In order to keep your rabbit healthy, it is important to understand what rabbits eat and what they need. Rabbits are herbivores. This means that they get all their nutrition from plant sources. Plants are hard to digest. Rabbits don’t get all the nutrition out of their food as it passes through their digestive system, so they have developed a system that works for them.
First, they eat their food. The food passes through the digestive system and comes out as cecotropes, or night feces. These feces are rather smelly and look like a cluster of grapes. The rabbit eats the cecotropes, allowing the food to pass through their digestive system a second time so they get every nutrient they can from it. After the second pass, the rabbit passes the hard dry pellets that you normally associate with rabbit droppings.
Rabbits need a lot of different nutrients. If you get a good balanced pelleted feed, you can supply your rabbit with almost everything he needs. Good companies to look at include Nutrilux, Purina, Manna Pro, Nutrena, Oxbow, and many others. You can find most of these at your local feed store.
Oxbow is available at major pet stores and online. The primary difference you’ll find is almost all pellets at feed stores are alfalfa based, while Oxbow also carries a timothy-based pellet. For pets, the timothy is more than adequate.
If you have angora rabbits or want to raise rabbits for showing or meat, the alfalfa-based pellets provide the extra energy they need for breeding and wool production. Pellets should be given in a measured amount daily. Overfeeding will result in a rabbit that is fat and unhealthy.
Hay is also a very good food for rabbits. If you are feeding an alfalfa-based pellet, choose timothy hay or an orchard grass hay. You want to ask for horse quality hay. This ensures you will get the best quality hay. This is extremely important, as rabbits are very susceptible to anything that may get into lower quality hay.
You can give your rabbit free access to hay 24 hours a day. The fiber in the hay helps keep your rabbit’s digestive system clear and working. Rabbits clean themselves like cats do, and they swallow hair just like cats. Unlike cats, they cannot vomit up hair balls. The hay helps move these hairballs through their system so they don’t form blockages in the gut.
Fresh foods are also important. Stay away from a lot of fruit, though a little bite now and then is okay for a treat. Feed them greens like red clover, plantain, blackberry leaves and carrot tops. Try to stay away from a lot of “people” vegetables like zucchini, iceberg lettuce, and so on.
While your pet will eat these, they are full of more moisture than the rabbit’s gut is used to and may cause diarrhea. Too much fruit will do the same thing. If you notice your rabbit has runny droppings, remove all food and give them blackberry leaves and dandelion greens.
These foods are astringent and cleansing. They can help the rabbit heal from the intestinal upset they are experiencing. If your rabbit shows no signs of improvement in a day or two, take them to a rabbit savvy vet. Make sure all fresh foods have not been sprayed with pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers.
Donald Stuart suggests learning more about Rabbit Care on his website at http://www.rabbit-cages-and-hutches.com/rabbit-care.html