We love to spoil our pets, rabbits with their doleful eyes have an ability to melt our hearts, and you can’t help but want to make them happy! On visiting any pet shop you are bombarded with a huge variety of different treats for your rabbit with bright packaging telling you how good they are for your pet. Sadly as a rule, they are far from healthy, being more like junk food than a healthy snack, with some being potentially dangerous!
The rabbit’s delicate digestion relies on bacteria to digest food. Near the end of
the intestines is an extra part known as the ceacum, this is similar to our appendix but much, much larger and full of bacteria. These bacteria help to break down the fibre in the grasses eaten. When a rabbit eats a food high in starch and sugar, these enter the caecum and cause chaos. The sugar and starch quickly ferment giving food to the bacteria at an extremely high level. The bacteria multiply and release gasses causing the rabbit to bloat and its intestines to stop moving. Once a rabbit’s intestines have stopped moving they can prove very difficult to get going again. Sadly, many rabbits die of this condition (known as gastrointestinal stasis).
As you may have guessed, I’m not a fan of processed rabbit treats and believe there’s nothing better than a piece of fruit or veg. Fruit should be rationed due to its high level of fructose (a type of sugar) but many types of veg can be given as a healthy treat. The occasional raisin will be welcomed and be extremely useful in training as a reward. I had a fantastic house rabbit that would almost do back flips for a raisin!
Rabbits assimilate calcium in a different fashion to people. We tend to only absorb the calcium we need from our diet, whereas a rabbit will absorb most of the calcium it consumes and then excrete the excess in its urine. A diet too high in calcium can cause kidney and bladder stones. Cabbage, kale, broccoli, watercress, chard and endive are all high in calcium and therefore should be fed in moderation.