General Health


Rabbits have a unique digestive system which is adapted to suit a high fibre low energy diet. The majority of their diet should consist of grass and hay. This contains the fibre needed to wear their molar teeth, which continuously grow throughout their life. The correct diet is also important for maintaining good digestive health. A lack of fibre can lead to soft stools and the wrong diet can also lead to obesity. If the rabbit is too obese to groom itself, soiling will occur, this can lead to fly strike which if not treated urgently can be fatal ...

General points to consider:

  • Your rabbit should have access to fresh water at all times. Make sure it doesn't freeze in the winter and remember that some rabbits prefer drinking from a bowl rather than water bottle.
  • Any change to a rabbit’s diet should be made gradually.  Sudden changes can sometimes lead to loss of appetite.  Even short periods of not eating e.g. 24 hours can lead to liver problems in rabbits. Changes to diet should be made gradually over 2-3 weeks to prevent this.  Sometimes in older rabbits it is not possible to wean them off mixed diets onto pellets because they refuse to eat the pelleted food.
  • Occasional soft stools are normal especially in a young rabbit whose gut may not be fully active yet.  This should clear up in a day or so with no change of diet or you could try feeding only hay for a few days.  If the problem persists ring us for advice.
  • Some fresh foods such as dandelions and cabbage may cause the rabbit to produce red urine.  This is normal and not a problem.  If you notice red urine and they haven't been eating these foods, your rabbit might be ill and we would advise you ring us.
  • Soiling around the back end may be an indicator of disease or your rabbit may simply be overweight.  Soiling can cause a real problem for rabbits and can lead to fly strike - this can be life threatening.
  • A rabbit that refuses to eat may have mouth problems or some other disease and again this needs to be checked by a vet.
  • Feeding your rabbit correctly is one of the keys to a long and healthy life.  Remember, hay and grass (high fibre) should make up 80% of your rabbit’s diet.  Since most rabbits choose other foods in preference, the best way to achieve the balance is to offer only small amounts of commercial diet and vegetables.  Once that has been consumed, your rabbit will spend the rest of the day happily eating his or her healthy fibre.

If you have any further questions on diet or any aspects of your rabbit’s health do not hesitate to contact the surgery.

See our various Rabbit Advice pages on diet, teeth, housing, parasites and fly strike.

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