Administration of drugs:

the conformation of the rabbit body can be misleading...




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Breed rabbits have different body shapes, according to their breed. The same is observed in house or pet rabbits. Some rabbits may have a long, slender body that gives them a slim appearance. Others have a short and broad body, which may be confused with obesity. These rabbits are, however, not obese.

It is important to be aware of the different characteristics of breed-rabbit’s bodies, recognize the body shape of a pet rabbit and, when possible, associate it to a possible breed by observing its body type and its fur. If a veterinarian concludes that a rabbit with a short broad body is obese, he may increase the doses of drugs, e.g., of sedatives as these accumulate in the fat tissues, or of anesthetics. As a result, overdoses can lead to grave consequences for the rabbit, and can rarely be deadly. Indeed, too high doses of sedative can leave the rabbit hypothermic and apathetic after the surgical procedure, without appetite and wish to drink over the next 24 hours.


In October 2011, my rabbit "Bunny» needed filing of a tooth that was misaligned. In the past years, this procedure had been done with success twice already, the first one when he was about 5 years of age. In both times he recovered fast from the anesthesia, was lively and behaved normally shortly after the procedure.

In October 2011 Bunny suffered from diarrhea so I took him to be checked up. He was examined by a veterinarian that didn't know Bunny. Same veterinary clinic. Upon examination he told me that Bunny is extremely obese, and it is the tooth that causes it. So we fixed a date for intervention in 2 days’ time.

I have left Bunny in the clinic to have this smaller dental intervention knowing he had it before and recovered beautifully. When I came to collect Bunny from the veterinarian clinic I was shocked by his poor condition. He was lethargic and kept falling onto his back. I was very much alarmed by this and the vet explained that he had to administer a large dose of anesthetics because the rabbit was out of control, aggressive and wild. This came as a surprise since Bunny is known by his calm disposition and cooperative behavior with humans, vets included.

The vet reassured me that there is no reason to be alarmed, and I took Bunny home.

Bunny was in such a poor state and I feared for his life. I contacted the owner of, who was very kind and helpful. She advised me to put Bunny in a cage and cover his body with towel to keep him warm. I did what she told me, I think it helped Bunny a lot since he stayed put under the cover. I sat with Bunny all night observing him. I feared for his life. It took him a long 24 hours to wake up to a semi lively stage, after which I opened the cage and let him roam free in the flat. He was very wobbly and unstable on his feet. Only after 48 hours he resumed his full stability and started to behave as he does normally.

It was a very frightful experience. I do believe that Bunny almost died because of over medication and misunderstanding his body type, that is compact round and short, with shoulder as broad as his hips, led to the false diagnosis of obesity. I was upset that no one told me at the vet’s office to keep bunny warm, I guess they didn't realize the severity of his condition.

Since then, Bunny had his teeth filed 2 times more, the most recent one, took place last month with no problems. However, with another vet...

Iris Hadar – Switzerland    

Bunny, an 8 year old male castrated rabbit, very active, has a short and solid body that the vet confused with obesity.

The definition of a rabbit type includes size, weight and general aspect as seen from the side, the front and from the top. This latter parameter includes an examination of all body regions: head, abdomen and limbs. All these parameters put together help define the body type of a rabbit. Six distinct types have been defined based on the various rabbit breeds: the slender type, the cylindrical type, the conical type, the ultra-convex type, le short or stocky and the long slim type. Pet rabbits, whose origins or who had mixed parents may present a mix of body types. It is important to recognize these, and not consider the rabbit as obese.

Long svelte type

This type is characterized by the Belgian hare. The body is slender. The spine line is arched and the curvature continues from the shoulders to the tail. When viewed from the side, there is no sagging of the ventral abdomen. The dorsal line is parallel to the ventral line, giving a spindly appearance to the body. The front limbs are straight and long. Bones are delicate. During palpation, it is possible to feel the ribs and the hips.

Arie van Praag

The long svelte body type is well-illustrated by these young Belgian hares.

Commercial type

Rabbits with a commercial body type have a heavy and strong body, with a well-developed muscular mass. The body is short, hips are wide, but proportions between the length and the width of the body are harmonious. The regions of the body located on the side of the spine are filled and the hips are rounded.

Arie van Praag

The commercial body type are well represented by the New-Zealand White or red rabbits or the white Giant rabbit.

Massive short type

These rabbits have a strong short body. The muscular mass is well developed et strong. The region ranging from the shoulders to the tail (saddle) is strong, thick with strong shoulders. The dorsal line is round. The front part of the body is often more developed than the hind part.

Jen Devisme

The short type of body is seen in e.g., in Californian rabbits (pictures), Burgundy Fawn Rabbit, or French lops.

Cylindrical type

Rabbits that present this type of body are typically slender. Their length and width are, nevertheless sufficient to show the body shape. Their head is elongated and slender. Limbs are long and thin, with fine bones.

Arie van Praag

The cylindrical body shape is seen in Rex, Chinchilla or Himalayans rabbits.

Further body types include conical body shape (shoulder region is narrower than the hip region), ultra-convex body shape or long, thin body shape.


Many thanks go to (alphabetic order) to Jen Devisme (USA), to Michel Gruaz (Suisse), to Iris Hadar (Suisse) and to Arie van Praag (Suisse) for the permission to use their pictures.