Tuesday, 12 April 2016 02:04

Feeding Guidelines for Rabbits and Guinea Pigs

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Fresh clean water 24/7

Ensure they have constant access to fresh clean water.

  • Provide water the way they are used to (e.g. heavy ceramic bowl/drip-feed bottle).

  • Ensure water is algae-free in summer and doesn't freeze in winter. If using bottles, check daily that they can access the water and the end isn’t blocked.


Hay and grass daily

At least one bundle of good quality hay that’s as big as they are every day!

  • Good quality hay and/or grass, always available, should constitute the majority of their diet.

  • Rabbits and guinea pigs graze, naturally eating grass/other plants for long periods, mainly at dawn and dusk.

  • Their digestive systems need grass and/or hay to function properly.

  • Don’t feed lawnmower clippings; these can make them ill.


Leafy greens daily

Rabbits and guinea pigs benefit from having a handful of safe washed leafy green vegetables, herbs and weeds daily.

  • Feed a variety of greens daily, ideally 5-6 different types, such as cabbage/kale/broccoli/parsley/mint.

  • Introduce new types of greens gradually in small amounts to avoid potential stomach upsets.


Vets can advise about safe plants. If in doubt leave it out!


Pellets

Feed a small amount of good quality pellets/nuggets daily.

  • Measure 25g (an eggcup-full) of pellets per kg of your pet’s body weight; for a medium-sized rabbit (2kg) feed a maximum of two full eggcups.

  • Remember Guinea Pigs need an adequate source of Vitamin C daily, so feeding them a proprietary grass based food specially formulated for Guinea Pigs will ensure that they are receiving all the nutrients they need. For this reason you can feed a Rabbit with Guinea Pig food but you should never feed a Guinea Pig with Rabbit food.

  • Don’t top the bowl up as this may decrease the amount of hay and/or grass they eat.


Rabbits and Guinea Pigs fed on muesli-style foods will often selectively feed. This is where they pick out the high starch elements of the diet and leave the rest (typically the pellet /high fibre elements). Selective feeding leads to the consumption of an unbalanced diet. In addition, hay intake and water intake are lower when muesli is fed leading to other potential dental and digestive issues. Over 90% of vets do not believe muesli style foods should be sold for pet rabbits.

If you are currently feeding a muesli style food you should gradually transfer your pets onto a hay and nugget based feeding plan over a period of between 14 and 28 days, by gradually reducing the amount of muesli and increasing the proportion of nuggets until they have completely replaced the mix. Remember that good quality hay and/or grass should make up the majority of your rabbits’ diet and should be available at all times.


Healthy treats

Feed part of their daily ration of greens/pellets/nuggets, as treats and rewards during training.

  • Root vegetables (e.g. carrots) or fruit only in small amounts as treats.
    - Rabbits and Guinea Pigs don’t naturally eat cereals/root vegetables/fruit.

  • Don’t feed any other treats as these may harm them.


Top tips

  1. Note your pets’ weight. Adjust their food to ensure they’re not overweight or underweight.

  2. Young/pregnant/nursing/ill Rabbits and Guinea Pigs have different needs. Ask your vet for advice on suitable diets.

  3. If you’re unsure about providing the best diet for your rabbit or guinea pig, talk to your vet.

  4. The amount they eat and drink needs monitoring. If these habits change, droppings gets less/stop, or soft droppings stick to their back end, talk to your vet immediately as they could be seriously ill.
    - Rabbits produce two dropping types – hard dry pellets, and softer moist pellets they eat directly from their bottom and are dietary essentials.

  5. Their teeth grow continuously, need wearing down and keeping at the correct length/shape by eating grass/hay/leafy green plants.
    - Not eating the right diet results in serious dental disease.

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