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28-08-2012 | Veterinary medicine | Article

Risk factors for obesity in pet rabbits similar to those in other animals


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medwireNews: Companion rabbits that are female and neutered are more likely to be overweight than their male, entire counterparts, report UK researchers who highlight that these are similar risk factors for overweight as have been previously seen in cats and dogs.

The finding provides evidence to support "a common etiology," remark Emily Courcier and colleagues, from the University of Glasgow, in Veterinary Record.

Obesity in pets is a well-recognized welfare concern, says the team; however, data for rabbits are lacking. Indeed, in an associated editorial, Anna Meredith, from the University of Edinburgh in the UK, comments that as with other companion animals, "rabbit owners may not appreciate what is a normal or ideal bodyweight or condition for their pet."

Courcier and co-workers report their findings from a study of 41 primary companion animal practices in the UK that sought associations between age, breed, gender, and neutered status of rabbits presenting at the clinics, and whether they were overweight or obese at 11 time points between 2008 and 2010.

Data on 157 rabbits were analyzed, and showed that three-quarters (76%) of rabbits were ideal weight (as graded on a 5-point scale by attending veterinarians), while 7.6% were overweight and none were obese.

Perhaps notably, 20 rabbits were underweight and five were very underweight, an observation that should not be ignored according to Meredith.

The rabbits were aged a median of 1.5 years, with 41% aged between 8 months and 2.5 years. Entire males made up 52% of the rabbit cohort, while 37% were entire females.

While the percentage of overweight animals differed by age group, these differences were nonsignificant, report the authors. Similarly there were no significant associations between gender and overweight although there was a trend for more overweight female rabbits than males, at 11% versus 6%.

Neuter status did reveal a significant association with weight, however; neutered rabbits were 5.4 times more likely to be overweight than their entire counterparts, say Courcier et al.

"Recognised health problems in rabbits that are perceived to be associated with being overweight or obese include myiasis (fly infestation), due to reluctance or inability to ingest caecotrophs and keep the perianal area clean, pododermatitis, pregnancy toxaemia, hepatic lipidosis and gastrointestinal stasis," comments Meredith.

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Sarah Guy, medwireNews Reporter