Expert knowledge. Expert opinion.
Expert formulas.

Rabbit nutrition 101 and update on RHDV1 K5

Rabbits are very interesting animals when it comes to nutrition and it is worth getting to know a bit more about your furry friends so you can make sure they are receiving the best care possible.

With the recent release of the RHDV1 K5 virus throughout New Zealand to control pest rabbit populations, it is also a good time to review your rabbit’s vaccination history with your local veterinarian to make sure your rabbits are protected.

Some things to know about your rabbit’s digestive system:

  • Rabbits are animals designed to consume a diet high in fibre. They are hind gut fermenters, which means that a majority of the digestion of the feed they eat occurs in their caecum where it is fermented by resident microorganisms.
  • If rabbits are not fed a diet high enough in fibre they can develop a potentially fatal health problem called gut stasis, so it is important to offer them a feed that is well suited to their unique requirements, along with ample access to hay to keep their gut healthy.
  • Sedate pet rabbits are particularly prone to becoming overweight, which has its own set of health issues just like humans, so offering a well-balanced, high fibre feed with a lower grain inclusion will help to keep rabbits at a healthy weight.

Rabbits must always have constant access to either grass or hay to keep their teeth worn down. Rabbits with no access to hay or grass end up with teeth that overgrow, which can cause health issues such as mouth abscesses and incorrect jaw alignment.

Rabbits young and old love NRM Rabbit Pellets, which are designed to fulfil a rabbit’s preference for a diet packed with fibre and are suitable for feeding to young growing rabbits and mature rabbits alike. The fibre in NRM Rabbit Pellets comes predominately from high quality lucerne chaff, however a unique raw fibre concentrate with a perfect balance of cellulose to lignin is also included in the pellets, which has been proven to improve the digestive health of rabbits. NRM Rabbit Pellets also contain high quality soya oil to deliver linoleic acid, a fatty acid that rabbits have a specific requirement for and which can help to improve coat condition. A comprehensive rabbit specific trace element and vitamin pack to support optimum health and vitality is also included, along with a coccidiostat to prevent coccidiosis, a parasite that can be an issue particularly in young kits but can also effect mature rabbits.

Update on RHDV1 K5 – important for rabbit owners to consider

To control the wild population of rabbits, which cause a lot of damage to New Zealand, a new strain of Calicivirus was released in Canterbury, Otago and Marlborough in March and April. It is expected to spread beyond these regions over time. It isn’t a new virus but a new strain of the current RHDV1 virus, which many rabbits are now immune to. The virus can infect pet rabbits through contact with diseased wild rabbits, faeces, bedding material and flies, so unvaccinated pet rabbits will be at risk. There is a vaccine available that can protect pet rabbits, which is recommended by the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) and MPI. It is also recommended to follow biosecurity measures for pet rabbits, which can be found on the NZVA website and Facebook page. Have a chat to your veterinarian and make sure your rabbits are protected.

For further information, contact your local Nutrition Specialist. Visit your local Farmlands store to take advantage of this month’s special pricing on NRM Rabbit Pellets.

Article supplied by Stacey Cosnett, Nutritionist, Farmlands.