Grass Hay Should Be Freely Available to Pet Rabbit

Grass Hay Should Be Freely Available to Pet Rabbit
Grass hay is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients for rabbits. (Oleksandr Lytvynenko/Shutterstock)
Q: Fern, our daughter’s first rabbit, just joined our family. May she eat only rabbit pellets, or should we also give her lettuce and carrots?
A: Most of Fern’s diet should consist of a variety of fresh grass hays, such as timothy, Bermuda, brome, oat, rye, barley, meadow, and orchard grass hay. Avoid alfalfa, which is too high in calories and protein.

Grass hay should always be available to her, preferably in a box or hay rack to keep it clean. It is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients.

It’s also high in fiber, which will keep Fern’s gastrointestinal tract moving. Rabbits’ teeth grow continuously, and the fiber in grass hay will help wear them down properly.

After grass hay, the second most abundant part of Fern’s diet should be a variety of dark leafy greens. Provide romaine, kale, collards, and other greens, as well as herbs such as parsley, cilantro, and mint. Feed one packed cup of washed leafy greens for every two pounds of Fern’s body weight per day.

If you give her dandelion greens, be sure they haven’t been sprayed with insecticides or herbicides. Don’t feed iceberg or bibb lettuce, because these light-colored greens aren’t very nutritious.

You may offer other washed vegetables, such as carrots, celery, and bell peppers, at one tablespoon per two pounds of body weight per day. Avoid onions, leeks, chives, and related vegetables, because they’re toxic to rabbits.

Fruits are high in calories, so give Fern no more than one teaspoon of fresh fruit per two pounds of body weight per day. Dried fruit is three times more concentrated, so give less of this treat if you choose to offer it. Consider fruit as a training treat.

Rabbit pellets are high in calories and starch, so offer no more than 1/4 cup per day.

Don’t feed grains, nuts, seeds, or commercial rabbit treats, which cause obesity and digestive problems.

Be sure fresh water is always available.

Make meals entertaining by hiding hay and other food inside an empty toilet paper roll and encouraging Fern to find it.

To learn more about caring for Fern, build a relationship with a veterinarian who knows rabbits. If Fern isn’t already sterilized, schedule her for spay surgery to help prevent uterine cancer.

Q: I brew craft beer at home, and my dog Pilsner is attracted to the hops. Are hops good for dogs?
A: Sorry, but they’re not safe for dogs, so keep Pilsner away from your hops—and your beer, too, for that matter.

Within a few hours after ingestion of raw or spent hops, a dog’s body temperature soars, reaching 105 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Heart and breathing rates increase, and the dog may vomit and suffer seizures.

Dogs with mild hop poisoning that receive immediate treatment recover in about three days. In untreated dogs, death occurs within three hours of the onset of clinical signs.

Keep your hops in sealed, dog-proof containers secured behind a closed door. Discard spent hops in a safe way that ensures no dog can come into contact with them.

Remind Pilsner that, despite his name, beer is bad for dogs, so he should stick with water.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at Copyright 2024 Lee Pickett, VMD. Distributed by
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