Feeding Rabbits and Getting It Right
Feeding the correct diet is probably the single most important means of having a healthy and long-lived rabbit.
Approximately 85% of a rabbit’s diet should be grass/good quality hay, 10% leafy green vegetables and only 5% pellets or nuggets.
Feeding rabbits is actually simple and straightforward. The best diet for rabbits is one that mimics their natural grass-based diet in the wild as closely as possible. This means they should be fed unlimited good quality hay or grass, and some leafy green vegetables and herbs, which can be supplemented with a small measured amount of nuggeted or pelleted feed.
Treats should be kept to a minimum, but if they are fed they should be healthy and natural. Fresh drinking water must always be available.
We know from scientific studies that feeding an incorrect diet, one that is low in fibre and high in carbohydrate, is directly linked to the development of dental disease, gastrointestinal disease, obesity and behavioural problems. In recent years pet food manufacturers have responded to the need for better diets for pet rabbits, but in fact the vast majority of a rabbit’s diet should not come out of a packet.
Fibre is vital for healthy teeth. To cope with an abrasive tough diet, rabbit teeth grow continuously throughout life, and eating a high fibre diet with the right mineral balance helps keep them at the correct length and shape. If they don’t eat enough fibrous food or have a diet with an imbalance of calcium and phosphorus the teeth get too long, change shape and develop painful spikes and spurs. Periodontal infection can also develop which can lead to large abscesses. These conditions develop on the back or cheek teeth, used for chewing and grinding food, and are impossible to check without the use of special dental equipment as a veterinary procedure. Any rabbit that is not eating well or stops altogether must be checked by a vet for dental disease.
In summary, feeding the correct diet to rabbits not only provides the right nutrition, but fulfills their behavioural needs to spend a large part of their time eating, and maximises health and welfare by helping to prevent a wide variety of commonly seen diseases.