Understanding Rabbits’ Nutritional Needs

Rabbits have sensitive digestive systems and require a balanced diet to stay healthy and avoid digestive health problems, such as gastric dilation and gastrointestinal stasis. Diet also plays a vital role in dental health, as rabbit's teeth can become decayed or grow too long without the right amount of roughage in their diet. Some people choose to feed their rabbit a bespoke diet they have designed, while others will purchase a brand of rabbit nuggets, which is a dry food that's been formulated with the nutritional needs of rabbits in mind. Rabbit nuggets can vary in quality, and it's generally best to use them as a supplementary feed.

Here's an overview of the key nutritional needs of rabbits:

1. Fibre

Consuming too little fibre can be fatal for rabbits. As their delicate digestive tract can slow down so much that they experience bacterial overgrowth and intestinal infections. Hay and straw should always be available to your rabbit. In addition to keeping your rabbit's teeth short, a constant supply of hay and straw will ensure your rabbit's digestive tract stays healthy and harmful bacteria won't have the opportunity to colonise their intestines. Timothy, orchard and oat hay are particularly high in fibre, and you can rotate the type of hay you provide to prevent your rabbit from getting bored of eating the same thing.

2. Protein

Rabbits require a moderate amount of protein in their diet to keep their muscles, bones and eyes healthy. Too much can cause kidney damage, which is why you must not overfeed on nuggets that have protein added. If you do use nuggets, a couple of tablespoons a day is all your rabbit needs alongside a good supply of hay and suitable leafy greens, such as romaine lettuce, bok choy and carrot tops. If you do not use nuggets to feed your rabbit, you can include small quantities of grains in their diet, such as oats and rye and mix them with their hay.   

3. Essential Vitamins

Rabbits can meet their vitamin K and B complex needs by eating their caecotrophs, which are special faecal pellets produced in the rabbit's caecum. These faecal pellets are larger than their normal droppings and have lots of nutrients and good bacteria in them. Your rabbit's diet needs to provide them with vitamin A, D and E. Feeding your rabbit a good variety of safe vegetables each day, such as lettuce, fresh herbs, sprouts, watercress, cucumber and bell peppers, will ensure their vitamin needs are met.

If you have any concerns about your rabbit's diet, or if you would like some guidance on choosing high-quality nuggets to supplement their hay and vegetable intake, consult your vet. They can check your rabbit over for signs of nutritional deficiencies, such as dull eyes and dry skin, and weigh your rabbit to ensure they are a healthy weight for their age and breed. You can also compare pet food options online to ensure they offer these and other nutrients.