Rabbits are herbivores- animals that need a plant based diet. Rabbits like to spend the majority of their time foraging as they would in the wild, looking for tasty food like grass, hay or plants. Hiding hay, grass and other high fibre foods around your rabbit’s hutch and exercise area helps promote their foraging behaviour. This searching for food helps keep them busy and adds to their emotional well being, keeping them stimulated and exercised.
The most important part of their diet which they require to stay healthy is fibre. This is essential to maintain their dental and digestive health.
Two types of fibre are required- digestible and indigestible:
Digestible fibre provides essential nutrients and indigestible fibre keeps your rabbit’s digestive system moving effectively. The indigestible fibre passes through the digestive system eventually being excreted as separate, hard droppings.
The digestible fibre moves into an organ called the caecum. The bacteria present in the caecum ferments the fibre making it digestible and this is then excreted as sticky droppings called caecotrophs. These will then be re-eaten by your rabbit to extract the essential nutrition.
Many rabbit owners favour the popular muesli mix as they believe this offers a complete diet. Unfortunately this diet tends to be low in fibre and high in carbohydrates contributing to problems such as dental disease, facial abscesses, obesity, diarrhoea and furballs.
Gut stasis can also be caused by low fibre diets and veterinary treatment should be administered as soon as possible.
Some rabbits fed on mainly commercial muesli mixes (high in sugar and starch) will only pick out the unhealthy, sweeter pellets of the mix. This unbalanced diet lacking in calcium, phosphorus and Vitamin D can lead to potentially fatal health problems.
The best diet for your rabbit should consist of at least 99% grass and good quality meadow or timothy hay which should be available at all times. Greens such as broccoli, cabbage, chicory, parsley, celery leaves, kale, watercress, carrot and beet tops are also essential. Fruit should be regarded as a treat and fed in limited quantities as it is high in simple sugars and can lead to tummy upsets and teeth problems.
At Cinque Ports Vets we recommend the Supreme Science Selective feeding range. This product is veterinary recommended because it contains the same amount of high quality nutrients in each individual nugget, eliminating the problem of selective feeding.
Rabbits should only be fed a maximum of 25g of nuggets per kg per day as the nuggets are a complementary food. The bulk of their diet should be made up of hay and grass.
Your local branch of Cinque Ports Vets will be happy to advise you on a suitable diet for your rabbit.