4 tips to keep Flopsy happy and healthy
Rabbits make amusing, quiet and rewarding pets. They seldom bite and do not need
particularly elaborate accommodation. They can make excellent pets for children, but are quite fragile and all interactions with young children should be supervised by a responsible adult. When you pick a rabbit up, you should always support his back, as if he flails around unsupported he can easily injure his spine. Rabbits should never be picked up by the ears.
Tips and guidelines
1. Bunnies have a few very specific requirements to keep them healthy. Wild rabbits eat hard grasses and, unlike us, have teeth that continue to grow throughout their lives. If their teeth did not grow continuously, they would wear down and the rabbit would starve. If pet rabbits do not eat enough fibre, their teeth can grow too long and can develop sharp spurs which cut the mouth. Rabbits with tooth problems will often show interest in food but then either turn away or drop the food after a half-hearted attempt to chew it. Once tooth issues have developed, dental filing under anaesthesia is necessary to correct the problem.
2. The rabbit’s digestive tract is highly specialised to gain the maximum value out of the poorly digestible grasses they eat in nature. They have a well-developed hindgut containing a population of beneficial bacteria. A lack of fibre can predispose them to bloat and to a dangerous condition known as gut stasis, where the intestines stop contracting in a normal manner. The proper diet for hindgut-fermenting rodents consists mainly of a good-quality grass hay (Timothy, Eragrostis, long-stem feeding hay or teff). Lucerne is not hay and should only be used as a treat, as it is too high in calcium and can predispose the rabbit to bloat. It also does not contain sufficient fibre for tooth and intestinal health.
3. Rabbit pellets in a limited amount are also an important part of the diet, but take care to buy those designed specifically for pet rabbits. The commonly available commercial rabbit pellets are designed to encourage rapid growth in meat and lab rabbits and are unsuitable for the long-term health of our pets.
4. Bunnies love fresh vegetables and these can safely make up 30% of their diet. Avoid foods high in carbohydrates and sugars as these will cause an imbalance in the natural bacterial flora of the gut.
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