Assisted feeding in rabbits

01 September 2011
15 mins read
Volume 2 · Issue 7
Figure 3. In an otherwise healthy rabbit syringe feeding for a day or two may be all that is required.
Figure 3. In an otherwise healthy rabbit syringe feeding for a day or two may be all that is required.


Rabbits are herbivores with an efficient digestive process. During periods of fasting, the rabbit's gastrointestinal health can be severely compromised. Recovery from gut stasis is difficult and not always successful, frequently resulting in devastating consequences to the animal's health. As such, it is vitally important to maintain good intestinal functioning in rabbits that are unwell and this often requires assisted feeding for animals unwilling or unable to eat. The success of assisted feeding plans are highly dependent on the feeding route, frequency of feedings, and the quality of the diet fed. There are a number of quality critical care diets that can be fed to small herbivores in these cases. Supreme Recovery is one such diet that will be investigated in this article.

Rabbits are herbivores and their digestive process depends on hind gut fermentation whereby their large well developed caecum uses beneficial microbes to break down digestible fibre into usable nutrients. Lack of fibre in the intestines, as occurs with malnutrition, anorexic rabbits, or those that are unable to eat for a medical reason, can compromise the functioning of the intestines and potentially affect the animal's ability to heal and recover from illness (Rees Davies, 2006; Meredith, 2011).

In small herbivores such as rabbits, the gut is designed for processing of fibrous low-nutrient vegetation (Meredith, 2011). Good functioning of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract requires that it is never empty so when the animal is anorexic or unable to eat, life threatening consequences can occur (Harcourt-Brown, 2002a). Not only can its rate of healing be compromised, a lack of appropriate nutrition can lead to devastating effects from gut stasis that can be a risk to the rabbit's life (Rees Davies, 2006).

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