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