Pet shops and other areas where rabbits are commonly found do not always provide the correct diet to the rabbits in their care; this also sets a bad example to potential or current owners who go on to believe that what they have seen is the correct way to feed their rabbits.
Hay/grasses should make up 80% of a rabbits daily intake of food along with some fresh leafy greens (please NEVER feed Iceberg Lettuce!) and a small amount of good quality pellets, alongside the odd natural treat item such as a small piece of fresh fruit (strawberry, banana, apple) or dried herbs and forage.
Fibre is essential to rabbit health; Rabbits’ teeth grow continuously so they need fibrous matter not just to ensure dental health as the chewing, grinding action wears down those continuously growing teeth, but it also maintains good healthy gut movements too!
A good resource on what to feed and how much can be found onBest4Bunny’s daily munch page.
Rabbits, if not fed the correct diet can quickly succumb to GI Stasis or Gut Stasis; this condition can and will be fatal to rabbits if not caught and treated ASAP by a Rabbit Savvy Vet.
A good comparison to those unfamiliar with rabbit health problems is that of Colic in Horses; both have incredible and amazing digestive system and as such they exhibit similar health issues relating to the digestive system.
Gut Stasis causes the gut to shut down, this is often due to a lack of fibre but also through being fed too many gassy foodstuffs that can cause a build up of gases causing the animal excruciating pain.
Gut Stasis can also be caused by stress, a blockage of the gut (ingesting excess fur for example) or other underlying health issues which causes the rabbit to feel unwell and stop eating due to pain and discomfort.
As animals designed to spend most of their day grazing on grasses and other forage items, a rabbits stomach should NEVER be empty and generally won’t survive for long should they go for more than 12 hours without food!
Every bunny owner should know the importance of not just their rabbits normal eating habits and behaviors, but also the size, consistency and frequency of their Pooping habits!
These warning signs, either combined or on their own, can often be subtle, as a prey species Rabbits tend to hide signs of illness well, so it’s important to have a good close bond with your rabbit(s) so Veterinary treatment can be sought ASAP by your Bunny Savvy Vet!
If the diet your currently feeding your rabbits is wrong ALWAYS take care when changing over and introduce small amounts of the new foods gradually; Remember, rabbits have a sensitive digestive system and any changes should be introduced slowly over the course of a few weeks by gradually decreasing the amounts of the old foodstuffs whilst slowly increasing the new until the ‘bad’ foods are gone and bunny is happily eating the new!
Are Pet Shop Treats Harming YOUR Rabbit…?
More often than not, the Answer is, YES!
The vast majority of treat items sold in our pet shops and other outlets DO harm Rabbits!!
Don’t be fooled by the brightly coloured packaging decorated with happy bunnies as you will find MOST of them contain ingredients that are detrimental, even fatal to YOUR rabbit’s health
Treat items such as yogurt and chocolate drops contain diary, egg biscuits contain, yep, egg!
As natural Herbivores rabbits are NOT designed to eat egg or diary,
Rabbits however do have an incredibly sweet tooth and will eat all sorts of things that are bad for them – but unlike US, they are not aware of the health risks so it’s up to YOU the owner to feed them what’s best.
Furthermore, Rabbits are not designed to eat seeds, corn, nuts, grains, legumes & cereals as they can cause both a choking hazard and/or Gut impaction, yet treat items made from these ingredients are freely available and advertised as suitable for rabbits.
ALWAYS check labels for the ingredient content and if your ever unsure, best advice is to leave it on the shelf!
Again, there is NO regulation on the sale of these items; they can be bought in pretty much every pet outlet store there is with little regard for the welfare of your rabbits; the sad fact is the only welfare most companies care about is that of their profit margin.
It is within the context of our campaign for Pet Rabbit Legislation that we want these items removed from sale.
Did you know that as consumers this actually breaches the Sale Of Goods Act 1979?
These treat items, among many other products sold as ‘suitable’ for rabbits are not fit for purpose and can in truth, cause you the consumer/pet owner more money to rectify the problems created by the sale of food items that are detrimental to health, which in turn is often responsible for expensive/prolonged Veterinary treatments caused by poor diet and with this there is often no recourse for you the consumer and pet owner.
You as a consumer, are after-all buying foodstuffs and other items that you are led to believe are suited to your Rabbits’ welfare needs, yet evidence, respected welfare advice and expertise says otherwise!
Recent Studies have shown Muesli style commercial food is in fact BAD for Rabbit health.
Yet, it is still sadly common for rabbits to be fed the muesli type foods without any additional hay or grass. These foods can be quite high in starch and sugar, and the elements that are really healthy like the grass pellets often get left behind – as rabbits (like children) will tend to choose the ‘sweetie’ like bits. This means they get an imbalanced diet, and miss out on essential fibre and other important vitamins and minerals.
Not only that but due to this ‘selective feeding’ behaviour rabbits are more prone to dental disease as the teeth do not get worn down in the same way as they would by a rabbit eating a balanced diet of Hay, fresh greens and complete pellet.
A rabbits diet should consist of a daily intake which consists of 80% Hay, small amounts of fresh leafy greens and good quality pellets (equal to an eggcup a day!) and the occasional treat such as a piece of fruit like banana, strawberry, apple or carrot.
Rabbits are Fibrevores. They graze on grass in the wild so they should be fed accordingly at home. Again, you’ll find some good information on what a rabbits diet should consist here.
Pet shops again, do not offer adequate advice when it comes to a rabbits dietary needs. The large majority of shops and very often breeders feed the rabbits on a muesli style food. Again, very few will explain to you the potential customer that muesli style foods are indeed bad for rabbits and being fed such a poor diet, specifically in those early weeks/months, can already lead to the onset of dental disease, meaning in all likelihood a hefty vet bill for the new owner in the years, or even months to come!
Breeders, Pet Shops and Manufacturers are at the end of the day businesses, the majority of them are only interested in the welfare of their profits. As long as tills are ringing selling the brightly coloured, cute rabbit featured packages of Muesli food and other assorted rabbit treats, most of which contain dairy products or worst still animal derivatives! That’s another big NO, NO when it comes to your bunny’s tum!
So with that ALWAYS check the labels to see what hidden nasties are contained within the ingredients of those tempting looking so called bunny friendly treats. You’ll be surprised!
Keep your rabbits diet basic, fresh and simple for happy healthy Buns!
And most importantly of all, ALWAYS have clean fresh water available for your rabbits as it’s thirsty work maintaining a balanced, healthy diet.
Rabbits should not be fed carrots!
It is a long held myth (thanks Bugs Bunny!) that rabbits eat carrots on a regular basis. The tops however make a welcome addition to their leafy greens, in moderation of course.
Much like Muesli style foods, carrots are high in sugar so do little for the waistline and workings of the gut in addition to causing dental problems as the teeth do not get worn down properly during the chewing action, but having such a sweet tooth rabbits generally do like them; so only give them a small price as an occasional treat, not the whole thing!