Professional articles on a healthy and natural rabbit’s diet
(translated from German, on the kind authority of their authors)
Species - appropriate diet for Rabbits and Guinea Pigs
By Doz. Dr. med. Vet. Birgit Drescher (Stuttgart, Germany)
The feeding in regards to dietary psychological terms should foremost consist of coarse structured crude fiber which means hay and/or grass.
The special bacterial flora of the intestinal tracts of these animals is capable to split up the cellulose and to produce all necessary nutrients.
In this section of the intestinal tract the so-called cecotropes are a kind of excrement covered with mucus in the form of long grapes.
This special soft excrement, which makes up more than 30% of all excrements, passes the rest of the colon almost unchanged. It is being picked up by the animals directly from the anus and is swallowed unchewed which can be monitored as “a twitching movement of the back”.
A species-appropriate diet consists of unlimited hay or grasses as a basis and should be complemented by diverse forms of greens as salad, carrot and kohlrabi greens, herbs of all kind, clover, bell peppers and other veggies and fresh fruits (as a treat). Guinea pigs need vital Vitamin C in their diet – which is not really important for rabbits.
Grains (wheat, rye, oat – or oat flakes, corn or corn products) contains a lot of sugar and does not offer enough cellulose which does not conform to the natural dietary need of these species. Wheat-, oat- and corn grains are cheap feeding stuff on the world markets, which is dressed up nicely by the big pet feeding companies and offered as food for rabbits and guinea pigs. The consequences of this chronic bad diet are:
• Teeth problems
• G.I. stasis, chronic diarrhea, tympanites
• Fatty degeneration of the liver, obesity
• Infestation of fly larva
• Shorter life span
Snacks for rabbits and guinea pigs contain according to the packaging: sugar, flour, corn bran, sugar cane molasses, baking by-products, assorted grains, popped corn sorts, seeds, chopped nuts, honey, vegetable by-products, animal proteins, fresh eggs, milk and dairy products, yoghurt powder…and are therefore NOT appropriate for a rabbit’s or guinea pig’s diet.
Some of the occurring damages of their health cannot be relieved and therefore it’s always better to prevent than to heal!
Seeds - Sowing
Many herbal seeds are a source for rare amino acids, easily attainable dietary minerals in nature and have a high valence.
Moreover, seeds contain many different active substances, which make them a useful source for different nutrients.
Under natural circumstances rabbits eat a lot of seeds and grass seeds during the late summer and fall.
“Michael Homolka” (*) watched rabbits in the Czech Republic. According to his findings, seeds make up to 6% of the wild rabbits’ diet during August/September. Throughout the year, seeds make up about 3% of their diet in regards to the whole range of food.
Seeds contain a nutrient reserve, which enables the later developing sprouting of the seeds. When the seeds are getting into contact with water and oxygen the change process is starting. The starch and sugar are being reduced and other useful materials arise.
Seeds are a useful addition to fresh food. They contain lots of important nutrients, especially water, but also amino acids, vitamins and mineral salts etc. Seeds are easily digestible and if being fed in a regular diet can prevent deficiency symptoms.
A list of seeds can be found HERE:
In German, Fennel seeds can be found as “Fenchelsamen”.
(Homolka, M. (1985): The diet of a population of wild rabbits (Oryctolagus Cuniculus) in the Bohemian mountains. “Folia Zoologica 34 (4). 303 314“)