Hay for a healthy rabbit: the importance of appropriate feed

Debra Bourne
May 2012

Rabbits are herbivores with teeth and a gastrointestinal system adapted for a high-fibre, low-nutrient diet. Providing an appropriate diet, based on grass or grass hay supplemented with vegetables and only small amounts of concentrates, is important for tooth health, gut function and maintenance of a healthy weight. Water is also essential, and most rabbits prefer a bowl to a sipper bottle. Rabbits that fail to ingest their caecotrophs and those with diarrhoea (which is rarer) may become soiled and prone to flystrike. Obesity resulting from excess concentrate feed can lead to health problems including soiling and arthritis, and obese rabbits are more likely to develop life-threatening hepatic lipidosis if they stop eating for any reason. Stress minimization is important in hospitalized rabbits to avoid anorexia, which has potentially life-threatening consequences.

Hay for a healthy rabbit: the importance of appropriate feed
Hay for a healthy rabbit: the importance of appropriate feed

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