Several years ago, my two house rabbits had babies. Luckily for me, it was only two kittens and, luckily for them, they grew up big and strong. Then, when both babies were almost a year old, I noticed the youngest one seemed to be losing weight, while her brother was getting bigger by the day. That’s when I took the baby to my vet to find out what was wrong, and I discovered she had problems with her teeth and it was causing her to eat less.
The vet filed down her teeth and I was told to bring her back in for a check up within a week, but he was also concerned about the weight loss she had sustained as, if she became malnourished, more health problems could emerge. That’s when he told me to attempt to get her to gain weight, and recommended several ways to do so.
If you have an underweight rabbit and need to help her to gain weight, here are a few tricks recommended by my vet that I tried that definitely worked for mine. Only two months after she had her teeth problems fixed and extra food for being underweight, and she was starting to look like she might pass her brother in how big she got.
Oxbow Critical Care – The ‘go to’ product for just about any rabbit owner when their rabbit begins to lose weight is Oxbow Critical Care. It’s a high-calorie recovery food that’s usually given to rabbits either when they’re sick or when they have teeth problems and cannot eat properly.
Made up of a mixture of timothy hay, wheatgerm, molasses, soybean hulls, papaya and a whole slew of vitamins and minerals, it gives a rabbit more calories than it would normally eat in a meal, as well as every vitamin and mineral it needs throughout the day.
All you do is mix it with water and either leave it for your rabbit to eat, or syringe feed her with it if she’s still having problems. Mine would just lick it out of the bowl, although I did only feed her the apple and banana flavored mixture as she seemed to think the anise flavor was vile.
Alfalfa hay – While you shouldn’t normally give alfalfa hay to a rabbit over the age of eight months or so, as it’s high in calories, it’s a great thing to feed an underweight rabbit. Not only will it help them gain weight, but most rabbits absolutely love it as well, making it simple to get them to eat it.
Increase the amount of rabbit pellets – Rabbit pellets are high in calories, which is why many vets (including mine) recommend either not feeding a rabbit pellets at all over the age of eight months, or feeding them just a spoonful every day. Packed with calories as a good quality rabbit pellet is, however, increasing the amount you feed your underweight rabbit can go a long way towards helping him gain weight as long as it’s on a short-term basis.
Just be sure to decrease the amount you feed him once he’s back to normal weight, or he could end up with the opposite problem — being obese. The University of Miami has more information on the correct quantity and type of pellets to feed a healthy rabbit.
Bananas – As bananas are high in sugar, they’re not a particularly good fruit to give a rabbit on a daily basis. However, when you are trying to get your underweight rabbit to gain weight, allowing him a piece or two of banana every day can definitely speed up the process. Just be sure to watch his poops and, if they become a little bit too soft, stop feeding him banana entirely or cut the portion size down to less than half.
Things not to give an underweight rabbit to help them gain weight – While it may be tempting to give an underweight bunny high-calorie or high-carbohydrate things to help them gain weight faster, you really shouldn’t. In fact, any of these things can do more harm than good.
Oatmeal, as it’s carbohydrate packed and can mess with a rabbit’s sensitive digestive systems.
Human food – cookies, bread, snack food, cheese, sugary snacks, milk — anything processed or ‘non-rabbit’ food should never be fed to an underweight bunny.
Sugar or honey – one rabbit owner I know added sugar or honey to her rabbit’s food to get them to gain weight. Needless to say, one of them died, as either of these things can unbalance their digestive systems very quickly and cause them to stop eating.
Bread or toast – Too many carbohydrates that turn into sugar in your rabbit’s body
Too much fruit – a small piece or two is good, anything more is too much
Stick with healthy food and lots of it, and you shouldn’t have any problems getting your underweight rabbit to a more normal weight. Just be patient, as it can take a few months.