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Ask the Vet: Grass Hay Should Be Freely Available To Pet Rabbit

Dr. Lee Pickett on

Q: Fern, our daughter's first rabbit, just joined our family. May she eat only rabbit pellets, or should we also give her lettuce and carrots?

A: Most of Fern's diet should consist of a variety of fresh grass hays, such as timothy, Bermuda, brome, oat, rye, barley, meadow and orchard grass hay. Avoid alfalfa, which is too high in calories and protein.

Grass hay should always be available to her, preferably in a box or hay rack to keep it clean. It is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients.

It's also high in fiber, which will keep Fern's gastrointestinal tract moving. Rabbits' teeth grow continuously, and the fiber in grass hay will help wear them down properly.

After grass hay, the second most abundant part of Fern's diet should be a variety of dark leafy greens. Provide romaine, kale, collards and other greens, as well as herbs such as parsley, cilantro and mint. Feed 1 packed cup of washed leafy greens for every 2 pounds of Fern's body weight per day.

If you give her dandelion greens, be sure they haven't been sprayed with insecticides or herbicides. Don't feed iceberg or bibb lettuce, because these light-colored greens aren't very nutritious.

 

You may offer other washed vegetables, such as carrots, celery and bell peppers, at 1 tablespoon per 2 pounds of body weight per day. Avoid onions, leeks, chives and related vegetables, because they're toxic to rabbits.

Fruits are high in calories, so give Fern no more than 1 teaspoon of fresh fruit per 2 pounds of body weight per day. Dried fruit is three times more concentrated, so give less of this treat if you choose to offer it. Consider fruit as a training treat.

Rabbit pellets are high in calories and starch, so offer no more than 1/4 cup per day.

Don't feed grains, nuts, seeds or commercial rabbit treats, which cause obesity and digestive problems.

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