Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Feeding Guidelines for Pet Rabbits

(This information was originally published as part of a "New Bunny Pack" I put together for clients of Downes and Partners Veterinary Surgery in 2004. I have modified some of the wording for this forum.)

There have been many recommendations over the years as to the best diet for rabbits. Much of this has been based on what has been fed to laboratory rabbits kept in small cages with little to no exercise and a very short life span.

Today, pet rabbits can live up to 12 years so we are trying to feed them a more natural diet. Wild rabbits spend most of their day grazing on fibrous meadow grass and then select a few tastier morsels as they are available such as roots, bark, branches, flowers and leaves. This diet is very high in fibre, low in protein and fat, and requires a lot of chewing!

Diets that are deficient in fibre cause a number of problems. Dental disease is the most common result of a grass-deficient diet. Diarrhoea, soft stools and flystrike are also problems resulting from low-fibre diets. Diets too high in sugar and fat can cause obesity, which also contributes to dirty bottoms and flystrike!

I recommend, whether your rabbit resides indoors or outdoors, that hay and fresh grass should make up the main part of his/her diet. The grass is best picked by the rabbit himself while grazing in a protected run. The hay should be good-quality, bagged, meadow or timothy hay. Alfalfa hay is also available. This can be fed ad lib to growing animals and pregnant or lactating does, but should be fed only in small quantities to fully-grown rabbits.

Once daily you may supplement this diet with a very small amount of a concentrated pelleted or extruded food. In the UK, I recommend Oxbow Bunny Basics, Burgess Super Excel Lite, or Supreme Science Selective. I do not, under any circumstances, recommend a mixed or muesli-type food of any make or brand. A concentrated food, if fed, should be fed at a maximum rate of 10-20g food per kg rabbit per day. Pregnant and lactating does, ill animals, and animals recovering from surgery may have extra requirements and your rabbit vet can advise you if your pet falls into this category.

Weeds, such as dandelion, chickweed, and nettles are often enjoyed by rabbits along with branches from fruit trees such as apple and pear. Fresh green leafy vegetables, such as cabbage, spring greens, kale and broccoli are also delicious treats. Many rabbits also enjoy herbs such as mint and parsley. If you have a question about any food or plant item, please feel free to ask your vet.

Please remember, that ANY change to your rabbit’s diet must be made slowly over a week or so to allow his/her gut to adjust to the new foods. Any sudden change, even swapping to a new bag of his regular food, can cause an imbalance in the gut flora and subsequent bloating, release of bacterial toxins and possibly death. Even if you are just feeding a new bag of your regular food, mix some of the old and new bags together to allow a gradual change-over.

The final word: Rabbits eat GRASS!!

1 Comments:

At September 14, 2013 at 1:35:00 AM PDT, Blogger kelinci said...

Thanks for sharing article about feeding rabbits.
My Kelinci blog

 

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