2001-Mon Dec 05 07:31:17 EST 2016
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Which species of exotic pets tend to pack on the pounds?
This week, we’re looking at the top five species I treat for obesity.
No. 3 on my list of obesity-prone pets are bunnies!
Dangle a carrot in front of a rabbit, and that bunny should
hop. But if he is overweight, as are many of the pet rabbits I see in my
practice, then he might not be able to. Just as in people, obesity is a large
problem among captive rabbits who eat too much and exercise too little.
When most people think of a rabbit, the image of a lean, muscular animal able to leap and jump high is what many
people conjure up. For many pet rabbits, however, the reality is very
different. Too many pet bunnies are housed in cages barely big enough to turn
around in, and often they come out of their cages for only a few minutes a day.
Although these animals should be offered a predominantly high-fiber diet in the
form of unlimited amounts of hay with some greens, too many are given ad-lib,
high-carbohydrate pellets with only small amounts of hay. Overweight rabbits
are prone to health problems, like other obese animals, but particularly to the
development of hepatic lipidosis, a disease in which excess fat is deposited in
the liver where it interferes with liver function and may even cause death. Fat
bunnies also commonly develop “sore hock,” or ulcers on the bottoms of their
feet, from carrying excess weight. High carbohydrate and fat ingestion by
bunnies can also lead to gastrointestinal (GI) upset and potentially to life-threatening problems.
To prevent weight gain, the rule of thumb is no more than
a quarter cup of pellets per four to five pounds of bunny per day. Also, like all other pets,
rabbits need out-of-cage time daily to exercise and should be encouraged to
climb up ramps and hop onto different levels in their cages to help strengthen their muscles. But remember, before starting any diet or exercise plan with your
bunny, be sure to consult with your veterinarian first to make sure you know
how to help your pet lose weight safely. For example, some long-haired bunnies
may look big, but in fact might be all hair and no fat. Your veterinarian can
help you determine whether your bunny is at a good weight or not.
Tomorrow: rotund rodents!
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