Rabbits are the most misunderstood pets in the UK. Sadly, not enough owners realise just how important fibre is in their diet. Hay is a great source of this fibre and very easy and clean to provide all year round.
So how much fibre do they need?
Your rabbit needs 85-80% of their diet to be hay and fresh grass. So that is about the same weight of hay and grass as their own body weight. That is a lot of hay!
Why is fibre so important?
Hay and grass really matter because:-
- Rabbits chew it in a way that promotes good dental health. The hay and grass provide the fibre that keeps the back teeth from overgrowing. If your rabbit ever gets overgrown teeth this can cause pain, abscesses and even eye problems
- Hay and grass are high in fibre which promotes good digestive health and makes the gut work at its best. Which is very important for any rabbit.
What is so special about rabbits teeth?
Unlike humans, a rabbit’s teeth are constantly growing throughout their life. To stop them overgrowing they need to wear them down by eating lots of hay and grass. Watch your rabbit eating hay and you will see they grin it with their back teeth (molars) and this is what keeps their teeth at the correct length. Chewing other foods sadly does not help with this at all – only hay and grass has that action.
When the molars get overgrown they get nasty sharp spurs on their edges. These hurt the rabbit and cause mouth ulcers. If the roots of the teeth in the upper jaw overgrow as well then these can put pressure on the tear ducts – you will notice runny eyes and infections. If the lower jaw is affected then that is when you can start to see abscesses forming.
Signs of dental disease are –
- tooth grinding
- selectively eating food – perhaps leaving hard bits behind
- swellings around the face
- runny eyes or pus in the eyes
And once a rabbit has dental disease, treatment will be life long. It usually involved regular anaesthetics and dental work. This can be as often as every 4-6 weeks.
But is is so easy to prevent – and cheap! Simply include much more hay and grass in the diet and cut out all the extra treats that you are giving that are actually harming your rabbit without you knowing it!
And there are other added benefits of hay and grass
Good fibre in the diet keeps your rabbits intestines and stomach working properly. Gut stasis is a life threatening problem for a rabbit – and it can be quite common. By feeding a proper diet then the risk of this happening drops significantly.
The ideal diet for any rabbit is:-
- 85% good quality hay/grass
- 10% fresh veg (greens/ cabbage/ kale etc)
- 5 % commercial rabbit diet (BUT NEVER MUESLI TYPE DIETS)
Feeding too much of the commercial diets makes them overweight as well as risking dental and gut problems. And fat rabbits are at far greater risk of of flystrike – another life threatening problem.
Our aim is to get all UK rabbit owners to #HoptoHay! In 2017!
Check out http://www.rabbitawarenessweek.co.uk/ on line for more information. And head to any of the Kernow surgeries in Bodmin, Liskeard, St Austell and Lostwithiel with your rabbit for a free health check all through June 2017.
Check out more information about rabbits –