Rabbit Nutrition

One of the most common causes of illness in Rabbits, is incorrect diet.

Rabbits have a very specialised digestive system, and like any piece of specialised equipment it must be maintained carefully because when things go wrong, they tend to go very wrong. Unlike most mammals, rabbits do a lot of their digestion in their intestines. Their intestine is very specialised, it can separate out fibre from the rest of the food and push it backwards to a little pouch called the caecum, while at the same time pushing everything else forwards towards the anus to be passed out in faeces. Inside the caecum are lots of specialised bacteria. These bacteria breakdown the fibre allowing it to be properly digested. The left over material from the caecum is then pushed back out and excreted in special soft faeces that are usually passed at night. The special bacteria in the caecum need to be fed fibre regularly, or the bacteria will die. If the bacteria die, then the rabbit can no longer access all of the nutrients from the food it eats and these nutrients are vital to the rabbit’s health.

In the wild a rabbit’s diet primarily consists of dry fibrous stalky grass, similar to some of the grasses you see along the Desert Road in the central North Island. This provides the fibre their digestive tract needs. In our pet rabbits we mimic this diet primarily with good quality meadow hay, fresh grass, leafy greens and high fibre (>17% fibre) pellets.

Many of the rabbit pellets available at pet shops and supermarkets are too low in fibre – some as low as 4%. They also often contain coloured treats and seeds; these are the equivalent of rabbit junk food and should not be feed regularly. Brands of pellets which contain the right amounts of fibre and protein include; Burgess Excel rabbit food (available at Vets4Pets), LM Animal Farms Rabbit Diet (can be ordered through our clinic), Oxbow Essentials Rabbit food (can be ordered through our clinic), and Harringtons rabbit food (from Countdown).

Getting a rabbit’s diet right is very important but thankfully very easy - the key is lots and lots of good quality meadow hay and a small amount of a nice fibrous pellets and fresh leafy green vegies. Fruit and other vegetables such as carrots can also be fed once or twice a week as a treat. If you have any further questions about your rabbit’s diet, please contact us at the clinic.


The Rabbit Food Pyramid

burgessrabbit food pyramid