Fats belong to the broader category known as lipids. Lipids are nothing other than compounds that do not dissolve in water but dissolve in organic solvents such as chloroform and esters.
The groups of lipids we are interested are fats and oils (triglycerides or triacylglycerols), phospholipids, cholesterol (plant sterols) and fatty acids.
Fatty acids can be saturated or unsaturated and can be grouped into short chain fatty acids (SCFA), medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), Long-chain fatty acids (LCFA) and very long chain fatty acids (VLCFA).
Functions of fats in rabbits
Fats and oils are nothing other than esters of three fatty acids and glycerol. They are an essential part of the diet as they are “energy sources and as sources of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins… They also contribute satiety, flavor, and palatability to the diet,” notes National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Some of the fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin A, D, E and K. Do not forget fats are also essential of cell membranes.
Another significance is that vegetable oils can be a source of fatty acids known to improve the glossiness or sheen of a rabbit’s coat and if you have a show animal, consider supplementing its recommended diet with at most a teaspoon or less of vegetable oil.
The essential fatty acids that must be ingested include alpha-linolenic acid which is a kind of omega-3 fatty acid and linoleic acid which is an omega-6 fatty acid. This two must be provided in nutrients. The body may synthesize others.
In the rabbit’s digestive system, the pancreas releases lipase enzyme that helps in the break dietary fats to fatty acids and glycerol.
How much fats do rabbits require?
Fat should not be added to the rabbit’s diet but should be obtained from the various vegetable diets. They should have about 2-3% fats, but during lactations, the amount can go for up to 5%.
However, according to the Universitat Politècnica de València, “rabbits kits can ingest and efficiently digest large quantities of milk lipids.” Their digestive system is adapted to do so since they depend on their mother’s milk.
Dangers of excessive fats
Although we have seen their various benefits, excessive can increase the risk of hepatic lipidosis and atherosclerosis in the aorta states VetFolio
Secondly, Extension.org also warns that they “also increase the energy content of the diet without adding simple carbohydrates that can have negative effects on the gastrointestinal tract.”
Remember fats have fats have nine calories per gram which are more than proteins or carbs. This is the reason why they can cause obesity. Obesity will have effects on a rabbit’s lifespan, grooming ability, reproductive performance among others.