Basic Bunny Nutrition
Jessie L. Rayburn, CVT
Anyone who has owned a rabbit knows they are unique and special creatures. These cotton tailed companions house a variety of traits and endearing characteristics. Rabbit nutrition is a vital part of a bunny’s health and happiness, especially when it comes to feeding time. You and your bunny can have a lot of fun expanding their culinary experiences! Here is a quick summary of what should comprise a rabbit’s routine menu.
Hay: This is perhaps the most important part of a rabbit’s diet; it should be the biggest portion of their daily intake. Hay promotes gut motility and a healthy digestive tract. A well-maintained GI tract reduces the risk of hairball formation. Hay comes in a variety of types. For the average bunny, timothy hay, or orchard grass, is best suited to their nutritional needs. While alfalfa hay is “tasty” according to most rabbits, it is also very rich and high in protein. Too much of this hay can lead to obesity. Do not offer alfalfa hay unless directed by your veterinarian. Hay should be available at all times, and rabbits can eat as much as their little heart’s desire!
Pellets (rabbit food): Look for pellets that are timothy hay based. Avoid brands with extra “treats” mixed into the pellets. There are delicious, healthier choices when it comes to snack time. Limit the amount of rabbit food your bunny consumes; over feeding, or free choice feeding, can lead to obesity. A healthy guideline is 1/8 – 1/4 cup of pellets for every 5 pounds of body weight, a day.
Vegetables: Veggies should be a part of your rabbit’s daily menu. They can also be a great snack to encourage bonding, interaction, and play time. Rabbits can have 1 cup per 4 pounds of body weight, a day. Dark, fresh, leafy greens are the vegetables of choice. Examples include cilantro, collard greens, green peppers, parsley and watercress. Limit the amount of vegetables that are high in calcium as these can lead to urinary tract complications. Avoid the lighter greens, such as ice berg lettuce or prepackaged salads, as these are low in nutritional content. Varity is the spice of life so don’t be afraid to expose your bunny to a multitude of vegetables! Always introduce new veggies in small quantities and one at a time, to avoid GI upset. After that, feel free to create different, fresh salad combinations. For a list of rabbit friendly veggies, pick up a copy of our September newsletter or request a full list via e-mail, send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fruits: This sweet food group should be given in moderation; reserve these sugary treats for special occasions. About 1-2 tbs per 5 pounds of body weight, 1-2 times a week. Avoid fruits with big seeds as these can get stuck in the teeth or GI tract. It is amazing how quickly a bunny can make a strawberry disappear!
We are always excited to meet a new rabbit and answer any rabbit care questions! Feel free to call, e-mail, or simply hop on by Neffsville Veterinary Clinic anytime!