Pet Advice angora rabbit

Published on August 29th, 2014 | by Debbie Martin

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Does Your Rabbit Eat a Healthy Balanced Diet?

Is your rabbit getting a balanced diet and the nutrition that it needs? You know that a balanced diet is important for human health, so of course it is crucial to make sure that your pet rabbit is well nourished too!

Unfortunately, many vets have observed that approximately four out of five rabbits that come in for treatment have a health problem that is directly related to their poor diet. These health problems include overgrown teeth, obesity and constipation. These health issues can be easily prevented if you know a little more about your pet rabbit, what it should be eating and why.

The Natural Rabbit Diet

A wild rabbit spends most of his time looking for food and eating hay, herbs, grasses and bark – all which are very high in fibre. He explores over a territory that covers 30 tennis courts, which means that he gets a lot of exercise every day looking for food. This means that in order to stay healthy, the rabbit needs a lot of high fibre foods in its diet.

Your rabbit needs to be always nibbling on grass or hay, which keeps their digestive system moving and prevents them from suffering from constipation. If your rabbit isn’t getting enough fibre this can be potentially fatal for them.

Another problem that occurs when your rabbit has a lack of digestible fibres in their system is the risk that the healthy balance of friendly bacteria will be upset. This can really wreak havoc with your rabbit’s entire digestive system and can lead to the animal suffering from anorexia and bloating.

It is important to avoid giving your rabbit food such as muesli, because it is very high in starch and sugar and the rabbit will be tempted to ignore their other healthy food and just eat the sugary things.

Protecting Your Bunny’s Teeth

You have probably noticed that rabbits have prominent teeth, which they use to chew through the fibrous foods that they eat. In the wild your rabbit would be chewing on hay and bark all day long, which helps to wear down their teeth. These teeth will grow constantly – up to 12cm per year – so it is important that your rabbit eats the right food to keep them worn down. Otherwise, their teeth will become much too long for them and will be painful or cause problems.

A Foraging Rabbit is a Healthy Rabbit

In the wild rabbits spend most of their time looking around for food, including grass, hay and herbs. This is what occupies their mind and keeps them busy, so when they live in a hutch next to a pile of lettuce they can get very listless and bored.

If you can stimulate that foraging instinct in your rabbit again, you will make them much happier. Try hiding hay or greens around their hutch for them to find and letting them outside to run around often.

Tips for Feeding your Rabbit

Want to keep your bunny friend healthy? Here are some tips that you should keep in mind when it comes to feeding your rabbit:

  • Feed your rabbit a handful of leafy greens (which are high in fibre) every day.
  • Adult rabbits should eat grass hay, such as Timothy and meadow hay.
  • Be careful when feeding too much clover and alfalfa, as they are high in protein and calcium and excess amounts can cause kidney problems.
  • Never give your rabbit spoiled vegetables. Make sure that the food is washed thoroughly and free of pesticides.
  • Your rabbit might also like dandelion greens, cilantro, bok choy, basil, endive, dill, mint, romaine lettuce, kale, spinach, parsley or carrot tops.
  • Avoid feeding your rabbit cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli, as this is known to cause gas.
  • Keep a close eye on your pet’s droppings. If they have small dark coloured and irregular droppings this can be a sign that their diet is too low in fibre.
  • Monitor the size of your rabbit on a regular basis to make sure that they are not getting obese.
  • Avoid giving your rabbit sugar or treats that contain sugar, it will be very bad for their teeth.
  • If you are changing something in your rabbit’s diet you should do it slowly over a number of weeks because they can be very sensitive and can react to changes in diet by getting ill.

If you have any more questions about how to feed your rabbit a healthy diet, make sure that you contact your vet for advice.

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About the Author

Debbie Martin has worked at Beeston Animal Health for over five years, having previously worked as a nurse in equine and small animal practice. Although generally involved with aspects of marketing these days and putting her psychology degree to good use, she still has a great depth of up to date knowledge in all creatures great and small. Debbie lives at home with her partner and two children and spends much of her spare time looking after her horses, dogs and cats or at the home farm with the cows, sheep and turkeys.



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