Recently we’ve seen an increase in overweight rabbits entering the shelter. This can be due to being fed the wrong diet or to being shut in a small hutch with little or no exercise. Rabbits are very intelligent animals and should have a large hutch and access to a large run at all times to stop them from becoming bored and depressed!
Rabbits need a diet full of fibre to stay healthy. Their main diet should consist of grass and hay, but other food items such as commercial pellets and fruit and vegetables can be fed as well. To provide a balanced diet for a rabbit it should be receiving unlimited amounts of hay and/or grass, at least a mug full of vegetables, mainly leafy greens and/or safe and washed wild plants, 1-2 small (1”) pieces of fruit and 1 table spoon of grass based pellets (2 for giant breeds) daily. Foods meant for humans, such as biscuits, can not only cause rabbits to become overweight but make them very ill, items such as biscuits contain dairy products and flour which rabbits can’t digest.
Rabbits are social animals that need a lot of space, so the amount of space needed depends on the number of rabbits that will live in the enclosure. A pair of rabbits will appreciate a 10ftx6ft enclosure with a 6ftx2ftx2ft hutch, obviously if bigger can be provided then the better. A larger group of rabbits will need a larger area to live in. Rabbits should be able to stretch up right on their hind legs without their ears being flattened by a roof, this should be taken in to account when choosing accommodation. The amount of space also depends on breed of rabbit, for example a continental giant will need much more space than a Netherland dwarf. You know your rabbits are happy when they binky everywhere!
Problems with obesity
When a rabbit is overweight there are a lot of heath issues that may appear. As well as shortening the rabbits lifespan the rabbit may encounter problems cleaning itself, leading to fly strike, overgrown claws due to lack of movement and an unhealthy gut due to not being able to eat its caecotrophs and/or being fed things that is bad for it. Rabbits will be much happier and healthier kept at the correct weight and fed limited healthy treats along with unlimited grass and hay and a small amount of pellets to maintain a good weight. healthy weights will vary between different breeds and size of rabbit.