The five best rabbit foods

1st April 2018

Rabbit feeding advice from Bollington Veterinary Centre.

Overwhelmed by the pet food aisle at the supermarket? It doesn’t need to be as complicated as it looks. In fact, we’ve made a handy list for you, so keep reading.

Probably the most important things to know regarding rabbit food is that it needs to be high in fibre and have the right balance of protein, energy, vitamins and minerals.

At any stage, if you need help choosing the right food, speak to one of our experts. Call us >

Dental health and obesity are two of the biggest problems that we regularly see with rabbits. Your rabbit's teeth grow continuously and need wearing down with prolonged use, by chewing hay and leafy vegetables, to keep them at the correct length and shape.

Feeding the correct diet will also ensure that your rabbit stays at the correct weight and will avoid other associated problems such as sore hocks and fly strike.

The 'Big 5' – rabbit food at its best

The best diet for rabbits is one that mimics as closely as possible their natural diet in the wild. 

  1. Hayrabbits need at least one bundle of good quality hay that is as big as they are each day. This is an ideal source of fibre. It is readily available all year round and should make up the bulk of your rabbit's diet. The fibre helps to maintain fermentation, gut movement and healthy teeth. Rabbits graze; naturally eating grass and other plants for long periods, typically between dawn and dusk. Grass and hay keep their guts working properly. Timothy and meadow hay are the best. It’s really important to make sure you find hay which is dust-free and mould-free. At Bollington Veterinary Centre we can order and supply you with top quality feeding hay, so feel free to ask. 
  1. Grass – this is another ideal source of fibre. Fresh grass is recommended as often as possible throughout the spring, summer and autumn (it’s not as easy in the winter in the UK). Rabbits love to graze on lawns – but you must ensure they are free from chemicals and poisonous plants, as well as being safe from predators. If you let your rabbit out in the garden, make sure there is shelter available nearby. Handpicked grass is also ok, but don't feed lawnmower clippings; these can make your rabbit very ill.
  1. Cultivated herbs and vegetables - rabbits should have an adult-sized handful of safe, washed leafy green vegetables herbs and weeds daily. Feed a variety; ideally 5-6 different types. Introduce new types gradually, in small amounts, to avoid potential stomach upsets. Rocket, watercress, pea plants, cabbage, kale, broccoli, basil, coriander, parsley, mint, rosemary, sage and thyme – all of these can be grown in your garden, or even indoors. You might be surprised to know that carrots and parsnips tops fall into this category. Avoid any vegetables high in carbohydrates and sugars, as in large quantities they can lead to gut stasis, dental disease and obesity. The carrot root does contain high levels of sugar so please feed this sparingly. Have you ever thought of planting a herb garden for your rabbit? If you need help choosing what to plant or you’re not sure if a herb is safe, call us and ask
  2. Wild herbs and weeds – there are many wild plants that can provide an excellent source of fibre and protein. Some examples include dandelion, clover, comfrey, nettles, chickweed and plantain. These can be included with the cultivate herb and veg portion.
  1. High-quality pet food only use these as supplements to the normal diet of hay and grass. You shouldn’t really be feeding any more than 30 grams of dry pellet food per rabbit per day. Ask us what food we recommend, as some are definitely better than others.

 

Warning – don’t feed these foods

Rabbits should not eat anything too fatty, sugary or high in carbohydrates. For example, the carrot root and fruit such as apple are high in sugar and should only be fed in small occasional treats. High fat or carbohydrate items should be avoided altogether- these include most commercial 'treats' such as bean, peas, corn, bread, breakfast cereal, nuts, seeds and chocolate. 

Some lettuces, such as Iceberg, should NOT be fed as they contain lactucarium which can be harmful in large quantities.Other lettuce, particularly the light coloured varieties are high in water and have very little nutritional value so are not recommended either.

Don’t feed muesli style diets. These are far too high in carbohydrates, which cause significant life changing problems to rabbits.

Remember Water

Rabbits need fresh clean drinking water continuously. It is best to have a bowl in addition to a feeder and both should be checked twice daily. If they are outside ensure their water doesn't freeze in the winter. Without water rabbits become seriously ill.

Finally keep an eye on what they eat..

The amount your rabbit drinks and eats should be monitored. If their habits change, their droppings become less or stop, or soft droppings stick to their back end, then talk to us immediately as they could be seriously ill.

Rabbits produce two types of droppings; hard dry pellets, which are passed and left around them every day, and soft moist pellets which they re-eat directly from their bottoms and are a secret yet essential part of their diet. If your rabbit hasn't eaten, or passed any droppings over a 24 hour period this is an emergency and they should be seen by us without delay. It can be a sign of 'Gut Stasis', a potentially deadly condition where the digestive system slows down or stops completely. Bad bacteria then build up in the guts and release gas, causing very painful bloating. This discomfort further decreases your rabbits motivation to eat or drink and they become extremely ill.

Are you worried your rabbit isn't eating? Click here to contact us immediately