Energy in the diets of rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas comes from carbohydrate, digestible fibre, fat and excess protein. These are broken down by the digestive process into saccharides and volatile fatty acids that are used as a source of energy. Excessive amounts of these energy giving foods, especially in the absence of adequate indigestible fibre, can lead to digestive upsets. Carbohydrates are complex combinations of simple sugars that take digestive effort to break down into their energy containing units. Simple sugars are extremely unhealthy, especially for chinchillas, as they have a devastating effect on the the acidity of the gut.
Certain high energy foods, such as maize, can lead to skin redness and irritation together with poor coat. A more obvious sign of too much energy giving food in the diet, especially of caged rabbits, is obesity. The combination of digestive upset and obesity makes it hard for animals to reach down to digest the caecal pellets which a high energy diet also leads to excess production of. These then adhere to the rear end, because the animal is too fat to clean itself, where they expose the animal to skin damage, urinary infection and fly strike.