It’s officially National Rabbit Week!
So if you are the proud owner of one (or more) of Britain’s third most popular pets, you’re thinking about getting one in 2008, or just a big fan of lagomorphs in general, then read on…
Traditionally, rabbits have always been seen as the ideal children’s pet, seemingly requiring less care and attention than say, our most popular pets – dogs and cats. However this belief has never been further from the truth as more and more is discovered about the diet and nutritional needs of Britain’s two million pet rabbits.
For example, three out of four rabbits seen by us vets have trouble with their teeth, usually because they grow too long. Painful dental problems are distressing for rabbits; they can cause ulcers on the tongue and gums, and can even be fatal. However, they can be easily avoided – in most cases simply by ensuring your pet is given the right food.
Hay, or forage, is not just for sleeping on – it’s the most important part of your rabbit’s diet. Good quality forage has loads of health benefits, including maintaining these healthy teeth, which can grow upto 3mm a week; so chewing forage keeps them nicely, and naturally, ground-down.
Vital bacteria living in rabbit’s intestines are notoriously sensitive to even the slightest of changes in their environment, so it’s crucial that their gut is kept healthy too; with a well-balanced feed preferably in ‘nugget’ form and high levels of fibre. Hay will also help to prevent boredom, as foraging will keep your rabbit entertained for hours.
Please don’t feed a muesli mix, as your rabbit will simply pick out the bits it likes and leave the rest, missing out on vital nutrients. It may look more appetizing to us than an extruded food, but the position of their eyes means that rabbits can’t effectively see what they’re eating. It’s important that your rabbit has access to fresh, clean water at all times.
Sadly, already one in three rabbits in the UK is obese. Help your rabbit lose weight by providing lots of opportunities for exercise, playing and feeding a reduced-calorie food.
Rabbits have 7,000 more taste buds than humans so give them some variety in their diet by offering healthy treats such as fresh greens, chunks of carrot, broccoli or apple cores; but feed them in moderation.
Keep your rabbit’s vaccinations up-to-date, especially if they’re also fed grass outdoors. Myxomatosis is fatal, and still very common in local wild rabbit populations.
And finally, never feed your rabbit human food. Some human food is poisonous to rabbits, so please don’t take the risk.
For more information, visit www.nationalrabbitweek.co.uk