What is an ideal diet for rabbits? Here is the information you need to keep your bunny as healthy as possible. Remember that pet stores sell what people will buy and it does not mean that it is good for your bunny.
Rabbits are meant to live on a diet composed of large quantities of grasses and leaves, with only very small amounts of pelleted food and treats.
1. Grass Hay
Grass hay should be provided at all times in your pet's cage and should be offered in large quantities. When choosing your hay, be aware that not all hay is the same. The types of hay you might find are alfalfa, timothy, oat, or orchard grass. Rabbits over 6 months of age should NOT eat alfalfa hay because the higher calcium content is not good for them. A small amount of alfalfa hay used as a treat is fine but not used as the routine hay source. Also be aware that hay that is moist, moldy, or brown in color is poor quality and should be avoided. Hay is a better diet than pellets because it is better for their teeth, chewing habits, weight, and digestive tract.
2. Fresh Vegetables
Fresh vegetables are also a very important part of the rabbit's diet. Most rabbits prefer herbs and strong tasting vegetables such as cilantro, parsley, basil, dandelion greens, fennel tops. But they also like green leafy vegetables.
Remember that these foods are high in calcium, and while a diet high in calcium is not good for a rabbit, it is actually the balance between water intake and calcium that is really important. Make sure to offer the greens dripping wet - it will encourage your bunny to consume more water and will prevent problems from the calcium intake.
If your rabbit has never eaten fresh vegetables, try Introducing greens gradually, a small serving once a day over several days. After a few days, you can increase the quantity or add in another new vegetable. Watch the stools for any change. There are a huge variety of green foods that you can offer your pet. Some examples include baby greens, bok choy, romaine, celery leaves, collard greens, endive, kale, mustard greens, parsley, or swiss chard.
For rabbits older than 6 months, pellets should only comprise a small portion of their diet - about 1/8 cup/day. The pellets should only be plain pellets, not the type mixed with seeds, corn, and oatmeal. These are higher fat foods that should be avoided in rabbits. Look for pellets based on grass hay (timothy, orchard etc) and not alfalfa hay. A diet that is based on too many pellets could cause obesity, GI problems due to low fiber content, dental issues due to minimal chewing, urinary tract disease and more.
4. Treats - Fruits and other Vegetables
Treats should be given in small quantities, for training purposes only. Commercial treat foods should generally be avoided because many are loaded with sugar and fat. Ideally stick to natural food, such as thin apple or banana slices, alfalfa sprouts, blueberries or other berries, or edible flowers. Do not feed more than a couple of tablespoons of these treats.
5. Foods to avoid
Unfortunately there are many commercial foods sold for rabbits that contain high levels of starch and fat. Examples of foods to AVOID include: Any other grains, Beans (of any kind), Breads, Cereals, Corn, Nuts, Oats, Peas, Refined sugar, or any seeds. There is NO need to give your rabbit any vitamins or supplements.
And if you have questions about this, you can call and speak with our bunny doctors, Dr Gonzales, Dr Blass, and Dr Salinger
By Dr Yael Blass