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Holme Veterinary Centre
Holme Veterinary Centre

Feeding Your Pet Rabbit Correctly

Rabbits have a unique dental and digestive system. For these to function properly, your rabbit must have a diet that is high in fibre, low in protein and low in energy.

As pet owners, we like to think that we are doing the best for our rabbits and are all too ready to provide them with a diet that is too rich and contains insufficient roughage.

*Without the fibre, you will have constant teeth and digestive problems which mean a very poor quality of life for your pet rabbit.

*A diet of scientifically prepared rabbit food with a constant supply of grass or hay together with a small selection of fresh fruit and vegetables and a constant supply of water is all that a rabbit needs. Anything beyond that is a ‘treat’ and should be given in limited quantities, completely avoiding sweets and chocolates which build up harmful bacteria in the rabbit gut and can kill.

*Rabbits in the wild are grazers. If the diet is inadequate, these are the problems you may see:

– hairballs
– chronic soft faeces instead of hard normal pellets
– diarrhoea
– obesity
– teeth problems which can be so severe as to form an abscess. If this happens, it may be too late for treatment to be successful
– eye or tear duct infections which are secondary to teeth problems as the tooth roots grow abnormally and affect the tear duct.

To prevent these problems, it is vital to feed a simple diet that is almost the same as that of a wild rabbit. Rabbit’s teeth grow continually. They are adapted to a life of grazing and chewing and therefore constant wear on the teeth. A diet lacking in fibre will mean that less time is spent chewing food, less wear on the teeth and so overgrown teeth will be the end result.

*Rabbits have a digestive tract that is similar to a horse. The food they take in is digested in their hindgut and so they are adapted to digest a high fibre diet consisting mainly of grass.

*A complete rabbit food is only complete if your rabbit eats it all. If you feed a complete food and your rabbit is continually leaving the same ingredients each day, then don’t keep throwing them away and refilling the bowl. Offer a small portion and leave the discarded ingredients in the bowl until they are all eaten. Only by doing this will your rabbit get a truly balanced diet.

*One thought is not to leave concentrate feed down for any longer than 8 hours a day. Try to buy pellets that are high in fibre. The best food to buy are the pellets where all the nutritious ingredients are blended together so that the rabbit eats all the food and does not become a selective feeder.

Your rabbit should have access to fresh water 24 hours a day. If you keep your rabbit in an outside hutch throughout the winter, change the water twice or three times a day to prevent it freezing.