Supplements have become quite a popular option for many rabbit owners. They are typically mineral and vitamin additives given to rabbits to boost the nutritional content of the rabbit’s typical diet as well as provide a healthy and safe variety for them.
“Safe” because rabbits have very sensitive stomachs. Taking care of them need not be overly expensive as much as they need to be detailedly conscious to provide adequate nutrition. Rabbits have very selective stomachs when it comes to food that they are unused to. Ironically, the rabbit will eat almost anything it is presented with- safe or unsafe.
Typical supplements include natural treats such as fruit, artificial vitamin supplements and pellets. The question is, does your rabbit actually need these supplements?
Do Rabbits Need Supplements?
Supplements such as pellets and vitamin supplements can provide essential and safe nutrients for your rabbit. Truth is though, all things being in place, the rabbit does not need them to be healthy. However, there are certain considerations to be made that may cause it to be necessary for the rabbit to have these supplements.
Rabbits who have health issues such as poor teeth alignment, obesity or an illness will benefit greatly from a few healthy supplement addition to their meals. Supplements do not even always have to be pellets or store-bought.
You can make yours just as healthy and safe. An added bonus is the good variety that you can ensure your rabbit gets.
What Do Rabbits Need to Eat?
Rabbits as earlier mentioned will eat almost anything as long as it is presented to them. Whether this is safe for it or not is a totally different question. We have already established that rabbits do not typically “need” supplements as long as their required meal is available.
Rabbits require a healthy meal plan of mostly hay, grass and water. Contrary to many visual media representations, your rabbit cannot survive on root vegetables such as carrots. These are merely treats or snacks to offer the rabbit during the day and definitely not every day.
Water given to your rabbit has to be clean and fresh. This goes without saying. However, we find that many pet owners compromise on such details which they consider of no major consequence.
Hay may be of one or different types to create a mixture. Make sure to buy the cleanest and freshest hay. Never feed your rabbit hay that may be dusty or have even a hint of mould.
A regular natural supplement that you may consider is vegetables as long as they are not high in calories. One way to avoid this is to ensure you get ones that are not high in carbs such as leafy greens.
How Much Should you Feed your Rabbit?
Rabbits eat continuously. For all their eating, their stomachs are so sensitive and their nutritional requirements are painstakingly specific. Apart from concerns about too many weights, rabbits can very easily have stomach and dental problems.
Hence, not only what they eat but how much they eat is a huge consideration in having a healthy rabbit. You would often know if you’ve done a good job of feeding your rabbit adequately and appropriately by how they stool. The code is soft equals problem; Hard equals good.
Rabbits should have unlimited access to hay, refilled about twice a day. Hay is a rabbit’s staple and it is great for them because it is high in fibre and low in calories- two things that should be music to rabbit owner’s ears.
Pellets and greens should be given in small quantities. Greens should be nothing more than a handful each day and pellets should be 25g and 50g of pellets depending on your rabbit’s weight.
Supplementary diets need not be as much as the rabbit’s major diet. They should be just as much as their name implies- supplementary. Fruits and other snacks should be given only occasionally- about once a week or every two weeks.
What Makes a Rabbit’s Diet?
Rabbits benefit from a good variety of feed- taste and health-wise. However, as we have established, a rabbit’s main staple is hay and water but it is also a good idea to mix it up when you can as a form of added bonus. Why have a healthy rabbit when you can have a healthier one?
Rabbits are herbivores. This means that they eat only plant-based foods. Never ever be tempted to feed your rabbit animal by-products, not even as a joke.
A well-balanced diet for a rabbit should be about 80% hay and 20% anything else apart from water. 15% can consist of leafy greens and non-leafy such as fruits which must be served in small amounts.
Pellets and vitamin supplements can make up the extra 5% and should be nothing more than a few tablespoons. Anything more than that will cause weight problems such as obesity (which means its body fat is too much and too unhealthy for its size), dental problems, and stomach problems which may lead to death.
Water need not have any regulations. There is hardly any specie on earth for which drinking water can ever be too much or unhealthy.
When to Give Rabbits Supplements
To avoid complications that may arise from too many vitamins as is typically contained in supplements, you may provide your rabbit with supplements under a number of conditions:
- When the vet says: This is the best condition to give your rabbit supplements. Supplements provide nothing more than an added nutrient when that nutrient is found deficient. It may be best to visit your vet before providing them.
- If the rabbit has been sick: Understandably, sometimes we may not have easy and immediate access to a vet. If you’re an experienced rabbit owner and have noticed a deficiency in your rabbit, especially after a sickness, you may provide them (cautiously) with them.
- Precautionary Conditions: Sometimes, we just want to make sure our rabbit is healthy. It is proof that you are attentive to your rabbit’s needs. Ensure then that these supplements especially artificial ones are given between long intervals.
What should I Feed My Rabbit Every Day?
It is applaudable that you wish to mix things up for your rabbit but you must remember that the rabbit is not human. Its needs are entirely different from yours as is its digestive system. It does not need or may not even want a new taste. It is not like you that may be bored with the same tastes each day.
It is more than adequate for your rabbit to have a diet of only hay and water each day. Hay has just enough of all the nutritional requirements and will ensure that your rabbit is not at risk of becoming overweight from other additions.
General Nutritional needs of the Rabbit
From a nutritional perspective, rabbits can be a whole lot of work. Not necessarily because they need a wide array of food but because their sensitive stomachs will condition the rabbit owner to be very nit-picky about what they are feeding the rabbit, how much they are feeding the rabbit and how often in order to ensure the rabbit does not have a nutrient overload.
Not to worry, we’ll make it easy for you to remember. The rabbit needs all the nutrients that you need. The difference is in the proportion. A typical human diet is about 2000-2500kcal per day depending on a variety of factors. A rabbit needs nothing more than 170kcal a day (depending on size).
One of the most nutrients needed by your rabbit is fibre which serves as its carb intake. The digestive system of the rabbit needs fibre for it to work properly. It also helps to wear their teeth down. A rabbit’s teeth never stop growing and fibre-rich foods through the rabbit’s constant chewing will help wear it down.
Rabbits need protein to help grow and muscles. Too much may cause problems in the kidney. Hay provides protein e.g Grass and Alfalfa Hay. Fats help with energy as well as absorption of vitamins. However, too much fat can lead to obesity. Rabbits can get their fats from pellets and nuts.
Vitamins are so important because a rabbit is incapable of making its own. They must eat food to get them. The rabbit needs all the vitamins except vitamin C which in excess will cause stomach issues. Vitamins help with the immune system as well as a healthy body and skin growth.
All minerals are good for the rabbit and will have no effect even in excess. Calcium is an exception as too much can cause bone and teeth problems.
Seeing as the rabbit requires a low-calorie diet, all these nutrients can very easily be found in its typical meal of hay, vegetables and water.
As much as we may get excited to boost our rabbit’s energy, health and overall living. We must understand that a key to a healthy rabbit many times is “Less is more”.