Rabbit Nutrition

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General dietary advice

Hay or grass (essential to maintain gastrointestinal & dental health and should make up most of the diet) – feed a minimum of 70% hay a day, the rabbit should eat it’s own body size in good quality hay a day.

Vegetables and small amounts of fruit (not fruit high in simple sugar)- feed 1 handful twice daily. Please avoid avocado.

Commercial pellets (pellets are better than mixes to avoid selective feeding and obesity!) – feed dwarf and standard rabbits 1 tablespoon daily and Giant breeds 2 tablespoons of pellets daily MAXIMUM.

Don’t make any sudden changes to your rabbit’s diet as this could upset its digestive system.

Provide fresh water at all times from a drinking bottle or bowl. Make sure this doesn’t freeze if your rabbit is outdoors in winter. Try both a drinker and bowl to find out which your rabbit prefers.

If the rabbit’s eating habits change, the number of droppings gets less or stops, or there are soft droppings sticking to its back end, the owner must talk to a vet straight away as it could be seriously ill.

Recommended dietary items to feed:

  • Fresh grass grazed or hand picked (not lawn mower clippings)
  • Good quality hay (not dusty or mouldy), mixed meadow or Timothy is best
  • Dandelion leaves
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Beans
  • Chickweed
  • Mixed meadow or Timothy hay (must always be available)
  • Grass
  • Lettuce
  • Maize (including sweet corn leaves)
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Swede
  • Turnip
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Water cress

Good treats (offer only in small amounts):

  • Herbs including parsley (maximum 2 sprigs a week), chives, camomile, coriander, thyme, mint Slice or core of apple or pear.
  • Berries including blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries (maximum 2-4 a week).
  • Roses and rose leaves, nasturtiums, carnations (grown in your own garden with no chemicals).

Dietary items to offer only in small amounts (these are high in calcium):

Alfalfa hay, pellets or treats

Commercial rabbit diet (e.g. pellets or muesli mix) – 1 table spoon for small and medium rabbits, 2 for Giant rabbits.

  • Carrot tops
  • Clover
  • Goosegrass
  • Kale
  • Sowthistle
  • Spear Thistle
  • Shepherd’s purse
  • Swiss chard
  • Beet Greens

Dietary items to avoid

Human food – biscuits, bread, ryvita, weetabix, nuts, avocado

Alfalfa hay, pellets or treats – too high in calcium for adult rabbits, rabbits under 6 months old may be given a pinch once a week maximum.

Signs of ill health – call your vet if you see any of these,

  1. As rabbits are a prey species they will hide disease, so the first time you see any signs you must act quickly.
  2. Change in appetite – eating more or less of a particular type of food is an important sign of ill health in rabbits. Rabbits must eat every day. 8 hours of anorexia will cause some liver disease. Change in droppings – smaller, less or no droppings are an important sign of ill health in rabbits. Rabbit’s intestines must move continuously.
  3. Change in drinking- increased thirst is a common sign of mouth pain or a kidney disease.
  4. Decreased thirst may be seen with dental disease.
  5. Wet chin is a common sign of dental disease or head pain.
  6. Sneezing or runny nose or eyes are all an important signs of ill health in rabbits. This could be due to dental, respiratory or eye disease.
  7. Mucky bottom or urine scalding are important signs of ill health in rabbits.
  8. Bleeding or discharges from any where should be assessed by your vet.
  9. Limping, change in grooming behaviour or wounds should be assessed by your vet.

If you have any concerns contact your vet

This information was developed in association with the University of Edinburgh Rabbit Clinic, R(D)SVS

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