Hepatic Lipidosis: why weight has to come off slowly

by Wolf May 27, 2016

obese rabbit, fat rabbit, overweight rabbit

Photo credit: Hockheng

Losing weight is a great step toward health for any overweight animal.  Too much weight often leads to heart issues, diabetes (yes, small animals can and do get diabetes!), increases in bone and joint problems, liver issues, pancreatic problems, arthritis, and other nasties. (You may want to check out our last post, about poopy bum).

BUT…it is very important to lose that weight slowly.  We hear a lot about the dangers of too much weight, but we don’t hear that much about what happens when our good intentions are a little too fast-paced.

A short description of the “science”: as we feed fewer calories, and less sugary treats, glucose absorption along the GI tract decreases.  So does the amount of fatty acids in the caecum.  That throws our animals into hypoglycemia, which causes the release of fatty acids stored in tissue (fat deposits).  These fatty acids then make their way to the liver and begin to build up.  As the liver tries to metabolize this overabundance of fatty acids,  it produces way too many ketones, the liver pathways are clogged, the liver fails.

A rabbit, for instance, should lose no more than 1-2% of their body weight per week, so it can take quite a number of months to get to that target weight. It is important to give the caecal bacteria time to adjust.  The delicate balance of the rabbit GI tract can be thrown out of whack, and then we end up with hurty tummies, gooey caecotrophs, possible obstructions, and liver failure.

None of our small friends like their diets changed radically, and  most of them are quite resistant to change.  A sudden change in lunch may case your friend to go on a hunger strike.  No fiber moving through the system is bad.  Very, very bad.  Again, we are risking gas, bloating, obstructions, stasis and liver failure.

So now you understand why weight loss has to be done slowly.  What can you do, though, to get those ounces off gently?  Atkins won’t work for your rabbit, but we’ve got some weight loss guidelinescoming right up!



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