Saturday, June 15, 2013

Loving Bunny to Death

Here at the rescue, we've had unusual number of obese rabbits come in recently.  Let's face it, most rabbits like to eat, and if offered unhealthy treats, they will eat them with enthusiasm!


Dahlia came to us in April from the humane society.
Jasmine also came to us from the humane society.  She and Dahlia were surrendered by the same home.
How does it begin?
You take your new bunny home, and he is just the cutest thing you've ever seen.  He gobbles down his pellets.  He stands up and begs for treats.  How can you resist?  If you haven't done research on proper bunny diet, chances are you are feeding your new friend food that will eventually kill him.

What do you feed your bunny?  Does it say "Fiesta", "Gourmet", or "Garden Blend"?  Does it look anything like this?
Do you feed your bunny treats with corn, yogurt, honey, or seeds?  Do you feed him an entire carrot at a time?  This goes for guinea pigs as well, by the way.

Is the answer yes?  THEN YOU NEED TO CHANGE YOUR BUNNY'S DIET.

A while back, we had a guinea pig surrendered with all of these items.  This is everything you DON'T want to feed your guinea pig.
There are so many wonderful alternatives.  Every time I tell someone they need to wean their rabbit off of these items to a more healthy diet, they are usually horrified at the prospect of not being able to give their pet his "favorite foods".  Are those begging eyes worth an unhealthy life and premature death?  Believe me, bunnies can still be given treats - but HEALTHY ones (in moderation of course)!

Don't forget - our furry friends need plenty of exercise too.  Just like us, if they never get to move around, they gain weight.  Make sure your companion gets plenty of out of cage time each day.  And trade in that little cage for a spacious pen, so they can move around even when they can't be out and about in the house.

How do I know if my bunny is overweight?
The best thing to do is to take your bunny to a rabbit-savvy vet for a checkup.  Your vet can give you guidance on whether your pet is at a healthy weight or not.  For a start however, you can take a look at this guide:

Of course, sometimes you can just tell.
Another recent arrival
But chubby bunnies are cute...
Okay, I'll admit that even all of us "healthy bunny weight" advocates make comments about the cute chubby bunnies.  But we also know that they need to go on a "bunny diet".  The effects of bunny obesity are very real and very hazardous.

According to an article on the House Rabbit Society website, obesity can cause these problems:
  1. Cecal smearing (bunny is not able to reach cecotropes)
  2. Fatty liver disease
  3. Sore feet
  4. Arthritis
  5. Heart problems
  6. Lung problems
  7. Bladder sludge
  8. Difficulties in reading radiographs
  9. More complicated surgery
See the article for more details.  It is an excellent source of information.  Guinea pigs can have many similar problems.  So the next time you find yourself giving in to that cute begging face, remember that list.  Not only is it unpleasant and harmful to your pet, it will also cost you plenty more in vet bills.

Okay, I admit my bunny is overweight.  What do I do about it?
One of the best things to do is talk about any major diet change with your rabbit vet.  You can start by cutting out any unhealthy treats.  Are you someone who feeds lots of carrots?  Carrots actually have a lot of sugar, and that surprises most people.  They should be considered a treat.  Throw out the yogurt drops and honey/seed sticks.  You can stop all pellets for a bit and just feed hay along with their daily salad.  One thing you don't want to do is introduce a bunch of new food at the same time, as this can upset your bunny's digestive system.  Introduce new foods slowly.

In the end, your adult rabbit's diet should look like this:
  1. Unlimited amount of grass hay (timothy, orchard grass, etc. - NOT alfalfa)
  2. A limited amount of high-fiber, low-fat PLAIN pellet.  Use a measuring cup so you know exactly how much your rabbit is getting each day.  HRS recommends 1/4 to 1/2 cup per 6 lbs of body weight for an adult rabbit.  Click this link for details.
  3. A minimum of 2 cups of greens per 6 lbs of body weight.  Again, click this link for HRS recommendations.
  4. HRS recommends no more than 2 oz of fruit per 6 lbs of body weight per day.
Looking for healthy commercial treats?  Try American Pet Diner or the Bunspace Store.  Both have some great bunny treats, and I can tell you my bunnies go bonkers for them.
"Pumpkin Bites" from the Bunspace Store.  Bunnies love these!
Make sure that your pet is getting plenty of exercise.  Throw out the little commercial cage and trade it for a pen.  Give your furry companion several hours of out of cage time each day.  Exercise goes a long way in keeping your pet trim, healthy, and happy.

In short, we all know that it's hard to say "no" to that cute little begging bunny face sometimes, but it's so much better to keep your pet healthy.  Believe me, they will be much happier in the long-term for it.


3 comments:

  1. Great article! There are way too many bunnies out there that look like a sofa cushion with a bunny head stuck on the end. A trim bunny is a healthy bunny.

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  2. Nice post! I guess this is the time to change the diet of my rabbit. I've been feeding her the exact opposite that she wants. Just want to say thank you for sharing this one.

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    Replies
    1. Jeanette, you are so welcome. I am glad this helped you! If you have any further questions about your bunny's diet, you can email me at sarah@pigsnbuns.org - and the House Rabbit Society (www.rabbit.org) also has plenty of wonderful information.

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