Diet FAQ

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Main article: Diet

Is it possible to feed too many vegetables?

Generally, rabbits are good at self-regulating when giving a giant pile of fresh dark greens. No lasting harm will be done if you offer more than the recommended amount. However, some rabbits may react badly to specific types or too large of an amount and get runny stools and diarrhea. These rabbits should have their greens portioned strictly or may even need to have vegetables cut out from the diet. Remember that you should not feed too many sugar-loaded vegetables like carrots, and these should be strictly rationed as treats.

Is it okay for my bunny to eat dog or cat food?

It is very dangerous for a rabbit to snack on dog or cat food. These foods are designed for carnivores, not for herbivores. They are high in protein, fat, and grain-based carbohydrates.

Recommended protein percentages range from 18% for adult dogs to 28% for puppies, and recommended fat percentages range from 9-15% for adult dogs and 17% for puppies.[1] Recommended diet percentages for cats range from 25-30% for protein and 15-20% for fat.[2] Recommended diet percentages for rabbits are only 12-14% for protein and 2-5% for fat.[3]

Although rabbits can eat small amounts of dog or cat food and appear to be normal, rabbits also have very sensitive digestive systems, and something that doesn't agree with them can over time quickly send them into digestive upset. Excessive levels of protein can lead to kidney damage, and excessive levels of fat and carbohydrates can lead to obesity.[4] Keep all dog and cat food out of the reach of your rabbit!

Can my bunny eat yogurt treats?

We do not recommend feeding any dairy treats such as yogurt drops to rabbits as treats. Rabbits are strict vegans in the wild and never have access to milk and other dairy products.

Adult rabbits do not naturally have the right bacteria to process dairy in their cecum and intestines and can consequently accelerate the onset of GI stasis in the absence of the bacteria.[5] These yogurt treats also extremely high in sugar content, and as the House Rabbit Society states,[6]

...excessive sugar is converted to fat, or will pass into the cecum where the bacteria will use it for energy and then rapidly overgrow, possibly leading to bacterial imbalance and gi stasis.

However, MediRabbit does note, [5]

Yogurt diluted in water can nevertheless help rabbit suffering from intestinal bacterial disturbances et diarrhea, by protecting the endemic bacterial flora and allowing it to grow.

See Treats for appropriate treats that can be fed instead that are natural to their diet.

Can my rabbit eat onion and garlic?

Onion and garlic have many purported medicinal uses; however, they should not be fed to rabbits. Onions and garlic have an immunosuppressive effect in rabbits, and rabbits may also have an anaphylactic reaction.[7] See Vegetables and Treats for safe foods to feed your rabbit instead.

Acute LD50 toxicity using garlic extract has been established at 3034 mg/kg with other behavioural signs like loss of appetite and partial paralysis.[8]

Can I feed carrots to my rabbit?

Yes, carrots can safely be fed to your rabbit, but should not be a major part of his diet. Carrots are very starchy and high in sugars and can cultivate the wrong type of flora in your rabbit's digestive system as well as encourage obesity. See Vegetables and Treats for more information on what should be fed to your rabbit.

Does my rabbit need a salt lick or mineral block?

With a proper diet, rabbits have no need for a salt lick or mineral block. There is little evidence that additional salt is required, but some rabbits like the taste. Mineral blocks are unnecessary, and some blocks may contain high levels of calcium that can be harmful if the rabbit gnaws and eats them in large amounts.[9] A rabbit confined to a hutch may destroy and eat the mineral block as a displacement activity, not because it has an additional need for minerals.

Do I need to remove thorns from trimmings of plants like roses and raspberry and blackberry vines?

Anecdotal evidence has shown that rabbits will consume spiky plants, thorns and all.[10][11] Rabbits have no problems consuming other bristly plants such as bull thistle and radish leaves as well.[10] However, be careful of thorns getting caught in wooly breeds such as Angoras and Lionheads.[10]

References

  1. PetEducation.com. (n.d.). Protein Requirements for Good Nutrition. Retrieved 5 May 2016 from http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+1659&aid=702
  2. PetEducation.com. (n.d.). Protein Requirements for Good Nutrition. Retrieved 5 May 2016 from http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=1+1399&aid=701
  3. Moore, L. (2013). Rabbit nutrition and nutritional healing. (2nd ed.).
  4. VeterinaryPartner.com Rabbit Q&A
  5. 5.0 5.1 MediRabbit.com, Can rabbits eat yogurt or dairy products?
  6. House Rabbit Society, Susan M. Smith, Ph.D., FAQ: Treat Foods
  7. MediRabbit, Can rabbits eat onion or garlic?
  8. Mikhail, H.G. (2010). Phytochemical screening, elemental analysis and acute toxicity of aqueous extract of Allium sativum L. bulbs in experimental rabbits. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, 4(4), 322-326.
  9. Varga, M. (2013). Textbook of rabbit medicine. (2nd ed.).
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 RabbitTalk, Thorny plants
  11. HomesteadingToday, Rose Branches and Leaves for Feed - What About The Thorns?