Rabbits/Skinny Rabbit


QUESTION: I would like to start of by saying he has been to the vet several times and nothing has been found.

I have a 6 month old holland lop male. I have had him for 3 months and he has always been this skinny. You can feel every single bone in his body. He doesn't have a problem eating or drinking or pooping or peeing. He isn't very energetic though. He will run around but not for long. But I am unsure if that is because he is so skinny or because he is mostly blind.

My question is do you have any suggestions on helping him gain weight? He is on Oxbow Timothy pellets unlimited and Timothy hay unlimited. Plus he gets daily vegetables and a few treats every now and then.

My vet has only told me to bump up his food intake. He does have a great appetite but he is extremely scary skinny. I have taken him to the vet a total of 17 times and to 4 different vets and none of them have found a medical reason for his skinniness.

ANSWER: Dear Cassondra

I know you say that four vets have "not found anything wrong," but you don't mention what tests have been done.  Many vets who are not experienced with rabbits might not know what to look for.

Are the four vets actually rabbit-expert vets?  I think someone needs to have a look deep in to his mouth to check for molar spurs, and most vets have no idea how to do this.  

Are you absolutely sure he is eating, or is he mainly *trying* to eat and is not really able?  Sometimes a bunny appears to be eating and having a good appetite, but isn't really getting his food down.

Holland Lops are notorious for having molar problems that interfere with proper eating, and a bunny may have a great appetite but not be able to properly prehend and ingest food.  I would suggest for now that you change him to an alfalfa-based pellet and try "fluffing" the pellets by letting them stand in warm water (or chamomile tea) for about 5 minutes before serving.  He may find those easier to chew until you find a vet who can do a very thorough dental exam.  Please also see:


and find an experienced rabbit vet here:


If the teeth are fine, then bun needs to have blood drawn to check his liver and kidney function.  Again, you'll need an experienced rabbit vet who can do this safely:  techniques for blood draw in rabbits are different from dogs and cats, and force should never be used if the bunny struggles.  Light sedation is preferable to forcible restraint for procedures like this.

You might also try to get him some Oxbow Critical Care (or American Pet Diner Critter Be Better) and syringe feed him to be sure he's getting enough food.  Try adding a bit of banana or rolled oats to his diet, being sure to add these things gradually to be sure to allow his intestinal flora to adjust to the new types of foods.

I hope this helps for starters.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: The first vet I went to wasn't very rabbit savvy. He treated rabbits but it was mostly based on what he learned as he went.

The other three I travelled quite a distance because they are rabbit savvy. There are only two vets in my town so I had to go pretty far (2 hour drive) for 2 of the vets and out of state for the other one.

The first thing all 3 did was check his teeth as they had the same suspicion but his teeth are fine.

Blood was drawn at the last 3 vets but the last one the results have not came back yet. On the first two I was told that all of his results are normal. The only thing that was a little off was the glucose level but was told that is likely from the stress of being at the vet.

He is definitely eating. He isn't housed with my other two rabbits so he has his own bowls I filly his pellets and hay up in the morning and when I come home from work they are usually empty or almost empty. Then I give him his vegetables and he eats those while I clean his litter box.

I will get a bag of alfalfa pellets today and change him over to those. I have critical care but never thought to give it to him since he eats on his own.

Dear Cassondra,

Wow.  Sounds like they've really done the works on him.  So it's GOOD that his teeth and organs are fine.  

I think just upping his caloric intake is what needs to happen.  Free choice alfalfa pellets for  the moment, and a few high-calorie treats spread throughout the day so you don't overload his little system.

I hope it works.  (We should all have his problem!  8P )



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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:

...it is an EMERGENCY.

Find a rabbit vet at www.rabbit.org/vet for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.

RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.


I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology

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