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As rabbit owners, it’s important to keep an eye on our rabbits’ weight. But it’s not that easy.
For a start, there are many shapes and sizes of rabbits. Your rabbit’s sex and age can affect their weight.
And that’s before we hit the real issue: how to get your rabbit to stay still long enough to actually weigh them
How much should my rabbit weigh?
I could give a you a table of all the breeds and ideal weights for those breeds, but it’s not as easy as that. A lot of us have mixed breeds. I for one have no idea what breeds my rabbit are, except one of them is half Netherland dwarf. As for the other one and a half rabbits, I have no idea.
Instead, look at your rabbit, and feel them, under the guise of giving them lovely strokes. You shouldn’t be able to see your rabbit’s spine and ribs, and you should be able to feel them, but in a nice way. They shouldn’t feel boney and make you shudder a bit when you touch them, but you should be able to feel that there’s bones there.
That being said, a lot of rabbit naturally have boney shoulder blades, which is why feeling this part of a rabbit isn’t a great way of judging if your rabbit is too fat or thin.
How to weigh your rabbit
You can attempt weighing yourself, then weighing yourself plus your rabbit, but a lot of rabbits are too light to make a negligible difference, and unless you have some really fancy-pants scales, you won’t get an accurate measurement.
If you’re pretty sure your rabbit is at a healthy weight, then I wouldn’t be too concerned with weighing your rabbit. You can ask your vet to do it if you’re, for example going in to have their nails trimmed, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it unduly.
My vets are happy to let me take my rabbits in to be weighed for free whenever, but that’s not always the case, and it’s a bit inconvenient if you live far away.
For those of you that are trying to reduce your rabbit’s weight, or increase it (older rabbit can lose a lot of weight and you may want to monitor it) it may be worth investing in a baby scale. They’re around the £50 mark, so only get one if you really want one. They’re not necessary, but they may give you peace of mind if you’re a worrier.
I would set up the scale with a blanket and treats (and then set the scale to 0). If weighing your rabbit is going to be a regular thing, it’ll be so much easier on everyone involved if they enjoy the experience.
How to tell if a rabbit is underweight
If you can see your rabbit’s spine and ribs, it’s underweight. It’s pretty common for rabbit’s to lose weight when they get old, so don’t panic and think you’re a bad rabbit parent.
It’s extremely dangerous for rabbits to stop eating and drinking, so get them to a vet if this is the case. They may have dental issues that needs fixing.
How to help a rabbit gain weight
Should your rabbit just have an age-related drop in appetite, then push them to eat foods higher in protein. You can introduce alfalfa hay, and a few oats given as treats can help to bulk them up.
It’s also worth looking at switching pellets, but don’t automatically grab the ones formulated for older rabbits. Like humans, animal’s weight and appetite can change as they get older, but their appetite is as likely to increase as it is to decrease.
A lot of rabbits start putting on weight as they get older, so pellets designed for older rabbits may be lower in calories. This is also the case with dog food formulated for older dogs.
Compare the nutritional information for the normal pellets and the noes for older buns. If the ones for older rabbits are lower in calories (which is often the case), then try looking at pellets designed for baby rabbits.
These are often high in calories to help baby buns grow big and strong, and help your older rabbit regain some weight.
I only know this because my mum’s whippet lost a lot of weight when she got old so my mum switched onto puppy food – it really helped her gain muscle back, without just making her fat.
George was not greedy – he would happily make his pellets last all day, but couldn’t because his mate (Isobel) was a greedy guts. Yes, we did have to stand guard over him while he was eating because she would steal his pellets.
When George started losing a bit of condition I put him onto baby bunny pellets and it helped to stabilise his weight. ALTHOUGH bunnies are greedy, so you may need to check they don’t go too far the other way.
How to tell if a rabbit is overweight
It’s quite hard o tell if a rabbit is overweight, especially if they’re fluffy. Females have large dewlaps that can make them look overweight (especially if they’re using their dewlap as a pillow).
There’s not a lot of use in weighing your rabbit to determine if they’re overweight. Rabbits vary a lot in body composition, which can skew results. Instead, firmly run your hand over your rabbit’s back (and sides, if they’ll let you).
You should be able to feel their ribs and spine. If you can feel them a bit, your rabbit is fine. If you can’t fell them at all, it’s maybe time to cut back on the pellets.
George was, for no discernible reason, very heavily built. His body was totally solid. he also hated the vet, which was a pain, because he was quite hard to pin down – his whole body was like one big muscle. Except little, because he was a medium-sized Dutch. Vets never saw him coming, bless them.
Anyway, whenever the vets weighed him, he was always abnormally heavy, but clearly not overweight, just muscle. That was probably why it was so obvious when he started losing condition when he got older – he started getting softer as fat replaced muscle.
How to help a rabbit lose weight
I have had to put two of my rabbits on diets. It only worked in one of them, so bear in mind some rabbits just can’t seem to shake their weight. It’s still important to help them not gain any more though.
Cut back on pellets – most people that have had rabbits have overfed pellets. For YEARS we gave our pair of Dutches unlimited pellets. Both George and Alice just ate what they wanted, and ate loads of hay. Great.
It wasn’t until we got a pair of German lops that we realised that unlimited pellets were not the way to go. When I actually researched what rabbit should be eating every day, I was shocked to find out that I should only be giving a few pellets a day.
Those poor bunnies were in for quite the shock.
If your rabbit is very overweight, it’s perfectly fine to cut out pellets entirely.
I did this for six months yet when my old rabbit started putting on a lot of weight and could no longer clean herself properly. She just ate hay and veggies.
Just be aware: once we started reintroducing pellets, she was obsessed with them. I think that if I’d cut them out again she’d have moved out. I’m only half joking.
Why do rabbits get fat necks?
Female rabbits grow a layer of fat under their chins (called a dewlap). When they’re nesting they pull fur from their dewlap to line their nest. It’s also a comfy pillow on which to sleep.
Don’t worry if your rabbit has a dewlap – they’re totally normal – but I’ve noticed they can create problems for older rabbits.
We had to switch to a water bottle for one of my elderly buns (she’d previously used both interchangeably, so it was fine) because she couldn’t drink without getting her dewlap soaked. Since she spent the majority of the time asleep her dewlap couldn’t dry quickly enough, and if left unchecked, this can result in fur loss and skin infection.
Final thoughts on rabbit weight
There’s no ideal weight I give you for a rabbit. Just like humans, weight depends on a variety of factors, such as age, sex, and body composition. It’s not as easy as ‘your rabbit should weigh x pounds’.
That being said, weight has a real effect on a rabbit’s health, so make sure that your rabbit doesn’t get so thin that you can see their ribs and spine, but also not so fat that you can no longer feel their ribs and spine.