Lapis ISSN 2398-2969


Contributor(s): Anna Meredith, Glen Cousquer, Virginia Garner-Richardson


  • Obesity can be defined as a disease in which excessive body fat has accumulated to the point where the health of the animal is, or may be, adversely affected.
  • Many pet rabbits are fed an inappropriate diet and have insufficient opportunity to exercise; this imbalance can lead to weight gain and obesity.
  • Obesity can be diagnosed when an animal is 20% above the recommended weight for its size and build.
  • Weight gain occurs when the energy intake exceeds the energy expenditure, resulting in the deposition of fat in various sites around the body.
  • The metabolizable energy (ME) requirement for a rabbit is calculated in the same way as for a dog or cat:
    • ME (kcal/day) = 100 x W(exp0.75).
    • Where100is the adult maintenance coefficient, andWis the weight of the animal in kg.

Print-off the Owner factsheetsFeeding your rabbit  Feeding your rabbit  ,Obesity in your rabbit  Obesity in your rabbit  andRabbits need exercise!  Rabbits need exercise   to give to your clients.

Risk factors

  • Domestication.
  • Ready access to food.
  • Inappropriate diet.
  • Snacks.
  • Limited opportunites to exercise.
  • Arthritis and other conditions that limit exercise.

Clinical problems associated with obesity

  • Obesity is linked to hepatic lipidosis, kidney degeneration and the development of heart disease (associated with arteriosclerosis).
  • Obese overfed rabbits are more likely to suffer from chronic soft stools ('sticky bottom syndrome')   Sticky bottom syndrome  . This can be caused in two ways:
    • They produce more cecotrophs   Feces: cecotrophs  than they need, and they may be physically unable to practice cecotrophy.
    • They may produce normal amounts of cecotrophs but prefer to eat the food given to them, or are satiated and refuse to eat the cecotrophs.
  • On a low fiber fiet, cecotrophs may be much softer than normal and the rabbit is unable to eat them efficiently, leading to accummulation of soft cecotrophs around the perineum.
  • Sticky bottom syndrome   Sticky bottom syndrome  leads to an increased risk of blowfly miasis (fly strike)   Fly strike    Fly strike 01    Fly strike 02  .
  • Obese rabbits may be more prone to the development of spondylosis.
  • Obese rabbits are generally inactive, which is a contributory factor in the development of osteoporosis, and these rabbits are more susceptible to spinal fractures and dislocations   Spinal injury  . Inactivity may also increase the likelihood of heart disease.
  • Pododermatitis   Ulcerative pododermatitis (Bumble foot)      Pododermatitis: sore hocks 01    Pododermatitis: sore hocks 02  , urine scalding and moist dermatitis of skin folds, eg dewlap, are more common in obese rabbits (but other factors may be involved such as unhygienic conditions, inappropriate hutch flooring, etc).
  • Show rabbits that are bought as pets generally gain more weight than their breed average, and subsequently their metal identification ring may become too tight and damage the leg   Wound: necrosis - identification ring  .

Reference weights of common breeds

Care should be taken in using reference weights as they are simply averages for a specific (often unspecified) population and may not apply to any given individual. They can, however, serve as a working guideline or starting point whilst remembering that the patient is always an individual and should be treated as such.

For reference weights of other breeds, find the specific information for that breed by keyword, index or directory search.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Stapleton N (2014) The chubby bunny: a closer look at obesity in the pet rabbit. Vet Nurse 5 (6), 312-319 VetMedResource.
  • Sweet H, Pearson A J, Watson P J et al (2013) Novel zoometric index for assessing body composition in adult rabbits. Vet Rec 173 (15), 369 PubMed.
  • Courcier E A, Mellor D J, Pendlebury E et al (2012) Preliminary investigation to establish prevalence and risk factors for being overweight in pet rabbits in Great Britain. Vet Rec 171 (8), 197 PubMed.
  • Meredith A (2012) Is obesity a problem in pet rabbits? Vet Rec 171 (8), 192-193 PubMed.
  • German A (2010) Obesity in companion animals. In Pract 32 (2), 42-50 VetMedResource.
  • Mitsuguchi U, Ito T & Ohwada K (2008) Pathologic findings in rabbit models of hereditary hypertriglyceridemia and hereditary postprandial hypertriglyceridemia. Comp Med 58 (5), 465-480 PubMed.
  • Zhang X J, Chinkes D L, Aarsland A et al (2008) Lipid metabolism in diet-induced obese rabbits is similar to that of obese humans. J Nutr​ 138 (3), 515-518 PubMed.
  • Carroll J F, Summers R L, Dzielak D J (1999) Diastolic compliance is reduced in obese rabbits. Hypertension 33 (3), 811-815 PubMed.
  • Carroll J F, Dwyer T M, Grady A W et al (1996) Hypertension, cardiac hypertrophy and neurohumoral activity in a new animal model of obesity. Am J Physiol 271 (1 Pt 2), H373-378 PubMed.
  • Hillyer E V (1994) Pet rabbits. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 24 (1), 25-65 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Bonanno A et al (2008) Body Condition Score and Related Reproductive Reponses in Rabbit Does. In: Proc 9th World Rabbit Congress. pp 297-301.
  • Bonanno A et al (2005) Assessment of a method for evaluating the body condition of Lactating Rabbit Does: Preilminary Results. In: Proc 16th ASPA Congress(Suppl 2), pp 560.
  • Sandford J C (1996) The Domestic Rabbit. Blackwell Science Ltd, Oxford.