DIETARY NEEDS:
HAY, HAY, &
MORE HAY!

The following are dietary guidelines.  Please consult with your local

rabbit-knowledgable veterinarian for nutritional recommendations.

 

The most important staple of the domesticated rabbit's diet:

UNLIMITED HAY

HAY IS CRUCIAL FOR BUNNIES BECAUSE:

  • It provides an excellent source of fiber (30-35%).

  • It provides essential nutrients to keep them healthy.

  • It keeps the flora balanced in the cecum

  • It helps keep things moving through the GI tract; important for health & prevention of hairball blockage.

  • It encourages natural chewing, grazing, and foraging behaviors.

  • Chewing on grass/hay is the only way they have to wear down their continuously growing molars.

HAY FEEDING BASICS:​

  • Bunnies should always have hay available to eat!

  • Hay should make up about 80% of the diet.

  • Store in a relatively cool area with good air flow.  

  • Exposure to sunlight or too much warmth can cause nutrient loss.

KINDS OF HAY:

  • Grass & meadow hays:  timothy, prairie, brome, ryegrass, fescues, meadow grass, & orchard grass

  • Grain hays:  oat & barley

  • Timothy, oat, and orchard are 3 very common hays offered to pet bunnies.

  • Unless feeding a pregnant, nursing, or young rabbit, avoid feeding alfalfa hay.  Alfalfa is high is protein and calcium content, & because of this, may predispose bunnies to obesity & urolithiasis (stones of the urinary tract!).

  • Straw should not be offered as it is nutrient-deficient.

WHERE TO FIND GOOD HAY:

  • ​Bags of hay from Oxbow can be purchased at many pet supply stores.

  • Purchase hay online from trusted brands like Oxbow or Small Pet Select.

  • If you have multiple bunnies & adequate storage space, consider purchasing a bale of hay from a local grower.

  • If you live in the Portland-Metro area, check out local rescue Rabbit Advocates' hay blend.  Available at various locations around town, their Bunny's Best Bites is a blend of fresh, locally grown timothy, orchard, and oat hay.  It's sold in big bags and all proceeds go toward their medical fund.  See the BBB link below for more info.

References:

"FERRETS, RABBITS, and RODENTS;  Clinical Medicine and Surgery" 3rd Edition By: Katherine E Quesenberry & James W. Carpenter

"MANUAL OF EXOTIC PET PRACTICE" By Mark A. Mitchell & Thomas N. Tully, Jr.

"The Importance of Hay"

https://rabbit.org/the-importance-of-hay/

"Hay in Your Bunny's Diet" 

https://rabbit.org/hay-in-your-bunnys-diet/

 

LEAFY GREEN VEGGIES

BENEFITS OF LEAFY GREENS:

  • Vital nutrients

  • Offers variation in diet

  • Yummy!

  • Food you can eat with your bunny!​ <3

VEGGIE FEEDING BASICS:

  • Offer 1 cup per 2lb body weight per day

  • When offering new greens that your bunny has never tried, make sure to introduce them slowly to allow time for the microbes in their gut to adapt, to avoid upset of the gastrointestinal tract.

WHAT TO FEED:

  • Collard, mustard, and dandelion greens

  • Carrot, beet, and broccoli tops

  • Alfalfa sprouts and clover

  • Herbs like parsley, cilantro, and basil

  • Also: 

    • lettuce

    • broccoli

    • cauliflower

    • chicory

    • chard

    • watercress

    • celery leaves

    • endive

    • bok choy

    • dock

    • kale 

    • spring greens

CLICK THE BUTTON AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS SECTION FOR A MORE COMPREHENSIVE LIST

References:

"FERRETS, RABBITS, and RODENTS;  Clinical Medicine and Surgery" 3rd Edition By: Katherine E Quesenberry & James W. Carpenter

"Vegetable and Fruits for a Rabbit Diet"  By: Susan Brown, DVM. Published 2012. https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=5262547

 

PELLETS

Pellets are "not essential components of the adult rabbit's diet."  "If ad libitum hay, grass, and a variety of greens are available and cecotroph intake is normal, the diet is essentially balanced and contains sufficient energy for maintenance requirements."

(Quesenberry, K. & Carpenter, J., 2012, p.190)

SO WHY FEED PELLETS?

  • Many people feed their rabbits pellets out of convenience.  For those unable to offer adequate daily leafy greens, pellets are a simple, healthy, balanced alternative.

  • Pellets may also be important for bunnies who are unable to successfully practice cecotrophy (eat their "night stools") for example due to a spinal injury.

BENEFITS OF PELLETS:

  • Good source of fiber

  • Energy

  • Micronutrients

PELLET FEEDING BASICS:

  • Feed 1/4c of pellets per 5lb (2.2kg) of body weight per day.

  • Pellets are rich in calories so it is important to limit the amount fed to avoid obesity.

PELLETS TO AVOID:

  • Diets with alfalfa. 

    • We will be doing some research into this (due to conflicting information), but in the meantime, we advise sticking to timothy hay-based pellets.

  • Diets with non-pellet snacks added

    • Feeding a diet with various added snacks may sound like a fun, nutritional option for your bunny, but these diets encourage a behavior called "selective eating" which basically means they will eat the yummiest bits (typically the least healthy bits) and leave the rest.  The added seeds, kibbles, and dried plant pieces are actually unnecessary and often unhealthy.  See below for some examples.

    • Corn & flaked peas

      • These are high in starch and low in calcium and fiber.​

    • Locust beans

      • These may cause​ intestinal obstruction!​

    • Grains

      • ​These have a high calorie and fat content, which may lead to obesity and/or liver or intestinal disease.​

RECOMMENDED PELLET FOODS*:

*CBBR is not sponsored by any rabbit food or supply brands. 

References:

"FERRETS, RABBITS, and RODENTS;  Clinical Medicine and Surgery" 3rd Edition By: Katherine E Quesenberry & James W. Carpenter

"Nutrition for Small Mammals" By: Susan Brown, DVM, & Ned Gentz, DVM, DACZM. Published 11/24/2009.  Reviewed/Revised 5/17/18.  https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4952897

 

CARROTS, FRUITS, & OTHER TREATS

Treats (including carrots & fruits) should only make up 10% of the daily diet.

TREAT BASICS:

  • Carrots

    • High in sugar​

  • Fruits (banana, apple (no seeds), berries, papaya, orange (no peel), etc.)

    • High in sugar

    • May cause stomachache and/or diarrhea​

    • Too much fruit can cause weight gain and/or GI upset.

    • It is advised to stop feeding specific fruits if the rabbit experiences soft stools for a few days while eating it.

  • Commercial Treats

    • Often high in starch and fat.​

    • May cause serious health problems if too many are eaten.

    • It is advised to not feed treats with grain as the main ingredient.

    • Make sure to pay attention to the ingredients of any treats offered and only offer about 1 treat per day.

AMOUNT TO FEED:

  • Only 1 tsp per 2lb of body weight daily

References:

"Vegetable and Fruits for a Rabbit Diet"  By: Susan Brown, DVM. Published 2012. https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=5262547

"Rabbit Care" By: Susan Brown, DVM. Published 11/16/2009.  Reviewed/Revised 2/5/2014. https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4952894

"Nutrition" By: Alexandra Moesta & Christina Chan. (Educational handout from Avian & Exotic Veterinary Care)  https://www.avianexoticvetcare.com/handouts/small-mammals/rabbit-nutrition.pdf

 

FOODS TO AVOID!

It is advised to avoid the following items:

  • Beans

  • Breads

  • Cereals

  • Chocolate

  • Corn

  • Nuts

  • Oats

  • Peas

  • Refined sugar

  • Seeds

  • Wheat

  • Onions

  • Dairy

WHY CERTAIN FOODS SHOULD BE AVOIDED:

  • Many are high in sugars and starches, which can cause overgrowth of bad bacteria in the intestinal tract, which can end up being fatal.

  • Risk of obesity.

  • May be toxic

  • Members of the onion family (such as chives, leeks, and various onions) may cause blood abnormalities

  • Dairy is something that bunnies are often unable to digest adequately.


 References:

"Vegetable and Fruits for a Rabbit Diet"  By: Susan Brown, DVM. Published 2012. https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=5262547

"Rabbit Care" By: Susan Brown, DVM. Published 11/16/2009.  Reviewed/Revised 2/5/2014. https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4952894

"Nutrition" By: Alexandra Moesta & Christina Chan. (Educational handout from Avian & Exotic Veterinary Care)  https://www.avianexoticvetcare.com/handouts/small-mammals/rabbit-nutrition.pdf

 
Rabbit_Food_Pyramid-page-001.jpg


Always consult with your local rabbit-savvy veterinarian about your bunny's personal nutritional needs.

*In the diagram on the right, carrots should be at the top of the pyramid.