What to feed your rabbit?
Let’s start with the healthy bunny’s grocery list. More diet information follows the grocery list.
|Vegetables and Herbs|
|Sprouts: alfalfa, radish, clover||Lettuces: romaine, green leaf, red leaf (no iceberg)*||Basil||Beet greens*|
|Bok choy||Broccoli* (all parts)||Brussels sprouts||Carrots* (root and tops)|
|Celery (stalk and leaves)||Cilantro||Clover greens and flowers||Collard greens*|
|Dandelion greens and flowers*||Endive*||Escarole||Green peppers|
|Kale* (serve sparingly)||Mint||Mustard greens*||Parsley*|
|Pea pods* (the flat ones)||Peppermint leaves||Raddichio||Radish leaves|
|Raspberry leaves||Spinach* (serve sparingly)||Watercress*||Wheat grass|
|* indicates a vegetable high in vitamin A; feed one vegetable containing vitamin A each day for good health.|
|Fruits and Berries|
Many rabbit caregivers feed their pets pellets as their main diet. Recent studies indicate that pellets can cause obesity and chronic diarrhea. Pellet diets were formulated as an easy-to-administer way to promote rapid growth and weight gain in rabbits raised for meat and fur. Pellets perform well in these situations, but these are not goals appropriate to the neutered house rabbit who is expected to live out its full life potential of about 10 years.
The diet recommended by Dr. Susan Brown of the Midwest Bird & Exotic Animal Hospital in Westchester, Illinois is also recommended by the HRS. A good grocery list is handy. Dr. Brown’s diet consists of the following:
- Hay & Vegetable Diet
- Fresh hay should be offered and available on a free-range basis. That is, as much as the rabbit wants, and at all times. Young bunnies should be introduced to hay as soon as they can eat on their own. Mixed grass hay or timothy hay may be preferred because it is lower in calories and calcium than alfalfa. Alfalfa’s high calorie content may be a health issue in older rabbits, and calcium can contribute to bladder and kidney stones.
Feed a minimum of 1 cup vegetables for each 4 pounds of body weight. Select at least three types of vegetables daily. A variety is necessary in order to obtain the necessary nutrients. Feed one vegetable each day containing vitamin A (indicated in the grocery list above by an *).
Add new vegetables one at a time and in small amounts. Eliminate any veggie that cause soft stools or diarrhea, or of course, if your rabbit simply doesn’t like it!
- Fruits and Treats
- Fruits are fine as a treat, but limit servings to 1-2 tablespoons per 5 lbs of body weight. No fruits allowed if your bunny is on a diet for weight loss. Make your selections from the list below of high fiber fruits, and as with veggies, introduce one at a time and in small quantities. Eliminate any that cause soft stools or diarrhea, or of course, if your rabbit simply doesn’t like it!
Sugary fruits such as bananas, raisins, and grapes should be served as very occasional treats. Bunnies have a sweet tooth and may devour sugary foods to the exclusion of healthful ones. These treats are often useful for disguising medications (especially pills), but be careful of amounts.
Absolutely NO cookies, crackers, chips, breakfast cereals, bread, pasta, yogurt drops (or yogurt), or other “human treats”. There is research to suggest that these foods may contribute to fatal cases of enterotoxemia, a toxic overgrowth of “bad” bacteria in the intestinal tract. Lactobacillus (the active ingredient in yogurt that helps the growth of “good” bacteria in the intestine), can be purchased as a non-dairy powder or liquid from health food stores. This is a helpful additive if your bun must be on certain antibiotics.
Also, absolutely NO “rabbit treats” containing seeds, corn, nuts, honey, and dried fruit. Plain, unhulled or hulled sunflower seeds can be given as a very rare treat, but the prepared “treats” are harmful to your bunny. Corn is not digestible, most nuts are too high in oil, honey is simply not needed — your bun will only gain weight that will be tough to loose, and dried fruits have very high levels of concentrated sugar, fresh fruits are much better.
- Pellets or No Pellets?
- If you do feed pellets to your house rabbit, feed very small amounts. Don’t buy big bags of feed for one or two rabbits. Pellets can turn rancid and harm your rabbit. Make sure you buy 100% pellets without seeds, nuts, or dried fruit. If your rabbit is currently on a high pellet diet, and you want to change to the described hay and veggie diet, do so slowly. give your bun time to make the transition slowly and safely. Bunny digestive systems are rather delicate, and abrupt changes can wreak havoc! Slow and steady will definitely win this “race”.