The PDSA reveal that despite the UK being a nation of animal lovers, rabbits remain one of the most misunderstood pets when it comes to catering for their welfare needs.
The UK vet Charity’s Animal Wellbeing Report (PAW) 2018 found that 200,00 rabbits are being fed a potentially harmful diet of rabbit muesli.
For Rabbit Awareness Week this year, the campaign as aimed at encouraging owners to ‘Move Away from Muesli’ and raising awareness of the dangers of it for rabbits.
PDSA Vet Olivia Anderson – Nathan, said: “A muesli-style rabbit diet is a colourful mix of different pieces. One of the problems with feeding it is that rabbits can pick out the tastier, sugary pieces that they want to eat, while leaving the healthier bits. This is known as selective feeding. Different pieces contain different nutrients, and research has shown that rabbits that continually select only the pieces they want are at risk of health problems.”
Experts recommend that the best diet for rabbits is one that is as close as possible to what they would eat in the wild; they need plenty of high-quality feeding hay or grass, a portion of fresh, leafy vegetables and a small amount of nugget-style rabbit food.
Safe vegetables for rabbits include broccoli, cabbage, parsnip and dandelions. However, it’s important to check before giving your rabbit a new vegetable, as some can be harmful, such as rhubarb and potatoes.
Olivia adds: “If rabbits don’t eat the fibre-rich muesli, they can develop gut problems that can be fatal. Another problem is that muesli alone doesn’t wear down rabbit’s teeth, which grow continuously, so they can develop painful dental disease.
“Even safe treats can cause problems if fed in large quantities, from obesity to vitamin imbalances. Both carrots and apples are high in sugar. So they should only be given in small amounts as an occasional treat, not every day.”
For more advice visit www.pdsa.org.uk/rabbits