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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-07-2012, 05:04 PM Thread Starter
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Perfect Rabbit Diet for Archie?

So Archie is getting on in his years. I heard that an alfalfa-based pellet mix would benefit his body better. Truth?
Well here are 2 brands i am considering. I could even buy both and mix them together if that seems like a good idea. Or if you even have a good pellet diet for an elder bunny, suggest it to me. Here are the two brands:

Healthy Select Natural Rabbit Diet
http://www.petco.com/product/109482/...es_Rabbit_Food
Sun Seeds Natural Rabbit Food
http://www.petsmart.com/product/inde...&lmdn=Pet+Type

I also heard it would be better to feed him an alfalfa, orchard blend, oats mix instead of Timothy Hay.
Here are alfalfa brands i was considering:

Oxbow
http://www.petsmart.com/product/inde...ductId=3135802
Kaytee
http://www.petsmart.com/product/inde...ductId=2753606

Here are the orchard blend mixes i was considering:

Kaytee
http://www.petco.com/product/105526/...abbit_HayGrass
Oxbow
http://www.petsmart.com/product/inde...ductId=3135801

And also, what is a good and safe brand of oats i can get for him? if you think that should be added?
I was also thinking of using vitamins for him, too.

Oasis
http://www.petsmart.com/product/inde...ductId=2752407

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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-08-2012, 02:26 AM
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Honestly, what worked best for my bun was to go pellet-free. He was already 9 when I switched and had been slowing down a lot, I thought he didn't have much time left. Oddly, the new diet seemed to give him energy...he now runs around and looks great (he's over 11 years old). After switching him and other rabbits to pellet-free, I can't bring myself to buy pellets again. They just have so many unnecessary/harmful ingredients and the last thing a senior bun needs is a complicated, hard to digest food.

Elvis gets unlimited timothy hay (you can mix in some alfalfa or oat hay if the rabbit needs to gain weight) plus plants and grasses from outside (I can give you a list later if you want), herbs, flowers, and a small amount of vegetables (mostly leafy greens). No fruit expect the occasional very small treat. No grains.

Rabbits are designed to process food efficiently to get the most out of them. They evolved eating low-nutrient foods like grasses, bark, and other roughage. Nutrient and sugar-packed pellets can actually be bad for them because it disturbs the gut flora. I can go into the science more if needed but basically, they do best eating grasses and hays . Even some veggies aren't really appropriate, many are quite sugary and a wild rabbit wouldn't get to eat them often.

That's what works for me, anyway! Good luck either way.




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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-08-2012, 11:42 AM Thread Starter
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Yes, but how do you go about getting plants and grasses outside in the middle of winter?

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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-08-2012, 01:27 PM
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Smudge gets a small amount of Oxbow pellets (1/8 cup or so), unlimited hay, and veggies every day.

I'd love to hear more about your bun's diet and read some articles if you have any, Steph!



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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-08-2012, 03:36 PM
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Many rabbit savvy vets are starting to suggest pellet free diets now as well.

HomeworkCrazy, there are many types of plants and grasses that you can grow indoors for your rabbit, even in the winter. Herbs, vegetables, and leafy greens you should be able to purchase at your local grocery store.


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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-09-2012, 09:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HomeworkCrazy View Post
Yes, but how do you go about getting plants and grasses outside in the middle of winter?
You can buy various herbs and vegetables from stores, grow plants inside (basil, mint, grasses, etc.), and feed whatever you do find. Even in winter, there are plants. Wild rabbits also munch on bark in the winter so I feed branches/twigs as a larger part of his diet during that time of year .

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jess View Post
Smudge gets a small amount of Oxbow pellets (1/8 cup or so), unlimited hay, and veggies every day.

I'd love to hear more about your bun's diet and read some articles if you have any, Steph!
There isn't much out there, I started by just using common sense after reading about wild rabbit diets but after some digging I was pleased to see I wasn't alone. There's a Bunspace group for pellet-free bunnies with 235 members . Here it is: http://www.bunspace.com/groups/group_index?gid=115

Here is one guide I found: http://www.bunspace.com/groups/topic...ts_tgp_no=last

And this member made a guide in their profile: http://www.bunspace.com/view_bunny?bunid=3551

A while back I also did a short presentation for a class (before I knew the Bunspace group existed or anything so unfortunately I couldn't use it as a source). I don't know where the Powerpoint is but I have the article that went with it:

Quote:
Herbivores are animals that only consume plant matter. They have flat teeth designed for grinding plants and a long digestive tract to process food. Many small herbivores practice coprophagy, allowing them to re-consume their food through special droppings to get vitamins or minerals they may not have absorbed the first time. Two commonly kept herbivores are rabbits and guinea pigs so those are the animals we'll cover.

Images showing the flat molars and long digestive tract of the rabbit, a common herbivore. Guinea pigs are very similar in anatomy.

[there were pics here but they're big so I'm not posting them, they're easy to find in Google Images or something]

Top: Rabbit skull (image from http://www.cas.bellarmine.edu)
Bottom: Rabbit anatomy diagram (image from http://www.dkimages.com)

It's interesting to note that although grains like corn are very common in herbivore feeds, very few herbivores consume grains in the wild and in fact have a difficult time digesting them. Part of the problem is that rabbits, guinea pigs, and similar small herbivores are not designed to consume diets high in starch. Starchy foods like corn and potatoes cause huge spikes in internal microbial growth, throwing the gut off balance. These normally helpful microbes that exist to break down cellulose quickly reach toxic concentrations and their by-products can lead to an inflammation of the digestive tract (known as "enteritis"). Grains are also prone to mold growth (this is especially common in animal-grade corn), something that the digestive tract of a rabbit has no way of dealing with.

What does all this mean? Rabbits and guinea pigs are meant to consume a diet consisting exclusively of plant matter. They should eat high fiber, low starch plants and grasses. The long digestive tract is designed for grazing behavior and so these animals should have free access to fresh hay and/or grass. For further dietary information, click on "Choosing a Diet" and watch the presentation.

Special consideration for rabbits: Rabbits are unique in that they can absorb Calcium without the help of Vitamin D or binding proteins. This does mean, however, that they can easily build up an excess which needs to be excreted in the urine. Over time, this state of Hypercalcemia can cause many complications such as the calcification of soft tissues. Because of this, calcium-rich vegetables such as kale should be limited to being fed just a few times a week. This is especially important if feeding commercial pellets which are often loaded with both Calcium additives and Vitamin D.

Special consideration for guinea pigs: Guinea pigs, like humans, can't make their own Vitamin C. This means they need to get it through diet. Most commercial guinea pig feeds contain added Vitamin C but either way, they should have some added to the diet in the form of fresh vegetables. Bell peppers are a popular option among concerned guinea pig owners.


Sources and further reading:

http://www.exoticpetvet.net/smanimal/rabanatomy.html (rabbit anatomy)
http://www.lafebervet.com/small-mammal-medicine/medical-topics/how-to-feed-the-small-herbivore-gastrointestinal-tract/ (general diet info)
http://www.rabbit.org (general rabbit care site but contains several diet-related articles)
http://www.guinealynx.info/diet.html (diet info for guinea pigs)


While not covered in the article (since it was meant to be a quick overview), I also don't totally agree with the HRS diet, either. Here's something I posted on another forum:

Quote:
The problem isn't greens, it's the type of greens and the amounts most people are feeding. When you look at the diets of wild rabbits, you'll find that they tend to eat a lot of really dry roughage...branches, weeds, etc. They don't come across the types of nutrient-dense, watery (and sometimes sugary) vegetables that HRS recommends.


I agree that balance is key and the balance I've found to work the best is, well, mostly hay! Like...ridiculous amounts of it . Then my bunny gets a decent helping of "drier" (sorry, sleepy...can't think of a better way to describe them, ha) roughage/herbs as opposed to watery vegetables...lavendar branches, birch twigs and leaves, willow, rosemary, basil, oregano, mint, parsley, clovers, garlic mustard, wood sorrel, fresh grasses, apple twigs, and whatever weeds I notice are being nibbled on outside (only do this if you at least can ID any poisonous plants). Then, before bed, he gets a small traditional salad. He'll get a couple of the following: romaine lettuce, escarole, kale, spinach, chickory, red/green leaf lettuce, and carrot tops. For treats he gets flowers (whole or petals), dehydrated greens (like the Green Crunch from the Bunspace store or homemade), and the occasional small piece of fruit or a more watery/sugary vegetable (carrot, celery, cucumber, bell pepper, etc.).


I, like you, began questioning the HRS-type diet (nothing against them, though, it's a step in the right direction!). After studying the anatomy and physiology of wild rabbits, I knew pellets couldn't be good. But looking at their wild diets, the kinds of vegetables/fruits recommended didn't seem "right" either...at least not as a pellet substitute in the amounts recommended.


Then I thought about the times I had brought out my rabbits to play outside. I thought about how I would watch them "foraging" and picking out weeds and flowers to eat. Why not feed them weeds and grasses from outside? It seemed more natural and they would be getting a good rotation of plants depending on the season. And then I found out that some people, who raise outdoor rabbits in pens, don't bother with pellets at all. The rabbits live on the same kinds of things they'd eat as wild rabbits. And they're totally healthy! I also discovered, though research (and trial and error), that herbs tended to sit better with rabbits than more watery veggies like, say, celery or bell peppers. So I began feeding more herbs, in addition to the wild plants. Actual vegetables were decreased, pellets were eliminated, and both fruit and grains were almost completely removed (I still use fruit as bribery sometimes, ha).


I want to do a bigger research project on rabbit diets but that's not exactly my field (marine biology, haha). There's no money in a project like that, anyway. So all I can offer are anecdotes...like my 10+ year old rabbit suddenly gaining energy and muscle mass back on his new diet. And how now he can keep weight on. I was considering euthanizing him at one point when he was doing especially bad (a couple years ago) so this is a big deal to me . This diet has also done wonders for my foster rabbits so it's not just Elvis.


I don't think any one diet is "perfect". But I think both pelleted diets and vegetable-heavy diets both need some tweaking. I also think most rabbits aren't getting enough dry roughage (such as not enough hay, but I think we can agree there), including branches/twigs. Twigs/bark make up an important part of a wild rabbit's diet, especially in winter, yet are ignored by most diet plans.
Sorry this is so long but there isn't much to just link to . While pellet-free diets are becoming more and more popular, it's still a new concept to most house rabbit owners.






~Stephanie

"We weep for a bird's cry, but not for a fish's blood. Blessed are those with a voice."


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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-09-2012, 12:13 PM
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Is Oxbow Organic Rabbit food better for Rabbits?
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-09-2012, 02:19 PM Thread Starter
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Wow Sasami... thanks for putting forth all the effort to better educate me on this diet style! it was actually a really interesting read and i think i might give it a try!

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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-09-2012, 03:01 PM
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I agree completely, and vouch for the low-vegetable, high-forage diet. I too, feed my rabbit the same. They are HERBivores, after all. They're classified as such for a reason. She only gets pellets if I don't manage to collect her greens during the day, and the pellets she gets are Sherwood Forest pellets which are grain-free.
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-11-2012, 12:27 PM
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Sherwood Forest Grain & Soy free rabbit food.

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Originally Posted by FlickeringHope View Post
I agree completely, and vouch for the low-vegetable, high-forage diet. I too, feed my rabbit the same. They are HERBivores, after all. They're classified as such for a reason. She only gets pellets if I don't manage to collect her greens during the day, and the pellets she gets are Sherwood Forest pellets which are grain-free.
How are Sherwood Forest pellets working out for your bunny? I see they have a long list of 5 star reviews naturalrabbitfood.com/testimonials/
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-12-2012, 02:07 AM
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Wow Sasami... thanks for putting forth all the effort to better educate me on this diet style! it was actually a really interesting read and i think i might give it a try!
No problem, let me know if you need help . Honestly, I kinda wonder why I even bought pellets in the first place now .




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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 04:09 PM Thread Starter
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i think i will need help getting started with the diet... for one, i had a difficult time even understanding how much veggies i was supposed to give him regularly heh heh... that and i want to be very sure that i am giving him what is best for me

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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-14-2012, 07:28 PM
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Quote:
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i think i will need help getting started with the diet... for one, i had a difficult time even understanding how much veggies i was supposed to give him regularly heh heh... that and i want to be very sure that i am giving him what is best for me
There are no rules set in stone as most of the diet (think 95% or more) is hay . Elvis gets unlimited hay and then every evening he gets a handful or two of greens (a mixture of leafy green veggies like romaine lettuce and grasses/plants from outside like garlic mustard, clovers, fresh grass, basil, etc.). Think of the greens as a supplement and not the main diet, you add them for variety and to make sure the rabbit gets a mixture of vitamins . Also throw in some branches and twigs.

To be honest, I've had rabbits for so long that I don't measure anything. If it'll help, I can try to measure what I feed starting next week (going on vacation this week).




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