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Rabbits/Rabbit sudden weight loss



I have a male holland lop rabbit named Basil, he turned 3 years old in June and I purchased him last May. He's lived outside the whole time I've had him but I just recently put him in my garage because of the weather, I live in MN so it gets very cold here. I have a carbon monoxide detector in my garage and the garage isn't heated so his water bottle would freeze. He just recently would drink from it constantly, it seemed like he drank a lot but it would freeze so he might of been drinking so much because he didn't always have water.

Last Friday I put in a heated water bottle, it has a different end to drink out of than his normal water bottle but all of my other rabbits have adjusted to is so I assumed he would. Yesterday I noticed that there wasn't very much water gone from it and I haven't seen him drinking.

I feed him 1/2 cup of pen pals 16% rabbit pellets, unlimited hay, and sometimes veggies. This winter he's been eating less but I assumed this was because he hasn't been getting a lot of exercise, he's been is his cage most of the time. I haven't gave him veggies in a while and yesterday and this past weekend I noticed he hasn't really ate much of his pellets or hay or drank much.

I was holding him and he felt very skinny and scrawny, I can feel his bones so I weighed him and he's about 2 lbs. He seemed healthy and normal not long ago and he used to weigh almost 3 lbs so he's lost about a pound. All of my other holland lops are well over 3 lbs so the fact that he only weighs 2 lbs doesn't seem normal or healthy. I also heard him wheezing once and he sneezed a few times, his face is also like wet.

Yesterday I decided to bring him inside my house and he ate veggies and pellets last night and he was drinking water from the bowl. All of my other rabbits are acting normal (I have 3 rabbits besides him)

Like I said, he's lost around a pound in a short amount of time and he just seems sickly, not very active or playful. Im not sure if he has a a disease or something? He's not neutered and like I said all my other rabbits are acting and look normal. The only other thing I could think of is that my friend brought her female rabbit over and tried to breed her with Basil but he wouldn't breed so she put her rabbit in with one of my other bucks. I don't know if he caught a disease or something from this rabbit because all my other rabbits are acting normal. I don't want to bring him to the vet unless this is serious because the vet is like 2 hours from me so any advice on what I should do at this point would be great!

Hi Kylie:

Thank you for giving me as much information as you did.  I'm sure you don't realize it, but the problem and solution are both the same - Water ☺

Rabbits are very finicky about their water and the manner in which its delivered.  A sudden change can cause some rabbits to stop drinking.  In addition, rabbits cannot move food through their digestive track without water so when a rabbit stops drinking, it also stops eating and they can go down hill very fast from that point.

I understand your situation with winter temps.  I live in CT and my rabbits are kept outside all year round.  They are in wire cages with corrugated plastic over the top of each cage to keep out the rain/snow.  They stay out year round, including winter.  Our winter temps get as cold as -10 with wind chill factors of -30 and like MN, we get heavy snow falls, ice storms and howling winds.  The cold doesn't bother them a bit, they all have rabbit fur coats on!  In the winter, their coat thickens and so does the layer of fat between the coat and their skin.
I've been raising rabbits in the same location for 38 years not and the only challenge winter causes is as you know - water.  I also tried the heated water bottles and was not very happy with them.  In cold enough temps, the ball at the tip does freeze even if the water in the bottle is melted.  

The only method I found that keeps the rabbits drinking and eating is to use bowls/crocks and bring water out 2x per day; sometimes 3.  Unfortunately, some of the water freezes between water changes which (used to) mean cracking the ice out of each crock and refilling.  Time consuming and difficult.  However, I've made a change to make it easier.  I use the snap-lock crocks; 8oz.  I put 3 in each cage and fill each one only half way at each trip out.  When I go out to bring new water, I bring very warm; almost hot water and pour it over the ice in the crocks and the warm; hot water melts the ice so it doesn't need to be cracked and removed and the ice cools the hot water down to a nice soothing warm temp and the rabbits love it!  They like the warm water far better than cold water so they typically drink about half of each crock so the next time I go out, I again bring warm;nearly hot water, pour it over the ice and the cycle continues.  Since the water is warm, it takes longer to freeze so they have a longer time to drink before it freezes.

This is the method I've been using for the last 25 of my 38 years of rabbit raising and the only solution I've found that guarantees the rabbit to have melted water at all times.
Remember, rabbits keep warm by burning energy.  That energy comes from the protein in their food.  If they don't have water; or wont drink from the water source they have #perhaps because they don't like it.....) then they don't eat either and if they don't eat, they don't stay warm and can go down hill fast.  On that note, perhaps you already know it - but pellet rations should be increased by 25%-30% in the winter for the extra energy bunnies need to stay warm.  They burn far more calories in the winter.

So, for your bunny that doesn't like the heated water bottle, switch to crocks and follow the method I listed above.  Also, while you are out bringing him water, check the tip of the bottle on every other rabbit cage; in my experience with the heated water bottles the tip can freeze at times and then the rabbit cant drink.  My suggestion would be to use crocks in every cage, but if you are happy with the heated bottles on some of the cages, just use crocks in the cage of the problem bunny :)

Best of luck and health to you and your bunny and have a very happy and hoppy holiday season.

Lisa L.


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Lisa L.


I was introduced to meat rabbits at the age of 3. Began working with them on my own at the age of 8 and started my own large commercial rabbitry at the age of 20. I'm 46 now and for the past 26 years I have owned a large herd of meat rabbits and have become well known as the turn-to person whenever a problem arrises.

Member of the American Rabbit Breeders Association. Member of the Rabbit Industry Council. Member of the Yahoo - Meat Rabbits Group. Member of the American Council of Animal Naturopathy. Administrators of the FaceBook "Rabbit's as meat" group. Owner of Yahoo - Raising Meat Rabbit's for maximum yield group

Yahoo Meat Rabbits Group. American Council of Animal Naturopathy FaceBook "Rabbit's as meat" group. Owner of Yahoo - Raising Meat Rabbit's for maximum yield group

There is no formal training for raising rabbits; its all hands on. I have had a steady rabbit breeding operation for 24 years and have read every book there is on raising rabbits for meat. Additionally, I am a member of several rabbit groups and associations as listed below.

Awards and Honors
None - there are none in this field.

Past/Present Clients
I have helped countless people over the past several decades. These have been people I knew personally or those referred to me by one of the many rabbit organizations I belong to.

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