grass hay should be a rabbit’s staple food. Then fruits and greens can make up the rest. More food should be given to the rabbit to encourage its weight gain. Treats that are safe for it can be offered to the rabbit as well and if it still would not eat, trying a different brand of hay and increasing the quantity of water it drinks might help.
Pellets can serve as a supplement for rabbits that are not eating enough; it should contain a maximum of 14 per cent protein, should not have seeds and nuts; neither should it contain animal fat. In all, the rabbit’s diet should be rich in fibre which is ideal for it and will aid its weight gain.
You can also decide to feed it yourself using a needleless plastic syringe. Afterwards, massage its tummy with your fingers to kick start the digestion process in its gut and help it begin to poop.
It is crucial that you weigh your rabbit from time to time to check its weight gain process and even prevent loss of weight since it will be detected early. The regular kitchen scale can be used by just placing the rabbit in the scale bowl, waiting for it to be still, then weighing.
Alternatively, you can use this method – weigh your rabbit’s carrier  to know its weight, place your rabbit in its carrier and weigh them both, subtract the weight of the carrier from the weight of the rabbit plus the carrier to get the weight of just your rabbit.
Weight loss in rabbits can be easily rectified once it is detected on time; that is why it is good to look your rabbit over once in a while and observe its lifestyle and feeding pattern.
- The Rabbit Carriers [ Link]