A rabbit's diet is the single most important part of the care that you provide. Incorrect diet is responsible for the vast majority of the problems that we treat rabbits for. All of the following problems can be caused by incorrect feeding:
- Dental disease
- Poor coat quality
- Gut stasis
- Eye problems
- Osteomyelitis (infection in the bones)
- Chronic pain
The single most important part of a rabbit's diet is hay/grass. Rabbits have evolved to chew low energy fibrous material all day long. They allow bacteria to ferment this material in their caecum (called the appendix in humans) to get the energy from it. This means that they rely heavily on the mix of bacteria being correct and the material they are eating is what maintains this balance. The pie chart below shows the correct mix of food that your rabbit should be fed:
Many people find this mix surprising as they see rabbits in pet shops with overflowing bowls of muesli style mix. This practice is largely due to the misconception that empy bowls mean that rabbits are being underfed and pet shops receive complaints if the bowls aren't full. In truth, empty bowls are a necessity to keep your rabbit healthy.
Muesli mixes are actually not the best type of food to feed your rabbit. There are several reasons for this. The most obvious is that, as any rabbit keeper will know, there are always large brown chunks left at the bottom of the bowl when it comes to putting fresh food in. These large chunks contain lots of fibre which is important to your rabbit. The pieces that are eaten are generally the tastier and more fattening components which can lead to obesity very quickly, as well as problems with bones due to the fact that they are low in calcium.
We recommend feeding complete nugget based diets such as Burgess Excel, which we stock at competitive prices. There are several others available on the market and all are based on simple nuggets that all contain the same ingredients so there is no possibility of "selective eating". If fed at the correct rate per day, these nuggets will provide your rabbit with everything it needs when combined with a large volume of fresh hay.
The final components of your rabbit's diet are fresh vegetables. Again, as illustrated in the pie chart above, vegetables should only make up a vey small percentage of the diet. A good selection of vegetables is key. To download a printable list of good vegetables, click on the link below.