The health of your rabbit is closely linked to its diet. As strict herbivores and natural grazers, rabbits need to be fed a high-fiber ration to keep their gastrointestinal system going moving slowly and steadily. The diet must be at least 18% fiber, and 22% is not too high. Rabbits that are not fed a diet high enough in fiber are at risk of diarrhea and GI Stasis: two of the most common causes of death in pet rabbits.
Bunny Super Food: Commercial Rabbit Pellets
Most pelleted rabbit rations will provide all the nutrients your rabbit needs. Notice the use of that word, “most.” Be wary of buying commercial rabbit food at a pet shop or grocery store in small 5 to 10-pound bags, especially if it contains colorful “treat pieces.” You will be paying much more per pound for this feed than if you buy a newly milled 25-lb bag, and it may not be as fresh. Also, take a close look at the nutrition facts. Including all treats and supplements given, a pet rabbit’s feed should contain 14-16% protein, approximately 4% fat, and at least 18% fiber, with more being preferred. Pregnant and nursing females can use a slightly higher protein content, but an 18%+ protein content is too rich for many small rabbits. You should also watch out for “least cost formulas” which do not have a fixed list of ingredients, but use whatever is cheapest at the time. Rapid changes in a rabbit’s diet is a leading cause of death.
How do you feed rabbits without using pellets?
It certainly can be done, but must be done carefully. Before the days of commercial rations, rabbit breeders fed an alfalfa hay-based diet with added oats and other grains. These days, people who wish to feed their rabbits without pellets still heavily use hay, as it provides the all-important fiber. Even breeders who feed pellets supplement with timothy or grass hay. (A rabbit that is given an alfalfa-based pellet should not also be given alfalfa hay, due to high protein and calcium levels.) However, many people who try to feed their rabbits an all-vegetable diet without using pellets make the mistake of giving too many rich foods that are much higher in moisture and protein than rabbits should have, leading to death. Feeding rabbits without pellets should be done very carefully. A good alternative is to supplement the pellets with other feeds.
The following articles are very extensive and provide a lot of information about topics such as the ingredients that make commercial rabbit feed, the nutrition rabbits need, and treatment for common health problems such as Gastrointestinal Stasis, diarrhea, and vent disease.
Please note: The authors at the Nature Trail are breeders, not veterinarians, and not qualified to give official veterinary advice. Information is drawn from our experiences and research, but is not guaranteed. Please consult a professional before performing any medical treatment on your rabbits.
- Rabbit Digestion. Excellent article about how the digestive tract functions and what it needs, and how to be aware of problems.
- Baby Bellies Digestion. What goes on in a baby rabbit’s digestive system as it goes through the touchy transition from milk to solid food.
- What I know and believe about feed. An extensive article covering all the bases for choosing a quality commercial rabbit feed: pelleted or extruded. The difference between least-cost and fixed analysis formulas, how to know when to blame the feed for problems, and so on.
- What’s in your feed. A list of 32 ingredients commonly found in rabbit pellets and their functions. Covers grains such as oats, wheat middling, and barley; vitamins and enzymes such as iodine and protease; and additives such as extract of yucca, molasses, papaya fruit powder and more.
- My rabbit won’t eat. Has your rabbit suddenly stopped eating? Stopped producing feces for more than 12 hours? You must act now. Read this article!
- The Benefits of Hay. Hay provides rabbits with the essential fiber for digestion, plus, they love it! This article expounds on the value of feeding rabbits quality timothy or grass hay.
- Plant your Garden For Rabbits. Herbs and vegetables you can plant in your garden that your bunnies can enjoy along with you.
- De-coding the Date on Feed Bags. Some feed companies use a simple code printed on their feed bags to indicate when it was milled. If your company uses such a code, here’s how to learn what it means.
- What do rabbits really need? A proper diet is a big part of basic rabbit care. Here it is in a nutshell.
Harlequin photo on this page by Michelle of Forrest Gait Rabbitry. Thanks!
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- Treating Rabbits. When it comes to medical treatments, don’t always take the first advice you hear. A word of caution when dealing with rabbit health problems.
- GI Stasis. Known as the “silent killer,” gastrointestinal stasis is a leading cause of death among rabbits. The digestive system must be slowly and steadily moving — always.
- Treating Diarrhea The story of a successful case of treating runny poo’s in a young Holland Lop.
- Missing Fur. Bare patches on the ears? Chin? Shoulders? A strip down the back? Here’s when to worry and when not to worry.
- Vent Disease. Rabbit syphilis is highly contagious, and its treatment is often misunderstood. Hutch burn is often mistaken for VD.
- Ear Canker. Ear mites. Psoroptes cuniculi. Causing irritation, head shaking, scratching, and brown crusty material in rabbit ears.
- The Story of an Eye Spot. Milky spots in rabbits’ eyes can be an indication of blindness and have many causes, including infection from nestbox eye or weepy eye. Some say it’s linked to the bacteria e. cuniculi. Here’s our test of that theory.
- Bought Too Young. Unfortunately, many rabbits sold in pet stores are too young to undergo such a stressful experience and fade fast once in their new home. Here’s some emergency advice for such situations.
- When Not to Freak. Problems. They follow everybody. But is any sneezing immediate grounds for concern? What about malocclusion? Broken toenails? Retained kits? When faced with these problems and others, this article helps you understand when to and when not to freak out.
- Abscesses, Warbles, and Ringworm. The yucky stuff. Here’s how to deal with some of the not-so-pretty aspects of raising rabbits.
- My Summer Vacation and How I Coped. Laurie, who wrote most of the articles on the Nature Trail, underwent a difficult period in summer 2007 during which she lost a great portion of her rabbit herd. The cause of the epidemic took a long time to determine, but thanks to her dedication to solving the problem, we can learn a lot from her experience.
- Rabbit Scratches. Talking human health here. Though we get used to scratches when raising rabbits, they still deserve attention.