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Rabbit Nutrition

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

This little article was one I created for the BOP Times. It's a brief rundown by a rabbit vet of what to feed your pet rabbit. Trying to mimic the wild rabbit diet is the key. This isn't always practical for everyone so their are some mild changes such as provision of small amounts of pellets and using leafy vegetables instead of wild plants and weeds and feeding hay instead of long fibrous grass.

Rabbits are herbivores (plant eaters) that have specially designed teeth and digestive systems to process a leafy plant diet. They need large amounts of non-digestible fibre to keep their gut moving and their teeth wearing down. They are able to process this low nutrient fibre into nutrient-packed droppings that they consume called caecotrophs.

Many health problems in rabbits are caused by feeding insufficient fibre, or too much starch or sugar. This includes overgrown teeth, obesity and gastrointestinal problems such as excessive soft droppings, gut stasis, intestinal obstruction and overgrowth of disease causing bacteria.

The best source of non-digestible fibre is long grass (not lawn) and hay (dried grass). Pet rabbits need 75-80% of their diet to be long grass or hay. Meadow or timothy hay should be offered free choice. Wild plants (such as puha, dandelion, plantain), short lawn grass or a variety of dark, leafy veges and herbs should approximate the size of a rabbit’s head each day. A small portion of high fibre pellets (1/8 cup per kilogram for adults) should be offered daily - Oxbow Essentials , Burgess Excel and Science Selectives are excellent options. Fruit and carrot are treats items, only feed a small amount, not every day. There are also some higher fibre treats now available produced by Oxbow, Science Selectives and Burgess which can be used in very small amounts.

Chew blocks aren't necessary and they don't provide any extra teeth wear. Grinding up hay and fibrous grass is the key to keeping the back/cheek teeth wearing down! Apple branches can be provided for enrichment but don't really keep the teeth wearing down.

Don’t forget to have fresh water available! Many prefer heavy bowls to sipper bottles.

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