When it comes to rabbit nutrition, there are a few characteristics of the rabbit's physiology which really affect their daily dietary needs. Rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas have teeth which grow continually, if fed unsuitable foods they fail to wear the teeth sufficiently and this leads painful dental conditions such as malocclusions (misalignment of the teeth).
The rabbit requires high levels of fibre in its diet for efficient gut movement and to encourage chewing to keep their continually growing teeth trim. Feeding good quality hay alongside a prepared pet food is always advised. Another good source of fibre is grass (freshly pulled long grass). In fact, only hay and grass can wear down teeth, so their importance in the diet cannot be underestimated.
Rabbits absorb calcium at a level that directly relates to the level offered in their food – this means that even if they do not require any more calcium, they will still continue to absorb it. As a result, both the calcium content and the calcium: phosphorus ratio are important and should be approximately 1.0% and between 1.5:1 and 2:1 respectively.
An imbalance of calcium, together with limited opportunities for chewing can result in dental problems, such as overgrown teeth and even dental abscesses. A commercially prepared rabbit food will have the right calcium phosphorus balance a rabbit needs for healthy body function. Fresh greens also act as a good source of calcium.
There are life stage products available for rabbits – these include products appropriate for growing rabbits or light products for adult rabbits that are inactive or prone to weight gain.
The European Pet Food Federation (FEDIAF) has produced a nutritional guideline for feeding pet rabbits which members follow. Please click here for the FEDIAF Nutritional Guidelines for Feeding Pet Rabbits. The guidelines are peer re-viewed by independent veterinary nutritionists throughout Europe.
Is Your Rabbit a Healthy Weight? Use our Pet Size-O-Meter to find out.