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Feeding your rabbits – PDSA

Jan 28th, 2022

A good diet is important for all pets but its absolutely essential for rabbits because feeding them the wrong thing can lead to serious problems such as dental disease and gut stasis. This simple guide will help you understand how to feed your rabbits the perfect diet and the good news is, its easy!

Unlike human teeth, rabbit teeth grow constantly throughout their life. Because of this, they need to spend a lot of time nibbling and chewing to wear their teeth down otherwise their teeth grow too long and develop sharp spikes that dig into their tongue and cheeks. These spikes, which vets tend to call spurs, cause very painful mouth ulcers and damage to the mouth, and often occur when rabbits arent fed enough hay or grass.

Rabbits need a high fibre diet to keep their guts healthy and active. If they dont receive enough fibre, their guts start to slow down, and can even stop working completely (which vets call gut stasis).

The best diet for your bunnies is one thats as close to a wild rabbits diet as possible. Our vets recommend the following:

Around 85% of your rabbits diet should be hay and/or grass ideally an unlimited amount, but as an absolute minimum, a bundle at least as big as them per day.

Its important to know the difference between feeding hay and bedding hay they are both essentially dried grass, but nutritionally, they are very different. Feeding hay is fresher, greener, smells more fragrant, tastes better (for rabbits!) and has far more nutrients in it. Bedding hay is usually quite dry ideal for getting cosy but not so great for nibbling, (although, its not a problem if your rabbits occasionally snack on some!).

Ideally, your rabbit should have access to growing grass (not grass cuttings). Access to a large exercise runplaced on grass will encourage your rabbits to graze, while also giving them the space they need to exercise. Check out our guides about rabbit-proofing your garden and how to provide the ideal home for rabbits.

Theres huge range of greens and fresh foods you can feed your rabbits, including plants, vegetables, leaves, twigs and grasses. Ideally you should feed five to six different types of fresh plants and vegetables every day to make sure your bunnies get a good balance of minerals and vitamins.

Weve listed some safe fresh foods for rabbits here to get you started.

Many rabbit-safe fresh foods can be found in your garden, some can be found by foraging when youre out on walks, and the rest can be bought from the supermarket! Always wash fresh food before giving it to your rabbits and never feed them anything that may have been in contact with pesticides or fertilisers.

Remember:

As well as hay, grass and fresh food, you should give each of your rabbits one tablespoon of nuggets every day (or twice a day if theyre over 3.5kg). Although this seems like a small amount, dried rabbit nuggets are very concentrated, which is why your bunnies dont need a lot to get the nutrients they need. If your rabbits are fed too many pellets, they will eat less hay, which can lead to health problems such as overgrown teeth and gut stasis. Even nuggets containing long fibre or high levels of fibre should be fed in small quantities.

Your rabbits nuggets should be all a similar colour and shape. If youre seeing mixed colours and shapes in your rabbits food, then it may be a muesli mix. Our vets don't recommend muesli-style mixes for your rabbits. Muesli or mixed diets often look more fun to us (as theyre brightly coloured and contain a mixture of seeds and flakes), but they can cause the following issues:

If you are currently feeding your rabbits a muesli-style food, we recommend slowly changing them over to nuggets. If youre keen to give your rabbit a variety of foods try a couple of different types of feeding hay, and use a number of different fresh foods each day.

If the diet we recommend is different from the one youre feeding your rabbits at the moment, you should change their food slowly over a period of at least two to four weeks. If you change their food too quickly they might develop a tummy upset andstop eating (which is an extremely serious symptom in a rabbit).

If youre changing from muesli to nuggets (or to a new type of nuggets), you should feed a small amount of the new food on the first day, mixed into their current food. Gradually increase the new food and reduce the old food day-by-day until your rabbits have adjusted to their new diet.

If youre wanting to introduce a new type of fresh food, start off with just a small amount and to see if your rabbits enjoy the taste, and monitor for any signs of a stomach upset. If everything goes well, slowly increase the amount every few days until its a regular part of their diet.

If you are introducing hay for the first time it might take them some time to start eating it, but keep persevering its well worth it for your rabbits long term health. Offer it to them fresh every day and try different types of hay to tempt them.

Rabbit treats from pet shops are widely available, but are often high in sugar, which is bad for teeth, guts and waistlines! If you want to give your rabbits something special, or exciting for them to forage for, we recommend fresh veg, plants or herbs.

To prevent your rabbits from putting on weight, make sure you adjust their meal size according to how many treats theyve had that day. You could put aside a portion of their nuggets or fresh fruit/veg each day to use as treats, so you can make sure theyre not accidently getting extras.

A fun way to provide treats is by turning them into a fun game why not hide your bunnies favourite veg in a pile of hay for them to enjoy digging out?

Its essential that your rabbits are eating well each day. If your rabbit stops eating, this can lead to serious, or even life threatening, health problems. If youre worried your rabbit is eating less or that theyre not eating at all, its essential to contact your vet.

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Feeding your rabbits - PDSA

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