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  • Weight management for Rabbits | Diet & Exercise | Boundary Vets

Lettuce talk about rabbit food

The phrase 'rabbit food' often brings to mind thoughts of 'salad', but for your rabbit, this is not the right diet to follow. Your rabbit needs to have a good mix of high-quality grass and hay and well as a variety of vegetables, weed and leaves. Both grass and hay contain indigestible fibre the is vital for your rabbit's gastro-intestinal health. It will also keep your rabbits teeth in good shape. As long as your rabbit is vaccinated and has been treated against paasites, pop them on your lawn to graze as this provide both exercise and a good source of fibre!

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Fresh grass should be offered to your rabbit, NOT lawn mowing clippings. This can cause digestion problems for your rabbit. 

Complement the daily intake of grass and hay with carefully chosen vegetables, weeds and leaves:

  • Cruciferous vegetables – cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, sprouts
  • Spring greens
  • Kale and parsley
  • Carrots tops
  • Green beans
  • Pea-leaves

Appropriate leaves and weeds include:

  • Fruit-free leaves and twigs
  • Hazel leaves
  • Dandelions
  • Brambles
  • Clover
  • Dock

Meanwhile, you should avoid feeding your rabbit the following:

  • Banana
  • Apple
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Sugary treats

These items are high in sugar and low in fibre which is the oppostie of what your rabbit requires. Rabbits need nutrition and continuous access to clean drinking water! Water should be changed twice a day; more frequently inthe winter months to avoid freezing. 

Run, rabbit run

Rabbits are used to the great outdoors and having far stretching spaces where they can run, hop and move around. Research by the PDSA has shown that *25% of rabbits in the UK are kept in small hutches with minimal or no space to run. Rabbits need space so they are not sat still gaining weight. 

The minimum recommended number of hours for exercise is 3 hours in order to stay fit and healthy; the more time they have is always better! There are ways to encourage your rabbit to stay active, for exmaple, wide rabbits are used to searching for food so encourage your rabbit to do this too. Get them running, hopping anfd foraging for their food. 

  • Digging. Rabbits enjoy time to dig! Living in burrows in the wild, which they have dug themselves, means it’s intuitive for your bunny to want to dig deep. You probably won’t want your rabbit digging up your lawn so perhaps get a shallow planter filled with soil to have fun with instead!
  • Foraging. This isn’t something our domestic bunnies naturally do, given that we are their primary food provider. However, the PDSA suggest you can encourage this at home by making up ‘forage trays’ A big part of a rabbit’s day would usually be foraging for food. You can hide their food in amongst scrunched up newspaper or grass, freshly pulled from the ground (avoid lawn clippings as these can cause an upset tummy). Scattering some food across a clean area of their hutch or box filed with hay, outside, will help with that foraging instinct.
  • Exploring. Exploring is instinctive to rabbits as they are naturally curious. You can help stimulate this with providing rabbit-safe toys and create tunnels which rabbits love to explore! While they’re in our gardens, they can’t really explore new places, so make sure you give them lots of rabbit-safe toys they can have a look at. You can also cut holes in a cardboard box for them to run through and explore or get them a rabbit-safe tunnel, to keep that curiosity going.
  • Jumping. Jumping is a natural part of rabbit life so you might want to experiment with giving your rabbit different levels in their run to climb and jump from.
  • Gnawing. Rabbits’ teeth continually grow so it’s important to provide them with things that are safe for them to gnaw. Small branches from apple, maple, birch and willow trees would be good for them.

*https://www.pdsa.org.uk/what-we-do/pdsa-animal-wellbeing-report

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