Obesity and related problems are not just restricted to humans; even pet animals are vulnerable to the same. When we talk about obesity issues in pets, rabbits happen to be one of the best examples of the same. The problem of obesity in pet rabbits can be attributed to myths about their diet which exist in plenty. For instance, many people believe that pellets are ideal for rabbits as they are specifically prepared keeping rabbit diet and nutrition in mind.
However, the fact is continuous feeding of pellets is bound to make them obese after a point of time. There is no doubt that pellets have an important place in your pet rabbit diet, but taking into consideration their high calorie content one has to keep a check on the quantity of pellets that they feed their pet rabbit.
What do Pet Rabbits Eat?
In wild, rabbits are known to feed on grass, weeds, flowers, leaves and other plant matter. At times, they also resort to fruits. Generally, the diet of a rabbit consists of fiber rich foods, and this is very well backed by their gastrointestinal system which is specially designed to digest these fiber rich foods. One has to follow this rule of the thumb when keeping rabbits as pets, and make sure that their diet in captivity has significant amount of fiber in it.
Most of the commercial rabbit foods available in the market today are high in carbohydrates and fats, and sticking to them alone can cause gastrointestinal and dental problems in your pet rabbit. This makes it all the more important for you to add other edible items - such as different varieties of hays and vegetables, to the list.
Pet Rabbit Dietary Requirements
Hay is one of the most important constituents of rabbit diet, and you should ideally provide your pet with ample amounts of the same so that it can nibble on the same whenever it feels hungry. Timothy hay, ryegrass, orchard hay, Bermuda grass etc., are quite popular among rabbits. The fiber content in hay also makes sure that problems like intestinal blockages are kept at the bay. In case of juvenile rabbits (or pregnant females for that matter), leguminous hays - such as alfalfa and clover, which are rich in calcium and protein are also quite helpful. However, these hay types should be avoided in case of adult rabbits as too much of calcium or protein can result in undesired effects on their health.
Thanks to the depiction of carrot-munching rabbits in popular culture, it has become a normal human tendency to associate carrots and carrot tops with rabbits. That being said, there do exist several other vegetables that you can include in your pet rabbit's diet. The list includes vegetables like broccoli, parsley, dandelion greens, collard greens, turnip greens, etc.
Even mustard greens and spinach are ideal, but taking into consideration their high oxalate content they should not be served more than thrice a week. You need to make sure that the vegetables you feed your pet are thoroughly washed as pesticides that these vegetable are coated with can trigger a series of health problems in them. Vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes - on the other hand, are best avoided.
Coming back to pellets, as we mentioned earlier they have an important role to play when it comes to balanced diet for rabbits in captivity, but then one also needs to keep a check on the amount of the same that is being served. Too much of pellets can make your pet rabbit obese owing to their high calories, and trigger obesity related health issues in them.
When you buy pellets, you need to make sure that you check their content. Pellets with 20-25 percent of fiber and somewhere around 15 percent of vegetable protein will be ideal for your pet. Giving your pet rabbit a treat or reward once in a while is alright. However, the rabbit treats available at pet stores are best avoided as they are laden with sugar and carbohydrates. Instead, you can simply resort to fruits - like peach, pear, apple, tomato, papaya, blueberry, strawberries, etc., as a treat for your pet.
Things to Take into Consideration
If the diet of your pet rabbit lacks necessary amount of fiber, it will interfere in the functioning of its gastrointestinal tract - and eventually result in complications such as GI Stasis which can even result in death of the rabbit. The teeth of rabbits are always growing, and thus they need to chew on something to keep them trimmed. Nibbling on fibrous food such as hay for hours together serves this purpose. At times, you may also see the rabbit feeding on its droppings which is perfectly normal and important habit for this species as it helps them extract nutrients from their food. If your pet doesn't drink enough water, you can always offer it wet vegetables to make up for the same.
The diet is one of the basic attributes of house rabbit care, and you need to make sure that you don't goof up in this aspect. It is important to ensure consistency in your pet rabbit's diet, and changes if necessary, should be implemented gradually over a course of time so as to make sure that the rabbit gets enough time to adapt to these changes.