Vets say five out of top six rabbit health problems are down to poor diet
Rabbit owners are being urged to feed their pets carrots as an occasional treat only.
The call comes from the British Veterinary Association ahead of Rabbit Awareness Week, which runs from June 1. They point to survey findings which show five of the top six rabbit health problems vets see in practice are attributable to poor diet.
One of the most common mistakes rabbit owners make is feeding carrots to their pets every day. Carrots contain a lot of sugar and should only ever be given as an occasional treat.
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Misconceptions about feeding mean many vets are seeing rabbits suffering from preventable, and sometimes fatal, health issues like obesity, gut problems and dental disease.
Around 85% of vets are seriously concerned about rabbits’ health due to poor nutrition, according to the BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey.
BVA President John Fishwick said: “Rabbits make fantastic pets, but unfortunately many vets are seeing rabbits suffering from completely preventable illnesses due to a poor diet.
“Rabbits need a fibre-based diet packed with clean hay, grass and leafy greens such as broccoli, cabbage and kale to help prevent stomach issues as well as dental problems, which ranks among the most common rabbit complaint seen by vets.
“Any changes to your rabbit’s diet should be made gradually, with advice from your vet, to avoid dangerous digestive problems.”
Studies have previously shown that feeding rabbits muesli-style foods can also cause potentially fatal dietary problems.
In one major academic project, researchers at the University of Edinburgh established a link between these types of foods and life-threatening dental and digestive problems in rabbits.
Other advice for rabbit owners is to only to give fruit occasionally and in small quantities because it is also high in sugar. Apples, grapes, pears, plums, strawberries and tomatoes (but not tomato leaves) are some of the fruits that are suitable in small amounts.
Unsafe food for rabbits includes grass clippings, clematis, foxglove, ivy, lilies, lily of the valley, laburnum, poppies, privet, ragwort, rhododendron, rhubarb leaves
Owners who would like more information on their rabbit’s diet and care should contact their local vet, who will be able to offer the best advice for their pet.
Vets Now has three 24/7 pet emergency hospitals and 56 out-of-hours clinics across the UK that are open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on weekends and bank holidays, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur.
All of Vets Now’s premises have a vet and vet nurse on site at all times. Further information about rabbit welfare can also be found here.