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RABBIT AWARENESS WEEK (Day 3)

Welcome back to another day of learning about Rabbit nutrition!

Rabbit with glasses

There are a lot of myths in the rabbit world especially on what to feed a rabbit - let's see what some of those myths are and what a rabbits full diet should consist of.


MUESLI-STYLE DIETS - ARE THESE HEALTHY? 


Muesli can look really healthy and inviting but it is in fact really unhealthy for our little bunnies. Mueslis diets tend to be high in sugar and additives (colourants). Some risks with feeding a muesli diet are the following:


  • Muesli diets can increase the risk of obesity - this is because it reduces the intake of fibre which is a massive part of rabbits diet. Rabbits on muesli diets also tend to be less active. 

  • Risk of dental disease increases dramatically due to the decrease in fibre. This can be quite painful and results in the inability to eat. 

  • Reduce water intake, which in turn can cause urinary tract problems such as: bladder stones, sludge, scolding and cystitis. 

  • Muesli diets increase the risk of 'fly-strike' due to the rabbit not eating cecotrophes and they do not clean their rear-ends. Flies then lay eggs on soiled fur and maggots start to form. 

  • There is a high risk of gut-stasis, which can be fatal in rabbits, due to the decrease in fibre intake and their faecal output decreases. 


Myths behind the Muesli-diet culture


Rabbit muesli diet

  • Muesli diets are cheaper

Rabbits tend to pick and choose what they like out of the diets, 'selective feeding', making them leave a lot of food behind. Therefore, they actually do leave behind a large portion of their food laid out for them. They'll only pick out the sweet- dried fruit in comparison to the other fibre constitutes. Making mueslis diets not that cost-effective as you tend to throw more away each day.

  • Visual appeal

'It' colourful and more inviting for my rabbit!' - it may look pretty to us as humans but it bears no interest to rabbits. Rabbits do not look for colour they look for nutritional value - which in this diet would mainly be starch and sugar. They then avoid the important fibrous part of the diet entirely.


HEY - HAY!


Hay should be the equivalent of 85-90% of a rabbits diet. By feeding fresh hay and grass, you are supplying your rabbit with sources of fibre - which as we stated in our last post, is a very essential for the health and welfare of your rabbit.


  • Dental Health - fibre wears down rabbits ever growing teeth, therefore reducing the risk of dental problems

  • Digestive Health - as mentioned previously, fibre aids in reducing the risk of gut stasis and other gut issues.

  • Behavioural Health - in the wild rabbits spend most of their time foraging, by giving them hay/grass it gives our domesticated rabbits this opportunity to express this normal behaviour.


Rabbit eating hay and grass

Not all hays are good though!

There are mainly two types of hay out there:


Bedding Hay

Normally cheaply manufactured and no known nutritional benefit. This can be kept in packaging for long periods of time and can be used to provide insulation in hutches/pens as well as be comfortable for your rabbit to sleep on.

Feeding Hay

Grown specifically for feeding rabbits. It is cut at full bloom, resulting in lush, green and long hay. Very nutritionally rich and is high in fiber.


FRESH GREENS AND HERBS!


There is this misconception about carrots being 'good' for rabbits but in fact they are extremely high in sugar. Therefore do not give a whole carrot to your rabbit, rather dose small amounts as treats each day.


Here are a few other No-No's:

Apple pips

Avocado

Potato and potato tops

Rhubarb (leaves & stalks)

Tomato leaves

Locust pods & beans

***Any plant that grows from a bulb, bluebell, yew, foxglove, garlic, onion, shallots & chives, hemlock, buttercup, dock, ivy, poppy, privet, primrose, ragwort - should be avoided**


Rabbit eating greens

What greens can you feed?

Fresh 'dark-green' veggies and herbs are highly recommended as they are a great source of vitamins and minerals such as calcium. Good greens to feed include kale, asparagus, basil, cauliflower leaves and celery

Some fruits can be fed, and are a great source of extra nutrients, but only feed in small amounts as they can be high in sugar.


WATER - WATER - WATER

Rabbit drinking our of bowl

 It is always highly recommended to have multiple water sources for rabbits. They generally do better with water bowls but some domesticated rabbits like drinking form water bottle dispensers. With rabbits having such a high fibre diet, they need water to aid in processing all that fibre and staying hydrated. Their water should be changed on a daily a basis and their water sources cleaned appropriately.


Stay tuned for more updates during the week on Rabbit health!



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