Cachexia in rabbits is a loss of weight due to severe chronic illness that often cannot be resolved with nutritional remedies. It is a state of extreme poor health and is associated with anorexia, weight loss, weakness, and mental depression. Cachexia is different than simple weight loss which may be resolved by feeding the rabbit more calories.
It is considered clinically important when it exceeds 10% of the normal body weight and is not associated with fluid loss.
Weight loss can result from insufficient caloric intake or availability to meet metabolic needs. Insufficient caloric intake or availability can be caused by the following:
- a high energy demand (e.g., that characteristic of a hypermetabolic state)
- inadequate energy intake, including insufficient quantity or quality of food, or inadequate nutrient assimilation (e.g., with anorexia, difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia), or malabsorptive disorders)
- excessive loss of nutrients or fluid, which can occur in patients with gastrointestinal losses, excretion of glucose in the urine (glucosuria), or the presence of abnormal quantities of protein in the urine (proteinuria).
Caloric requirements for rabbits are reported as the following:
- 2,500 kCal/kg of feed for growing, pregnant, or lactating rabbits
- 2,100 kCal/kg of feed for adult maintenance
- Oglesbee, B. (2011). Blackwell's five-minute veterinary consult: Small mammal. (2nd ed.).