What's up doc? Bailey the rabbit visits the vet

Meet Bailey, a regular bunny visitor, who is always quite content munching through a variety of fresh veggies that his owner kindly prepares for him daily! Lucky boy! And why shouldn't he be happy? This is the food rabbits should be offered to eat.

We all too commonly see rabbits at the clinic with dental problems. The most common problems we see are overgrown incisors (front teeth) and or over grown molar (check teeth). Rabbits sometimes suffer from malocclusion (poor dental bite) which can have a congenital predisposition but may also be contributed by poor diet. Hence, if we can improve a rabbits diet then we can help to prevent these conditions from occurring.

A rabbit's daily diet should be 80-90% fibre. When we think of the wild rabbits, they predominantly graze on grass (pasture) all day, which aids in keeping teeth worn down well. So, we need to mimic this natural diet as close as possible with our domestic rabbits. An example of a good fibre source is grass hay. This should be fresh and sweet smelling and should be offered daily to your rabbit.

Your bunny should also be offered a range of FRESH veggies (lettuce, celery, broccoli and carrots) and also allowed to regulary graze on the lawn. Feed whole carrots and large sticks of celery, so your bunny friend has to use his teeth to break down the food. Never feed lawn clippings! They can be toxic and cause digestive upsets.

Rhubarb is toxic in rabbits and should be avoided. Large amounts of cabbage ahould also be avoided as it can cause bloating. Commercial rabbit mixes and pellets are okay but should only make up approximately 20% of a rabbits diet. These mixes should be thought of as a "special treat" given daily with the fibre diet (Like a sprinkling of sugar you have on your wheeties each day!).

A high fibre diet not only helps your bunny's teeth it can also help with your rabbit's digestion. Did you know that rabbits groom their coats much like a cat does? However, unlike a cat, rabbits can't vomit and bring up hairballs hence they have to digest any ingested hair. The increased fibre helps to prevent hairballs from forming.