Vets are warning rabbit owners not to feed their pets muesli. The mixed rabbit food might seem like a relatively benign meal for bunnies but that is not the case.
Rabbits require a surprisingly complex diet including fresh water, hay, selected fresh vegetables and dry food. It is the dry food aspect of their nutrition which is causing problems. Rabbit muesli is making some animals sick. How can that be when the food is formulated specifically for the bunnies?
It turns out that rabbits which eat muesli will often selectively feed. In other words, they pick the bits they like out of the muesli, and leave the rest. The high sugar, high starch and colourful bits are quickly gobbled up but the fibre-rich ingredients get left in the bowl. This can have serious implications for the animals’ health.
Selective feeding increases the chances of your rabbit developing dental issues, gut stasis and flystrike. If you are not familiar with the latter, Flystrike (Myiasis) is caused by the green bottle fly (Lucilia sericata) and related fly species which lay eggs on rabbits. The flies are attracted to damp fur, urine, faeces and the odour of rabbits’ scent glands. They then lay their eggs on or around the rabbit’s bottom. These hatch within hours into maggots that eat the rabbit’s flesh as well as releasing dangerous toxins.
Rabbit Awareness Week
The aforementioned conditions could result in expensive vet bills and may prove fatal. The team behind Rabbit Awareness Week, have launched their ‘Move away from muesli’ campaign in order to educate pet owners about the most suitable foods for their bunnies.
The annual PDSA Animal Welfare (PAW) Report, has revealed that inappropriate diet has been consistently cited by vets as the top issue that needs to be addressed in the case of rabbits. 25% of owners are feeding their bunnies muesli. That means that roughly 280,000 rabbits are being given potentially harmful foods.
The Rabbit Awareness Week website features a “Move Away from Muesli” pledge which owners can sign. They should also spread the word about muesli amongst fellow rabbit owners.
The Right Diet for Rabbits
So, if muesli is off the menu, what should you be feeding your pet rabbit? Experts recommend that you provide a good quality hay-based diet supplemented by rabbit nuggets and some fresh greens. The nuggets may not look particularly appetising but ensure that rabbits receive all of the nutrition that they need. Don’t suddenly switch from one food to another. Introduce the nuggets gradually over the course of a few days. Rabbits have sensitive digestive systems and appreciate routine.
The foods which may appear to be the most appealing, aren’t necessarily the sensible choice for pets. Like people, when presented with the opportunity to cherry pick, pets will do exactly that! Don’t give them that chance! If you feel bad, you can always provide the occasional special treat. You will not be helping your pet in the long run if you feed them an inappropriate diet.