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(207) 846-6515

FEEDING RABBITS / PREVENTING DENTAL DISEASE

FEEDING RABBITS / PREVENTION OF DENTAL DISEASE

The following comment is from a veterinarian who practices near Fairbanks, Alaska (2014):

" I have known rabbits who are outside (living in a courtyard with warrens in the snow) year-round in Fairbanks. It can easily be -40 F for a week at a time, but the rabbits are fat and happy with a diet of only grass hay. "

There is debate about the causes and the disease processes of dental disease in rabbits. But there is no debate that a high-fiber diet prevents most health problems in rabbits, including not just dental disease but also various digestive and urinary tract problems. 

The ideal diet for a rabbit with healthy teeth includes:

A constant supply of good quality, palatable grass hay, usually timothy. Alfalfa hay is too high in calcium and should not be fed; any other hay is fine, as is fresh grass. 

A wide variety of leafy green plants and vegetables (please see the lists at the end of the article). A daily amount of a mound equal in size to the rabbit's body is a good guideline. Ideally a mixture of at least five different plants should be offered each day; at a minimum, more than one type should be offered each day, and the types should vary from day to day. Some owners worry about plant toxicity, but that is not a concern as long as rabbits are given a variety of choices of plants to eat. Given a choice, rabbits will not eat poisonous plants, or, if they do, they are not susceptible to the toxins.

A smaller, but regular supply of twigs, branches and leaves, especially from fruit trees. 

A very restricted amount of fruit and root vegetables; for example, an occasional piece of carrot used  used as a training treat. 

No pellets. 

No cereals or grains. 

No starchy or sugary treats, or other similar "people" food. 

Some vegetable options (not intended as a complete list):

Vegetables:
broccoli - florets, stems, leaves
brussels sprouts
cabbage
cauliflower leaves
celery
chicory
chinese cabbage
fennel
kale
leeks
romaine lettuce
spinach
spring greens
watercress

Herbs:
basil
chervil
coriander
mint
parsley
rocket

From the vegetable garden:
carrot tops
leaves and branches from fruit trees
pea plants
strawberry, blackberry and raspberry leaves
sunflower leaves
sweetcorn plants
tops from celeriac, beets, artichokes or other root vegetables

Wild plants:
bramble
burnet
chickweed
cleavers
clover
coltsfoot
comfrey
cow parsnip
dandelion
dock
grass
ground elder
groundsel
knapweed
plantain
shepherd's purse
sow thistle
vetches
wild chervil
yarrow

Yarmouth Veterinary Center
2015

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