No, rabbits don’t stop eating when they’re full. They’re grazers by nature and this can be a problem – a rabbit will keep eating as long as there’s something to eat in front of them. This means they’ll eat more than the recommended portion for a balanced diet and is an issue as they would eat poisonous and harmful foods without realizing it.
Rabbits will register when they’re full, but that won’t stop them from continuing to eat. Rabbits can’t throw up, so anything they eat has to go through their digestive system and be pooped out.
As well as making sure that your rabbit doesn’t over-eat, you need to watch out for if they stop eating. A rabbit losing their appetite is a sign that something is seriously wrong.
Read on to find out the risks of rabbits overeating, how to prevent it, and more!
Risks of Rabbits Overeating
Both wild and domesticated rabbits will be in danger of overeating. Wild rabbits don’t have the convenience of being fed twice per day so they’ll eat when they can find food and seek out high-calorie foods.
With domesticated rabbits, their diet is reliant on their owner. This can be good for several reasons, but a combination of too much food and the wrong type of food invites a bunch of problems that come from overeating.
Risks of overeating in rabbits:
- Obesity: When your rabbit gains weight. This can cause further complications such as difficulty grooming themselves and more limited movement.
- Tooth decay: Regularly eating sugary foods can lead to your rabbit’s teeth rotting, overgrowing, and requiring dental treatment from a vet.
- Heart problems: Linked to obesity, overeating can put too much pressure on the heart, leading to problems like atherosclerosis and in the worst cases, heart failure.
- Urinary tract problems: Eating too much calcium can make your rabbit have urinary tract problems. This would cause them a lot of discomfort for your rabbit.
- Imbalance of gut bacteria: By eating too many sugars and fermented food, rabbits can struggle with their bowl – either with constipation or diarrhea.
- Gastrointestinal stasis: Eating the wrong type of foods can hinder the digestional process. Rabbits need a specific diet to keep their guts moving – if this movement stops they can deteriorate quickly, with some cases being fatal.
What Should a Rabbit Eat
A rabbit needs to eat a healthy balanced diet.
There are five areas that you should focus on that together create the perfect diet for your rabbit to get all the sustenance, vitamins, and minerals that they need.
Your rabbit needs:
- Hay: Fiber-rich hay is the staple of a rabbit’s diet. They need to have an unlimited supply of hay as it’s important to keep their digestion moving.
- Fresh vegetables: Your rabbit needs a variety of vegetables every day. This is around one cup worth per rabbit, and one portion, for example, could be kale, watercress, spinach, romaine lettuce, and rocket.
- Pellets: To top off your rabbit’s diet you could give them a handful of store-bought pellets that contain fiber and nutrients. This should be an extra, not the main part of their diet.
- Treats: Rabbits can enjoy treats once or twice per week. The best treats are fresh fruits like apple slices or bananas (rather than treats from the store).
- Water: The final part of a rabbit’s diet should be fresh drinking water. They should have access to water at all times. For advice on rabbit’s drinking, check out our post about what rabbits can drink.
What Does it Mean if My Rabbit Doesn’t Want to Eat?
If your rabbit won’t eat, isn’t eating as much as normal, or is refusing treats, then something is seriously wrong. Other signs of a problem include lethargy, a change in toilet habits, and losing weight.
The only times that a rabbit refuses food is if they’re in pain or sick. The best thing to do in this situation is to get in touch with a vet to quickly identify what’s wrong.
A vet can give your rabbit fluids, hydration, and pain relief. Once they work out the cause of the problem, they can treat it accordingly.
How Long Can Rabbits Go Without Eating?
Technically, a rabbit could go for around three days with no food – but after twelve hours they could have developed severe gastrointestinal issues.
Not eating for any period of time can lead to Gastrointestinal stasis. This problem is highly dangerous. Once a rabbit’s metabolism slows down and then stops, they’ll lose their appetite.
After this, bacteria builds up in their intestine, and a gas is released into their system. This leads to painful bloating. Anything in the digestive tract will become more compact and can cause obstructions.
GI stasis can be caused by:
- Eating high starch, low fiber foods all the time.
- Stress for example losing a companion, a change in environment, or predators.
- Pain from underlying health issues like dental issues or urinary infections.
- A lack of exercise.
Signs of GI stasis include:
- Lost appetite.
- Not popping.
- Sitting in a hunched position and teeth grinding.
- If they do poop, it’s small or oddly shaped.
If you suspect that your rabbit has GI stasis, it’s a medical emergency and your rabbit will need to be taken to a vet ASAP. This is time-sensitive as it can be fatal so the faster they can be treated, the better.
How Can My Rabbit Lose Weight?
If your rabbit is overweight, there are a few things you can do to help them. The first is increasing their exercise – by encouraging them to be more active they can burn off extra calories. You can also cut out the pellets in their diet and cut back on sugary treats. Another thing to do is to measure the food portions to make sure you’re not giving them too much.
What Are Common Reasons for a Rabbit to Lose Their Appetite?
If your rabbit has lost their appetite, it’s probably because there’s an underlying health condition. This could be a parasite, abscess, infection, respiratory disease, ulcer, or something else entirely. Your best option here is to take them to a vet as soon as you can.