Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS
I have a Lionhead rabbit that is about 3 months old. He has been eating, but he is really skinny and his yellowish gold fur is now turning white. Do you have any idea what could be wrong?
It is not common for a rabbit to be eating but to remain thin, especially a young rabbit. As serious an issue as this can be, usually, we can swiftly find the cause of this poor body condition.
Only a few disorders result in a rabbit becoming so thin. Is there competition for food and is this rabbit on the losing end of that competition? If you have multiple rabbits, the other rabbits could be eating most of the meals or possibly eating the most calorie-rich part of the meals and leaving scraps for this rabbit to eat.
Rabbits with dental disease may appear to be eating well but instead they are just picking up food and dropping it back on to the floor because it is too painful to chew. It is painful to chew due to points from overgrown areas on the teeth sticking into the sides of the mouth with every bite they take.
If your rabbit is eating a normal amount with no food competition and his teeth look normal, then I would check to make sure the food is appropriate. A food with too few calories or too few nutrients specific for rabbits could lead to weight loss.
Finally, if there is a gastrointestinal problem, the ingested food will not be digested. This leads to a loss of calories, which leads to a loss of nutrients that causes weight loss and other manifestations of not absorbing the nutrients necessary for good health. One consequence of that is a change in hair coat color and texture, possibly as you have already observed.
Parasites can steal away calories and other nutrients. Although severe parasitic infestations are uncommon in pet rabbits, they do occur and can lead to the signs you are seeing in your rabbit.
Fortunately, all of the conditions I have mentioned can be diagnosed by your veterinarian and, in most cases, successfully treated to allow your rabbit to have a normal quality of life.