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OBESITY in companion animals is a well-recognised welfare concern (Ellis 1990, German 2006). Rabbit obesity has been anecdotally associated with several health disorders of rabbits such as myiasis, pododermatitis, pregnancy toxaemia, gastrointestinal stasis and ileus (Harcourt-Brown 2002). There is little peer-reviewed literature describing pet rabbit obesity or identifying potential risk factors for the condition. This study aimed to use a first-opinion clinical database to describe the prevalence of obesity in rabbits and identify demographic risk factors associated with obesity.
The data were collected from a national database consisting of 41 primary companion animal practices from a large veterinary group in Great Britain. Data consisted of body condition score (BCS), sex/neutered status, age, location and country (England, Scotland or Wales) of practice, and date of birth of rabbits presenting at 11 equally spaced time points throughout 2008 and 2010.
The rabbits' BCS was rated at each veterinary consultation using a five point scale (1 = Very underweight, 2 = Underweight, 3 = Ideal, 4 = Overweight, 5 = Obese) by the attending veterinarian. Overweight/obese animals were defined as animals with a BCS of 4 or 5 while non-overweight animals were classed as all animals with a BCS of 3 or under. As there are no published guidelines giving age ranges for different life stages, the authors defined age categories, derived from date of birth and consultation dates, as less than eight months – juveniles, eight months to 2.5 years – adults, 2.5 to five years – older adults, and five years and over – geriatric, based on …