October 26, 2009
Rabbits and Vegetables
To all rabbits: Eat your veggies!
Children may turn up their noses at the mere thought of vegetables, but most rabbits will always ask for seconds. Vegetables are an essential part of a rabbit's diet that provide a variety of nutrients, extra water, and a whole lot of deliciousness.
If your rabbit's diet doesn't currently include any vegetables, it's important to introduce them slowly. Provide small amounts of one new vegetable each day to see how they react.
New vegetables can cause soft cecotropes, which may be hard for rabbits to ingest. This usually goes away after a few days. But in case soft cecal pellets persist, call your veterinarian.
For those rabbits who already get vegetables on a daily basis, new veggies should still be introduced slowly and one at a time.
It's ideal to feed your rabbit organic vegetables whenever possible. Some of the pesticides or other chemicals used to treat conventionally-grown veggies can be toxic to rabbits. Growing some or all of your own organic vegetables is great if you have the option.
Preparing rabbit salads
Always wash vegetables before giving them to your rabbit. Even if they're home-grown and organic, a quick rinse can get rid of dirt and other impurities. Non-organic vegetables should always be rinsed thoroughly in cold water. Even though your grocer may wash veggies before putting them up for sale, washing them at home ensures the removal of all pesticides and other chemicals.
Because different vegetables have different nutrients, a rabbit should get at least three different vegetables each day. However, three lettuces don't make a great meal, so try to choose three very different vegetables. Also, mix up the vegetables each time you run out. Of course, when introducing new veggies, go slowly as noted above.
The size of your rabbit salad will depend on the size of your rabbit(s). Ideally, your rabbit will eat one to two cups of veggies per five lbs of body weight per day. This can be broken up into multiple meals. If you're not sure, consult with your veterinarian about appropriate quantities.
The V List
- Butter/Bibb/Boston (green and red versions)
Leaf (both green and red)
- Romaine (and red romaine)
- Bok choy
- Carrot tops (the green part)
- Celery (cut into small pieces)
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Mustard greens
- Radish tops (radish bottoms are root vegetables which are too high in starch)
- Swiss Chard (any color)
Vegetables to limit
- Celery: not as nutrient-dense as other vegetables
- Mint (any kind but Pennyroyal): the menthol in spearmint and peppermint can relax the intestinal walls in people and other animals, aiding with certain digestive problems. However, because of the rabbit's unique digestive system, this would be a potentially negative effect (though there's no science on this yet).
- Parsley (rabbits usually prefer the taste of the flat leaf variety): parsley may initially cause some liquid in cecotropes
- Spinach: the substances in spinach reduce the availability of its calcium
Vegetables to avoid
- Corn: too high in starch to be part of a healthy rabbit's diet
- Iceberg lettuce: nutrient-weak compared to other lettuces; in addition, its high water content can cause diarrhea, so your bunny is better off without it
- Pennyroyal mint: it's toxic