Overweight rabbits are much more likely to develop serious conditions such as obesity, gut disease, and dental problems. These conditions can be fatal and if not, they can greatly affect the health and happiness of your furry companion.
Knowing what not to feed your rabbit along with the right things to feed your rabbit is critical. Keeping your rabbit active and at a healthy weight by avoiding common foods that cause increased weight gain can do wonders for boosting their health and weight maintenance.
What Should You Avoid Feeding Your Rabbit?
Bowl of Mixed Treats
Large bowls of mixed treats are unfortunately one of the most common mistakes well-meaning owners make. The yummy fruit chunks and seeds look appealing and nutritious according to the ingredients. However, it can be one of the worst things to give your furry friend. Most rabbits end up eating all the tasty bits and leave all the nutritious bits for you to through away. The tasty parts are the ones full of sugar and fat and low on fiber and other essential nutrients. Fruit and seed mixes can alter the way your rabbit chews and affect the wear on their teeth which can result in serious dental problems. It can also result in excessive weight gain and obesity.
Think of it this way, if you set a bowl of trail mix in front of a 5-year-old, they will of course eat all the M&M’s and leave everything else. Rabbits treat the feed mixes in much the same way.
Too Many Pellets
A good alternative to mixed meals is a high-quality, high fiber pellet. But even then, you don’t want to make pellets the main source of your rabbit’s diet. Pellets aren’t necessary for your rabbit’s health; they can be used purely for a treat or for training purposes. There are no pellets in nature and rabbits have survived and thrived very well without them showing us they aren’t needed in a rabbit’s diet.
Just because they aren’t needed, doesn’t mean you can’t feed them in small doses to your rabbit! Make sure you are feeding them pellets that are high in fiber, and low in the “extra” ingredients that can make them extremely yummy (i.e. not great for your rabbit). They make great reward treats or they can help you determine how your rabbit is feeling. If your rabbit forgoes their pellets, you know something is wrong and you should contact your vet.
Bunny’s Favorite Things
When given a variety of options, most rabbits end up picking out only their favorite foods. For example, if you place a variety of vegetables in front of them like carrots, romaine lettuce, and cucumbers many will go for the carrots over all the others. Carrots should be limited since they are high in sugar, so having them always be an option among their vegetables isn’t great. Their favorite treats should also only be given every few days or during special occasions such as training. Fruit can be a rabbit’s favorite because of the high sugar content and when given the choice they’ll pick them over veggies or hay.
Guidelines for Feeding Vegetables & Fruits:
- For vegetables, around 2 cups per every six pounds of body weight daily.
- For fruits, a max of 2 tablespoons per every six pounds of body weight daily.
What Should You Never Limit In Your Rabbit’s Diet?
All rabbits need hay, every single day, to keep their digestion system working properly and to help wear down their ever-growing teeth. Unfortunately, some small pet owners underestimate how important hay is to their rabbit’s diet. It’s incredibly fibrous which aids in keeping digestion and gut health in balance along with keeping dental heath in check. Giving your rabbit a pile of hay the same size they are is a great way to ensure the minimum amount of hay is available to your rabbit each day. Ideally, your rabbit’s diet is made up of 80% grass hay. Make sure they always have hay available to them as they will continue to nibble and graze all hours of the day.
Your rabbit trusts you for everything – their safety and health especially. Yet, some owners even with the best intentions end up hurting their furry friends by over feeding them and giving them foods they think are healthy but end up being the opposite. Keeping your rabbit active and healthy largely comes down to maintaining their portions and ensuring they are getting the right amounts of each category, but especially hay.
Important Reminder: Grass hay (not Alfalfa Hay) should make up at least 80% of your small pet’s diet!