Dr. Alondra Martin
Since rabbits are herbivores, they require a special diet that is rich in vitamins and high in fiber. In order to promote intestinal motility and minimize intestinal disease, a rabbit's diet needs to contain at least 15-16 percent crude fiber.
Recommended diets include unlimited access to grass hays like timothy, brome, oat, or wheat. Alfalfa hay is not recommended in rabbits over eight months of age because it is too calcium and protein rich. The above mentioned hays can be purchased from a local feed store or ordered from companies like Oxbow, (800) 249-0366.
In addition, for rabbits over eight months of age, provide about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of fresh commercial rabbit pellets per five pounds of body weight twice a day. Avoid those pellets that contain nuts and grains. For younger rabbits, less than eight months of age, offer unlimited plain alfalfa pellets – limiting the pellets in young rabbits can have a devastating effect.
Another crucial component that needs to be provided daily is fresh, green leafy vegetables. A minimum of one cup of vegetables per four pounds of body weight should be given daily. Examples of nutritious vegetables are alfalfa sprouts, basil, parsley, beet greens, broccoli leaves, Brussels sprouts, carrots and carrot tops, cilantro, collard greens, endive, green peppers, romaine lettuce, kale, raspberry leaves, wheat grass, pea pods (peas excluded), squash, raddichio, and dandelion leaves.
Like with all animals it is important to introduce any new food gradually to help avoid and prevent any gastrointestinal upset. If fruit is to be offered, it should be limited to no more than two tablespoons and restricted to the high fiber fruits like apples, pears, plums, melons, raspberries, papaya, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and pineapple. Avoid bananas and grapes due to their high sugar content.
In general, fruits, grains, cereals, and breads should only be given in limited amounts, and excesses can lead to fatal diarrhea. Fresh water should be provided daily in a clean water bottle or a heavy porcelain crock. Change the water daily and wash and disinfect the bowl weekly.