December 13th, 2023

Unlocking the Secrets of Rabbit Nutrition: A Webinar Journey

Delve into the world of rabbit nutrition with Claire Speight, RVN, A1 C&G VNES, in this enlightening webinar. Claire, an expert in rabbit welfare, serves as the head nurse in a first opinion practice and wears many hats, including editor of 'Rabbiting On' for RWAF.

I didn’t know what to expect from this veterinary webinar. It has an intriguing title, which immediately made me think what has changed? Have I been giving the wrong advice? This webinar answers those questions  

The learning objects of the webinar are listed:  

  • The correct and incorrect diet for rabbits 

  • Enrichment for rabbits using nutrition 

  • Life stage feeding 

  • The link between incorrect diet and health conditions in rabbits 

  • How to advise clients on correct rabbit nutrition 

Claire employs visual aids featuring rabbits consuming various food sources to introduce the concept of a balanced diet. As expected, Grass and Hay, greens, and pellets form essential components, while carrots, lettuce, and several fruits (due to their high sugar content), along with Muesli, are advised against. Owners often grapple with determining the appropriate quantity and variety of food. To assist them, the webinar introduces the concept of a feeding pyramid—a clear graphical representation. The pyramid illustrates a hierarchy with 5% pellets at the pinnacle, 10% for greens in the middle, and the foundation comprising 85% grass or hay. A visual aid of a bowl containing the correct daily pellet amount is presented, highlighting the ease of making errors. Subsequent slides delve into rabbit dietary requirements, covering aspects such as crude fibre, volatile fatty acids (absorbed from the caecotrophs), and essential amino acids obtained through microbial synthesis in the caecum, invoking memories of biochemistry lessons at college. 

After describing the passage of digestible and indigestible fibre through the digestive tract we move back to practical advice for rabbit owners. Pellets must be restricted to a maximum, as already stated, of 5% of the diet, and (did you know this?) the correct amount is one level tablespoonful per kg ideal bodyweight, remembering that obesity is a common problem. Pellets are best scattered to encourage foraging, should be eaten within 15 minutes and viewed as a diet supplement.  Do not feed pellets from a bowl!

Veterinarians frequently find themselves needing to transition pets from an improper diet to a more appropriate one, and a structured four-week change routine is delineated for this purpose. While grass is favoured over hay, with hay typically serving as the primary fibre source, except for rabbits fortunate enough to have a spacious, secure outdoor run. The recommendation includes offering various hay types like timothy, oat, meadow, or brome, while steering clear of alfalfa. Hay should be available 24/7, constituting 85% of the diet as mentioned earlier. Delving into the advantages of hay, the webinar explores its role in averting dental issues and addressing calcium deficiency. A single slide encompasses numerous nuggets of information, including the number of chews per minute, weekly tooth growth, and the usual food consumption duration of 4-6 minutes. Ever tried chewing on hay or grass? The cellulose is notably tough, demanding time and effort, effectively reducing boredom and curbing destructive behaviour.

 If you've ever recommended incorporating greens and vegetables into the diet, have you consistently provided clear guidance on the optimal and less preferable options, as well as the appropriate quantities? Personally, I have found myself lacking in clarity, but fear not. Claire offers insights into a selection of beneficial greens and an equivalent number of less favorable ones, along with a simple method for determining the correct quantity.

Ensuring access to water is fundamental, and Claire advocates for bowls over bottles, providing rationale for this preference. It's essential to change the water twice daily.

While treats aren't indispensable for health, Claire suggests a few for training and fostering a stronger bond. Emphasizing the enjoyment of feeding, she shares numerous ideas on how to enhance the overall experience.

The subsequent segments offer valuable guidance (worth downloading) on feeding rabbits at different life stages – from juvenile rabbits to elderly/senior rabbits, including those deemed overweight. The content also delves into the insights provided by rabbit droppings (the daily expulsion count may prove surprising). A compilation of causes for uneaten caecotrophs is presented, segueing into the health issues linked to an improper diet. Much of this information will resonate with veterinarians routinely managing rabbit cases, encompassing concerns like obesity, pododermatitis, dental issues, and factors contributing to conditions such as fly strike.

This is a brilliant webinar full of practical advice on getting the rabbit diet correct. We all know that diet is a major factor in promoting a healthy long life for rabbits, but we still see evidence of incorrect feeding.  There is a huge amount that can be done to promote good welfare and this webinar is recommended to all who treat rabbits, rabbit owners and to students.  

A very useful and recommended resource is the RWAF booklet ‘On the Hop’ 

🌟 Special Offer: This webinar is part of our exclusive Rabbit Medicine Refresher Course, available at a discounted price of £99 for the month. Elevate your knowledge and provide optimal care for these unique companions. 

RABBIT NUTRITION – Fuel for life or are we putting the wrong fuel in the engine?

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