This Easter, leading veterinary organisations, BVA, the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) and British Veterinary Zoological Association (BVZS), have found that while many rabbit owners may know that carrots should only be fed as occasional treats due to their high sugar content, many myths still prevail around the best food for Bugs. Misconceptions about feeding mean many vets are seeing rabbits suffering obesity, gut problems and dental disease. Of the top six rabbit health problems seen by vets in the past 12 months - some of which can be fatal, like flystrike - all but one of them was attributed to poor diet.
Gudrun Ravetz, President of the British Veterinary Association, said:
“Rabbits are fantastic animals, but for years they were considered an 'easy' or great 'first pet' and we're still seeing the effects of that - with a shocking five in six vets seeing rabbits suffering from very preventable illnesses. Some rabbit owners don’t realise the kind of care they are providing is making their rabbit unwell, which is upsetting as, by the time you find out, it might be too late for your rabbit. We all want what’s best for our pets, so we'd encourage potential owners to do their research and speak to their local vet before buying your bunnies.”
Rabbits should be fed fibre-based, plain diets packed with clean hay, grass and leafy greens such as broccoli, cabbage and kale – but never lettuce. This will help avoid stomach issues, however changing a rabbit’s diet should be done gradually to avoid dangerous digestive problems. A correct diet will also assist in preventing dental problems - the most common rabbit complaint seen by vets - as it will help keep moderate the length of rabbit's long front teeth which continue to grow throughout their lifetime. Rabbits should not be fed 'rabbit muesli'.
Owners who would like more information on the rabbit diet and care should contact their local vet who will be able to offer the best advice for their pet.