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Rabbit Suffers Sudden Weight Loss

What are the common causes for rabbits to stop eating?

Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
Posted: October 26, 2014, 6:40 p.m. EDT

rabbit with food
© Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio
If a rabbit stops eating, it's time for a checkup at the vet's.

Q: My rescued female rabbit, who I think is just a Mini Lop that went over the weight limit, has been losing weight and not eating as well as she should. She is on a good alfalfa diet and gets plenty of fresh grass hay and a little bit of dried clover. She has been drinking water fine, just not eating very well. She is getting very skinny. She hardly has any fat at all and has lost almost a pound in the last three weeks. I have ruled out teeth problems. Could it just be that she is much older than I thought she was? Or something else

A: It is very, very common that when rabbits are sick, they stop eating. This is called a non-specific sign of disease. There is no disease in particular that causes rabbits to stop eating, therefore we need to look further for the cause of disease.

In most rabbits, the first thing we think of when they stop eating is dental disease. Dental disease consists of abnormal teeth both above and below the gumline. Looking at the teeth to see if they are normal does not mean they are disease-free. Only radiographs (X-rays) of the skull can tell us if the roots of the teeth are also disease-free. So even though the teeth may look normal to you, your veterinarian will need to look at radiographs to know if the teeth are truly normal. 

In female rabbits who stop eating, we also look to see if they are spayed. If female rabbits are not spayed, there are many diseases of the genital tract that can cause a rabbit to stop eating. Female genital tract disease, such as uterine adenocarcinoma, is very common in older rabbits. When rabbits are sick with uterine disease, such as cancer, they will stop eating. Sometimes, that is the only sign of disease.

If dental disease and uterine disease are not the cause of the weight loss, then your veterinarian will look into other causes, such as organ diseases, toxins or infectious disease. 

Like this article? Please share it, and check out:
Is Your Rabbit Sick?
One Rabbit Health Issue You Can't Ignore: Proper Diet
Tips For Finding The Right Veterinarian For Your Small Animal Pet

See all rabbit health Q&A
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See all small animal pet health Q&A


Posted: October 26, 2014, 6:40 p.m. EDT

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Rabbit Suffers Sudden Weight Loss

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Reader Comments
My rabbit eats - her pellet food and fresh veggies but very little hay. I know that the hay should make up most of her diet but she has never been a fan. She is 3yrs and seems healthy but I'm worried about the health issues this might cause. I've tried to only give her hay thinking that if she was hungry enough she'd eat it but no. Any suggestions?
Dawn, Langhorne, PA
Posted: 10/29/2014 9:04:22 AM
Why does this article not mention anything about GI disorders i.e. Gut Stasis, intestinal obstructions, megacolon, or simply the fact that physical pain anywhere could cause the rabbit to stop eating?
Maryann, los angeles, CA
Posted: 10/27/2014 2:37:57 PM
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