Rabbits are great fun to keep as pets and they give people loads of pleasure when they are kept in the right conditions. Rabbits are naturally inquisitive, they are very social and extremely playful little creatures and they boast a whole “rabbit” dialogue of their very own. Looking after a pet rabbit means offering them the correct sort of food to eat, being very careful when handling them and spending as much time playing with them as you possibly can – in return, your pet will be around for a very long time because they'll be happy and healthy.
Making sure you know what to feed a pet bunny and what not to feed them in their diet, means preventing some quite serious health issues. Rabbits need lots of fibre and the best source is the hay they eat as well as any fresh uncut grass they nibble on. Fresh greens and nuggets/pellets also offer rabbits the fibre they need to stay healthy. However, a recent study carried out by the University of Edinburgh showed that muesli-style rabbit food is not good for them at all and can lead to all sorts of abnormalities which includes the following conditions:
There are many articles around explaining just how important a rabbit's dental health is to their overall well being. Rabbits must chew to wear down their teeth which grow continuously throughout their lives. Nibbling on hay and grass is essential otherwise their teeth get too long and cause all sorts of painful conditions which will eventually lead to much more serious illnesses. If their teeth are painful, a rabbit will refuse to eat and then you have to cope with an underweight bunny that might have a compromised immune system.
To promote good digestion in rabbits, you need to give them the two kinds of fibre which they need in their diets, namely digestible fibre and indigestible fibre. When the two are combined, this is what is referred to as “Beneficial Fibre”. Digestible fibre gives rabbits the essential nutrients they need to stay healthy while the indigestible fibre keeps their digestive systems moving as effectively as possible.
Indigestible fibre passes through a rabbit's digestive system and is then excreted as round, hard droppings. This process keeps everything moving and stimulates a rabbit's appetite. The digestible fibre goes into a part of the gut known as the caecum where the good bacteria found in there ferments it so the fibre ends up as sticky droppings which are called caecotrophs. You often see rabbits eating their caecotrophs because they extract essential nutrition from them which is digestible fibre.
If your rabbit is in tip top condition, you should never see any caecotrophs in their cages or enclosures and if you do, the chances are your pet is suffering from poor gut health. You would need to take your rabbit to the vet to have a correct diagnosis made of their condition and then treat your pet accordingly. This may entail totally rethinking the type of diet you have them on.
In the wild rabbits spend much of their time above ground nibbling on grass and searching for hay, herbs, plants and any bark they can chew on and eat. They spend about 70% of their time foraging for food and chewing which keeps them busy, exercised and stimulated. In captivity, it's crucial to offer them the correct diet not only for their physical health but their emotional well being too, and naturally this means their teeth are kept in great condition too.
You must avoid feeding muesli-style food because it will increase the risks of your pet rabbit developing dental and digestive health problems. However, if you are feeding your rabbit muesli-type feed, you must never just change their diet over night because it could make your bunny very ill.
Instead you would need to gradually wean them off the muesli and slowly change their diet to a nugget/pellet and hay based one. You should ideally do this over a period of between 14 to 28 days by slowly decreasing the amount of muesli you give your pet and replacing it with nuggets until you have totally taken the muesli out of their diets. Feeding good quality hay and grass is essential and they need to have access to both or either continuously along with clean, fresh drinking water.
Recent studies show that muesli-style food when fed to rabbits, with or without giving them hay as well, can cause all sorts of painful dental and digestive abnormalities which would need veterinary attention. One of these conditions is called “Lower Gut Mobility”, a very painful condition that could lead to gut stasis – another condition that often proves fatal.
Other reasons why feeding muesli-style food is not good for rabbits includes the following:
Learning how to promote good digestion in a pet bunny means knowing what to feed them and what not to feed them. However, it's also important to take care of a bunny's emotional health too which means spending a lot of time playing and interacting with them. A rabbit that's well cared for will live a long and happy life, keeping you company and you'll enjoy every minute of it!