Malnutrition and Good Nutrition

Rabbits are relatively easy to keep healthy when fed an appropriate diet.

Pellets and hay (not straw) should constitute the majority of a rabbit’s diet, and both can be fed ‘ad libitum’ (always available). The pelleted diet should not contain any seeds, nuts, or dried fruits, and should have a protein content of 14-17% and a fiber content of 12-24%. A good quality rabbit diet should be available at your local ‘feed and seed’ store.

A ‘spiky’ hay, such as oat or timothy hay has been thought to promote better gastrointestinal motility and may help to prevent hairball problems. A ‘leafy’ hay, like alfalfa, may not stimulate GI motility, so while it can be used in moderation as a source of calcium, it should not make up the bulk of your rabbit’s diet. Avoid all kinds of sugars, fruits, seeds, nuts, table scraps, cookies, and commercial rabbit treats, as the high amounts of sugar can cause obesity. Rabbits should never be given apple seeds, potatoes, rhubarb, or tomato leaves. If you must feed your rabbit a ‘special’ treat, consider very small amounts (2 tbsp or less) of fresh greens, like dandelions, mustard greens, and collards, or a teaspoon of chopped carrot, turnip, or parsnip. If fed correctly, rabbits will have no need of vitamins or salt licks.

If a rabbit’s diet is changed suddenly, or if it is given too many treats, problems will arise. Diet changes should be done gradually by mixing the new diet in with the old diet until the rabbit’s digestive tract is used to it. In the morning they produce fecal balls, which they ingest as their daily vitamins. This is considered normal behavior and will not be deterred by putting them on a wire floor, as they can ingest these fecal balls directly from their anus.

Rabbits should be provided with fresh water daily from a hanging drip bottle. An adult rabbit can drink as much water in a day as a 20lb dog, so make sure you are checking their water supply regularily.