Raising House Rabbits

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Feeding Bunny A Healthy Diet

Nutritional Recommendations:

There are several different opinions as just what constitutes a healthy diet. However one thing that can be agreed upon is that the house/pet rabbit does better on a less protein and more fibre diet. Young rabbits, pregnant and/or lactating does and rabbits that are being bred for fur or meat all require diets that are higher in protein and fat. Where as rabbits that have GI Stasis problems require a diet higher in fibre and the less active and/or overweight rabbit requires a diet with less fat. The exact percentages of each diet is still debatable.

Many of the pet foods now available are specifically geared towards a healthier maintenance diet for the longevity of you pet. So one doesn't necessarily need to concern themselves too much over the exact percentages as long as your rabbit is happy and healthy.

The general rule however is as following:

Protein 14-16% max. (less is better);

Crude Fat 3% max. (less is better);

Fiber 14-16% min. (more is better);

Fiber 20-25% (recommended)

Calcium 0.6% max. (less is better);

These figures were based on my readings from various articles on rabbit nutrition and consultations with veterinarians.

Pellets:

It is always recommended that before purchasing any brand of pellets that you read the guaranteed analysis and the ingredient listing. As mentioned above, you want a pellet that is low in protein, fat and calcium and yet high in fibre. If the ingredients are not listed on the package, request a listing from the manufacturer. Watch out for things such as artificial colour, flavour, animal fats and by-products. Although these may not necessarily be harmful to your rabbit, do you really want to be feeding it to your beloved "vegetarian" pet rabbit? Another thing to watch out for is corn products, either corn kernels, hulls or ground corn. I have not personally experienced any problems feeding corn to my rabbits, however, it is harder to digest and some rabbits have experienced severe digestive problems after ingesting corn. One more important thing to watch out for is that some rabbit food contains peanuts and/or peanut oil, this is particularly important if you or someone you know has peanut allergies.

I feed Martin's' Little Friends Rabbit Food and Oxbow 's Bunny Basic/T however there are other brands available, such as Kaytee, Hagen, Russel's, and Otter Co-op that are just as good.

Martin's Little Friends Rabbit Food is available at Bosley's Pet Food Stores and has a minimum protein level of 16% and a maximum fibre level of 18%. Martin's also has a new brand out called "Less Active Rabbit Food" which is a timothy based pellet. It has a minimum protein level of 15% and a maximum fibre level of 22%. I am not sure of its availability at this time, but I will certainly be looking into it.

Oxbow Bunny Basic/T is available through Oxbow Hay Company and locally through Eagle Ridge Animal & Bird Hospital in Coquitlam, it is my preferred choice of pellets.

Bunny Basic/T is a Timothy Hay based pellet versus the standard Alfalfa Hay based pellets. This equates to lower fat levels and higher fibre content. Bunny Basic/T has a minimum protein level of 14% and a maximum fibre level of 29%. In addition, this product has been specifically designed with the pet rabbit in mind.

Recommended Serving Size

Feed your rabbit aprox., 1/4 cup per 5-7 lbs of adult weight. Young rabbits (under 1 year) and pregnant or lactating does should be feed as much as they can eat.

Hay:

Regardless of what brand of pellet you use, the bulk of the rabbit's diet is from hay. Rabbits should be free fed as much hay as they can eat. The preferred choices are Timothy or Grass Hays as they are lower in calcium, fat and protein. Alfalfa is higher in protein, calcium and fat, which could lead to potential health problems. However, it can be fed in limited amounts as a treat food and to supplement the diet of rabbits requiring the higher nutritional values.

Vegetables:

Some house rabbit owners have chosen to feed their rabbits a diet mainly of fresh greens and vegetables. Although, I don't disagree with this option I do have to mention that it is a diet that is not for everyone or every rabbit. This kind of diet requires a lot of preparation as a healthy medium size rabbit will require up to 3 large "salads" per day, each containing a variety of greens and vegetables in order to meet the minimum required nutrients and calories needed each day. As for the rabbit, this diet must be done gradually so as to not create any stomach upset and some rabbits, however, can not even look at a fresh greens without getting diarrhea.

I personally, have chosen to feed fresh greens and vegetables as treats rather than the main diet, as many of my rabbits have had digestive problems and could not tolerate large amounts of fresh foods.

Treats:

Limit treat foods to no more than a tablespoon per day. Although, there seems to be some controversy as to what constitutes a "treat" food, my philosophy has always been "MODERATION". Good healthy items such as fruits and veggies are always a welcomed treat. Broccoli, carrot tops, kale, apple and dandelion leaves are among the favourite.

However, if your rabbit is running around the house you might find him/her interested in your food, even too the point as to looking into your mouth for food. I have given my rabbits treats such as, cheerios, crackers, toast, and granola bars. The key to feeding any treat to you rabbit is keep it low in sugars, fats and salt, if it's not healthy for you, its probably not very good for bunny either. There is also a wide range of commercially made treat products available from your pet supply store.

Water:

No rabbit should be without daily fresh water.

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