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Of food and rabbits

Of food and rabbits
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What kind of diet should be fed to pet rabbits?
Fresh hay should make up the bulk of your rabbit’s diet and needs to be readily available at all times. Adult rabbits can eat timothy, grass and oat hays while younger rabbits should be fed alfalfa. Alfalfa should not be given to adult rabbits because of the higher protein and sugar content. 

Hay is important for rabbits because it provides the essential fiber needed for good digestive health and it helps wear down a rabbit’s teeth (which continuously grow) for good dental health. When choosing hay, make sure it looks and smells fresh. An assortment of vegetables should be a part of your rabbit’s daily diet. When choosing vegetables look for something fresh and free of pesticides.

Your rabbit may enjoy some of the following vegetables: broccoli  leaves (stems or tops can make rabbits gassy), carrot tops (carrots are high in calcium and should be given sparingly), celery, cilantro, clover, collard greens, dandelion leaves, dill, kale (sparingly), lettuce – romaine or dark leaf (no ice burg lettuce and no cabbage), mint, mustard greens, parsley and water cress.

Fresh water must always be available to your rabbit. Pellets should be purchased so that they are fresh, as bunnies will turn their noses up at stale pellets. Look for pellets that are high in fiber and low in protein. Some fruits that rabbits enjoy include: raspberries, bananas, pineapple, apples (no seeds).

My rabbit doesn’t like being held. He growls and bites every time I try to hold him. Is there anything I can do about it?
Your rabbit is a ground-dwelling animal that is a prey item for many predators. It is completely against the nature of the rabbit to be held far above the ground where it cannot control its own motions and activities. When you force her to be held against her will, you reinforce her notion that you are a predator who is trying to restrain her. Holding her while she struggles and kicks is not only dangerous for you and the children, but for your rabbit too. As they might break their legs, necks and spines because people insist on carrying them around and handling them against their will.

My rabbit has started snoring since the past few days. He makes rapid sounds while sleeping and doesn’t have a very good appetite either. What should I do?
Rabbits snore as a result of blockage in the animal’s airway. It can also occur if nasal tissues are weak or flaccid or from excessive fluid in the passages. An extremely stressed rabbit or a rabbit with a lowered immune system may sound excessively hoarse while breathing. Other typical signs for rabbits include: Sneezing, rapid or loud wheezing sounds during breathing, nasal discharge (sometimes due to sinusitis or rhinitis), discharge from the eyes, lack of appetite, inability to chew or swallow,oral abscesses (especially in the teeth).

Rabbits tend to be nasal breathers and any physical deformity or unusual nasal structure can result in a lower-pitched or higher-pitched sound emanating from the airway or nose.

There are many other causes. These include: sinusitis and rhinitis; abscesses, elongated teeth or secondary bacterial infections; facial, nasal or other trauma affecting this region, including bites from other insects or animals; allergies and irritants including inhaling pollen, dust or other insects; tumors that lodge in the airway; dysfunction of the neuromuscular system, which may include hypothyroidism or diseases affecting the brainstem; swelling and edema in the upper respiratory system; inflammation of the soft palate or throat and voice box; anxiety or stress.

Treatment includes providing supplemental oxygen to the rabbit, when appropriate, and providing a quiet, cool and calm environment in which to live. A rabbit must also have a clear and unobstructed airway, keeping its ear and nasal cavities clean and debris-free. To combat harmful bacterial infections from developing, the veterinarian may alter the rabbit’s diet to include more leafy greens.

Medications which are helpful to control bacterial sinusitis, rhinitis or other related infection include antibiotics. And while steroids may be used to reduce nasal swelling or inflammation, it can worsen bacterial infections and should only be used when absolutely necessary and under the direct care of a trained veterinarian.

Serious complications may arise. Pulmonary edema, or fluid retention in the lungs or airway, is one such common example. It is, therefore, important to closely monitor the rabbit and bring it to the veterinarian’s office for regular checkups and follow-up care during recovery.

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