Researchers report in a new study that rabbits that remain indoors may suffer from a lack of vitamin D.
In rabbits kept as pets or used in laboratory studies, the deficiency could lead to dental problems, undermine their cardiovascular health, weaken their immune systems and skew scientific findings.
The study found that regular 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 seek to determine optimal levels of UVB exposure and vitamin D levels in rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and other animals.
"We know that 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," said Mark Mitchell, a University of Illinois veterinary clinical medicine professor, who led the research. "We know of several types of diseases that can develop with vitamin D deficiency. Some of the chronic problems we see are tooth-related."