Rabbits that are kept indoors may suffer from a lack of vitamin D, new research suggests.

A study carried out by the University of Illinois found rabbits kept in the home or used in laboratory studies had low levels of vitamin D.

This deficiency can weaken the immune system, result in dental issues and undermine the animal’s cardiovascular health.

Research found that frequent exposure to artificial ultraviolet B light for two weeks doubled rabbits’ serum vitamin D levels, an increase not seen in animals raised in artificial light lacking UVB radiation.

Future studies will aim to determine optimal levels of UVB exposure and vitamin D levels in rabbits, as well as guinea pigs, chinchillas and other animals.

Mark Mitchell, a University of Illinois veterinary clinical medicine professor, said:
“We know vitamin D is important to vertebrates in that it helps with calcium absorption, but it also has been shown to benefit cardiovascular health and immune function.

“We are doing tooth trims and managing dental disease in rabbits, chinchillas and guinea pigs on a regular basis. It is a common problem.”

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