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Rabbit Care 101: Recognizing Obesity in Rabbits

An important part of your rabbit's care is keeping her at a healthy weight. A variety of factors—including age, breed and gender—play an important part in determining your rabbit's ideal weight, so it's wise to begin by asking your veterinarian to help you gauge your rabbit's condition. Then, follow these tips on rabbit care to keep your rabbit at her ideal weight:

Learn how to identify your rabbit's ideal weight

Regularly examine your rabbit. You should be able to feel your rabbit's ribs underneath his skin and fat layer. Also, as you run your hands along your rabbit's side, when you get to the ends of his rib cage, there should be a slight inward slope. Once you've established a baseline understanding of what the ideal weight feels like, you'll be able to more easily notice when or if your rabbit is becoming overweight.

Provide your rabbit a balanced diet

To an extent, the dangers of obesity in rabbits mimic those in people: respiratory and heart disease, skin problems, arthritis and lethargy. An effective combination of diet and exercise can help keep your rabbit at an ideal weight—or help him achieve that goal. Taking extreme measures to induce immediate weight loss is not healthy.

If your veterinarian determines that your rabbit is overweight, ask for advice as to the proper amounts to feed him each day. Discuss his current diet and the amount of pellets, hay, vegetables and fruits that you currently provide daily. Treats should never exceed 10 percent of your rabbit's total diet.

Next, prepare a game plan for moving forward into a healthier lifestyle for your bunny by incorporating the new plan into your rabbit's daily diet. Focus on feeding a balanced diet based on your veterinarian's recommendations. While pellet-only diets are not the best option, you may need to avoid feeding your rabbit fruits and non-leafy vegetables if he is already obese. Instead, focus on feeding more hay and leafy greens until he reaches a more ideal weight

Give your rabbit plenty of exercise opportunities

Encourage your bunny to exercise on a daily basis. With a little coaxing even the most stubborn couch potato will enjoy moving around. Indoor exercise—such as playing games or exploring a room in your home that has been sufficiently rabbit-proofed—can be a great way to increase your rabbit's level of exercise in a safe and pleasant manner.

While playtime in your backyard might sound like an optimal way to encourage your rabbit to stretch his legs, you'll need to provide a secure habitat to protect him from predators and ensure that he remains safely contained. Also be aware of environmental factors such as pests, sun, wind and extreme temperatures.

Finally, if you're letting your rabbit exercise on grass (or taking him for a walk on a leash in a grassy area), you'll want to be absolutely sure that the grass has not been sprayed with any type of chemical that could prove harmful to him. And always remember: Never leave your rabbit unattended outdoors, even in a secure habitat.

By incorporating healthy eating guidelines, recognizing weight changes ad providing safe outlets for exercise, you'll help your rabbit to maintain a healthy weight and avoid the dangers that can result from obesity.