Anyone who has ever kept a house rabbit knows that their digestion is profoundly important. Rabbits need to eat and poop pretty much continuously. When they stop doing either one, you can be sure that trouble is on the way and corrections must be made soon.
Dr. Patricia Carter recently wrote about the importance of what you feed your house rabbit in an online report for San Diego’s news channel, KUSI. Here are some highlights of what she had to say…
The most important thing to know about having a rabbit as a pet is that they require very specific diets and if they are given food that is too rich it can cause major digestive and health problems. Domestic or pet rabbits are not far removed from their wild ancestors. In the wild rabbits subsist on greens but also eat a lot of poorer quality dried grasses and weeds. Having fiber in the diet from the weeds and grasses promotes motility in the digestive system and keeps the rabbit healthy. Clean water should always be available. If you use the sipper bottles check to make sure the ball valve is working correctly. If you use bowls change them frequently as they can become contaminated with food and waste products. If a rabbit cannot drink they will often stop eating which then upsets their digestive system. Getting dehydrated can also lead to blockages in the stomach or intestines that could require surgery.
75-80% of the diet should be ad lib grass hay like Timothy, Brome or Orchard grass. Alfalfa hay should only be fed to rabbits less than 6 months of age and if a female is pregnant or nursing. Alfalfa hay should be avoided in adults because of its high protein and calcium content…
0-10% of the diet should be pellets that are high fiber (18%-22% to prevent obesity) and low protein (<18%). The pellets should be plain without grains, sunflower seeds or pieces of dried corn etc. Corn and things can be handled by rats and guinea pigs but can cause problems in rabbits. Pellets are more important if the rabbit is growing or thin.
10-20% of the diet should be fresh mixed dark green leafy vegetables. Examples of which are romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, Swiss chard, parsley, endive, kale, mustard greens and carrot, beet and turnip tops. As an occasional treat a very small slice of apple, peach, pear or carrot is fine.
Do not feed fruit that is high in sugar content like grapes, raisins, watermelon and bananas. When an animal is sick a very small amount of banana around a pill encourages them to take their medicine so save bananas for when you really need them!
Do not give them other things like breakfast cereal, crackers, cookies, they will eat them but these overtime will upset the delicate balance in their digestive system and lead to soft stools that stick to their fur and for a rabbit is considered diarrhea.
For an average adult rabbit of 5 pounds the diet would be free choice grass hay, 1 cup of leafy green vegetables and no more than ¼ cup of high fiber low protein pellets per day.
A rabbit who does not want to eat is a sick rabbit and should be seen by a veterinarian experienced with rabbits within 24 hours. Often intervening early is more effective and less costly than if you try to give them an extra day or try force feeding them at home.
You can read the complete article online at http://www.kusi.com/story/27863821/pet-rabbits-and-their-diet