Diet Requirements and Feeding of Rabbits
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Diet Requirements and Feeding of Rabbits

Rabbits
Food & Nutrition

Rabbits are pretty social creatures, they enjoy the company of other rabbits which is why many people like to keep them in pairs. As long as the rabbits are neutered or spayed, this should not pose too much of a problem. However, if you are introducing rabbits to each other for the first time, you need to do this slowly and carefully to make sure they don't end up fighting. If they are friendly toward each other, they form very strong bonds.Keeping bunnies happy and healthy is crucial to their well being. Rabbits are playful and like to have toys. They also loved to be stroked and groomed, but are not that keen on being picked up, so it's best to avoid doing this unless absolutely necessary.If rabbits are kept busy, they are not destructive creatures but you have to remember they do like to chew on things and if you keep them as house pets, this includes furniture. As long as you give them plenty of good quality, safe toys to chew on, you should be able to keep this part of their natural behaviour under control.

Keeping Your Pet Rabbit Healthy

Rabbits need to be fed healthy diets. If given the wrong food to eat, it may lead to a whole lot of health issues. Rabbits are herbivores and in the wild eat a selection of grasses, plants and leaves. Their digestive systems although delicate, can cope extremely well with more fibrous foods – rabbits can exist on very sparse vegetation and do not need high calorie diets. Their digestive systems have evolved so breaking down fibre to form valuable nutrients is not a problem for them to do and they do this very efficiently.Rabbits' teeth continue to grow throughout their lives because they are continually being worn down – rabbits cut and grind their food before it is digested in their stomachs. Undigested food that does reach the colon gets split into small and large particles which are then sent completely different ways.

How Rabbits Digest their Food

Small particles are passed into the cecum – this is where food is fermented, it's a chamber full of bacteria which acts to break down the small particles so they form volatile fatty acids, amino acids, other valuable nutrients and vitamins that a rabbit needs to stay healthy.The larger particles are more difficult for the rabbit to break down, so they pass quickly through the colon and are then compressed to be excreted as the hard fecal pellets we are so familiar with.During a 24 hour period, this all changes at least once or twice with the cecum contracting to expel its contents which are larger and softer fecal pellets which are known as cecotropes. Rabbits then eat these cecotropes because they offer a very rich source of nutrients and again, this keeps rabbits nice and healthy.

Breaking the Cycle Causes Problems

Problems occur if the cycle is interrupted or broken. Any disruption in the healthy bacteria that live in a rabbits' digestive tract can cause very serious health issues. This is especially true in young rabbits – if the cycle is disrupted they produce too many toxins in the gut resulting in their death – this is known as enterotoxemia.It takes time for a rabbit to build up a healthy, stable gut flora which is the reason why young rabbits are so susceptible to the condition and why careful attention has to be paid to their diets.

What Are The Best Foods For Rabbits?

The best foods for rabbits are leafy greens and grass. These are extremely palatable as well as being low in calories and high in fibre. Rabbits get to wear down their teeth which is crucial to their well being when they are fed this type of diet. Leafy green vegetables like romaine lettuce, carrot tops and kale form an ideal diet for rabbits of all ages. A constant supply of good quality hay is also essential for the well being of your rabbit.High fibre, low calorie diets are perfect for bunnies. If you get it wrong and feed your rabbit a high calorie low fibre diet, it will have an adverse affect on their digestive cycle and can be very detrimental to their overall health. Signs to look out for include a dirty bottom because droppings are too soft. You may find there is a mass of bad smelling matted fecal matter under your rabbits tail which in turn leads to skin irritation. If this occurs during the summer months, the end result could be a condition called flystrike which if left untreated can be fatal.

Dental Problems Due to Bad Diets

The most common reason why owners have to take their pet rabbits to the vets is due to dental problems. Most vets and rabbit experts agree that mixed muesli type diets are not good for rabbits and are the reason why so many pet bunnies suffer with teeth problems.

Avoid Muesli Type Feeds

Muesli type feeds may be tasty, cheap and convenient, however, they are not at all suitable for rabbits for many reasons. The most important being they are rich in calories and low in fibre – rabbits will pick and choose the bits in the muesli they like and leave the ones they don't which makes muesli an unbalanced diet for them – even though the manufacturers claim the mixture is balanced which it is, but your rabbit will only eat the best bits and leave the healthy bits in their dishes – not only is this bad for your rabbit but a complete waste of food too.Because a rabbits' teeth grow continuously throughout their lives, they rely on good nutrition. Should the diet be deficient this can lead to all sorts of dental issues which includes crooked teeth, blocked tear ducts, abscesses, osteoporosis and even cause spinal problems. Rabbits with bad teeth cannot groom themselves and this could lead to mite infestations which in turn leads to all sorts of skin diseases.A rabbit with bad teeth also finds it hard to eat hay so this disrupts the amount of fibre they need in their diets – this in turn leads to many digestive problems. If your rabbit eats plenty of hay, then you know their teeth are in good condition and therefore the flora in their guts is good too.If ever you introduce a new type of food into your rabbits' diet, remember it will make a difference to their digestive systems – it causes a flurry of cecotropes which are the softer fecal pellets and this should not be confused as being diarrhea – quite the opposite, this is absolutely normal and perfectly healthy proving your rabbits' gut is working well!

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