Rabbits – The Most Common Feeding Mistake To Avoid

By February 16, 2013 February 28th, 2019 Uncategorized

URGENT – Because of two cases I saw yesterday in our veterinary clinic in Markham, I am reminding all rabbit owners:  I saw two different rabbits from two families who had stopped eating.

The cause:  Wrong food.

Both rabbits stopped eating their pellets and had no hay. They only ate bread, chocolate, carrots, apples and other fruit and drank fruit juice instead of water. – All are foods containing short-chain carbs that are sweet. They taste good but they destroy the complex balance of rabbits’ intestinal bacteria and can lead to severe dysbacteriosis (wrong bacteria in the bowels) which can lead to severe illness and death.

Note, that rabbits in the wild don’t eat treats, bread, cookies, fruit. They don’t even eat carrots. This is an old myth. Veterinarian in Markham sometimes see commercial “rabbit mixes” sold in pet store with seeds and dried fruits. Do not feed any of these. Veterinarians all over Toronto, York Region, and Markham who see rabbits as patients agree.

Wild rabbits eat grass, different herbs (including carrot greens – not the roots), dried grass and buds of trees when snow covers the ground.

Pet Rabbits should eat ONLY:

  • Hay
  • Grass
  • Green veggies (in small amounts daily)
  • Rabbit pellets

The intestinal tract of rabbits is uniquely designed to digest these low nutrient foods. In fact rabbits have bacteria in their lower bowels (caeca) where the plant material is being fermented and broken down by bacteria to release the nutrients. Since this happens at the lower part of the digestive tract, the nutrients are being passed in the stool (feces). That’s why rabbits eat their own stool (coprophagia) – which is green and soft. Rarely owners see this stool, because the rabbit picks it up straight from the anus. If you see this do not be alarmed. This is not diarrhea and it is a normal process. During the second bowel passage the nutrients are now absorbed and the final stool is excreted. That’s the darker green round droppings familiar to all who have to clean the rabbit cage.

So please (unless you want us to be busy with digestive treatments, stomach tube, fluids, injections, etc.) do only feed the mentioned foods to your rabbit. I am fully aware that a lot of rabbits have been eating the wrong foods for some time without any visible problems, but that does not mean they aren’t going to cause a problem in the future.

A Final Point from your veterinarian in Markham: If you see less droppings in your rabbit cage at home, your bunny has a problem. It may be from inappropriate diet, but could be something else. Please call us and don’t wait too long.

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Dr. Marsig

Compassionate Advanced Health Care for a Long and Happy Life of ALL Your Pets in the Animal Hospital of Unionville, a veterinary clinic in Markham since 1966.

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