Thursday, November 8, 2012

Rabbit Care, by Dr. Michelle Bellville

Bunny Tv
Photo by Jaime.
(Click to see original.)
Thinking about getting a small furry friend?

Rabbits are cool little animals with great personalities. They can be potty trained and can even live peacefully sharing a house with cats and dogs. These creatures can range in size from dwarf breeds that weigh only a few pounds to Flemish giants that easily weigh over 20 pounds! They have extremely powerful rear legs that help them jump, and all sizes of these animals are at risk of breaking their backs if mishandled. They are ‘hind gut fermenters,’ meaning that they use bacteria in their large intestine (behind the stomach, or ‘gut’) to help digest the fiber they eat. Other examples of hind gut fermenters are horses and rhinoceros! ‘Foregut fermenters’ are animals like cows and giraffe that use bacteria in their stomach to digest the fiber they eat. As gross as this sounds, rabbits consume some of their own feces – special fecal pellets called cecotropes – in order to get all the nutrients they need. You will probably never see them do this, as they usually consume cecotropes at night or early morning. This is an important reason to make sure your rabbit’s cage does not have a wire/mesh bottom that would allow for waste to drop where your rabbit can’t reach.

Bunny Fair
Photo by Asaciel
(Click to see original.)
Just like horses, rabbits need access to food all day, and one of the most common problems requiring medical care are gastro-intestinal related issues. Also like horses, rabbits cannot vomit and need to eat predominantly hay and grasses. Contrary to popular belief, rabbit pellets are meant to be a minor portion of the daily diet, with unlimited access to hay and measured amounts of fresh chopped veggies as the major portion. Young rabbits can have alfalfa hay and pellets, but as rabbits mature, the hay and pellets offered should be something other than alfalfa. Timothy pellets are very common, and you can vary the hay with timothy, orchard grass, botanical, meadow, and oat hay. Fresh chopped veggies should be dark leafy greens, root veggies, and herbs. The list for greens/herbs is quite long, but include things like dandelion greens, kale, arugula, spring mix, turnip greens, bok choy, fennel, basil, mint, and cilantro. Offer these at 1 packed cup per 2 pounds body weight. Veggies include things like carrots, broccoli, edible flowers, celery, bell peppers, cabbage, and squash and should be offered at 1 tablespoon per 2 pounds of body weight per day. Rabbits LOVE fruit and can have this special treat in small quantities (no more than 1 teaspoon per 2 pounds body weight per day).

Having a solid handle on a great diet for your rabbit will make it easy keeping a rabbit happy and healthy for a long time! Check out for great information on rabbit care, and don’t forget to have your rabbit examined yearly by an exotics trained veterinarian!

Blog by:
Dr. Michelle Bellville
Click Here for Dr. Michelle's Bio/Contact Information

Dr. Bellville assists families in the Orlando Florida area with In Home Hospice and Euthanasia. She is also available to assist families with 'exotic' species like birds, hamsters, rabbits, etc with all end of like care. 

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