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Diet

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Rabbits - Diet

Most of the issues we see with pet rabbits are related to their diet being less than ideal.  Traditional rabbit foods (the ones that look like muesli) were designed for the rabbit farming industry, where the rabbits were meant to get fat quickly and not live very long! Rabbits like them but only because they’re super sweet and they can pick out the bits they like…..a bit like us eating sweets and not having room for a proper dinner!

Rabbits are actually a specialist type of herbivore, sometimes referred to as a ‘fibrevore’! 
They have evolved to eat roughage and fibre all day every day, moving around lots to do so, with their guts continuously digesting and producing faeces.

To try and get as much nutrition as they can from this fibre based diet, they actually eat their food twice and produce two types of poos! The first, called caecotrophs, look like small bunches of grapes, and the rabbit eats them directly from around the bottom - usually we should never see these in a healthy rabbit as they eat them so quickly. After the second round of digestion you see the round dry faeces we are used to from rabbits, and these should be produced in large quantities throughout the day.

If your rabbit gets a dirty bottom, if their faeces become smaller or sticky, fewer in number or stop altogether; then this shows their guts have stopped moving (‘ileus’) and they need to be seen by a vet that day. Left untreated, ileus is fatal for rabbits.

Eating all that fibre all day every day is also what keeps rabbits teeth (which grow constantly!) nice and short. If they don’t spend enough of their day eating, their teeth will overgrow into painful spikes that need a general anaesthetic to remove, and if they stop eating we also end up in the dangerous situation of ileus.

In summary:

  • Your rabbit should be constantly eating, moving and pooing! Any change in any of these and they need to be seen by a vet as soon as possible
  • At least 85% of the diet should be made up of hay, fed at approximately their own bodyweight
  • Any rabbit food should be a complete pellet, fed at approximately one egg cup per day, and ideally scattered around so the rabbit has to forage for it
  • Fresh vegetables should be given as treats and in small quantities; leafy veggies like spinach and kale are best, sweet ones like carrot and pepper are often too sugary

For more advice about diet, please speak to one of the vets or nurses, or take a look at this website:

https://www.rabbitawarenessweek.co.uk/diet/