Dick Vet Spring Lectures: Not a Happy Bunny?

Yesterday evening I went to a public lecture held by the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies on preventative healthcare for rabbits, with Brigitte Reusch as the speaker. There are a couple more lectures in the series over the next few weeks on dogs, cats and horses if anyone is in Edinburgh and interested.

Brigitte Reusch made the BBC news in February 2009 when she was appointed by Edinburgh University as a specialist rabbit doctor – her job being the “first post in Europe for a lecturer in rabbit medicine and surgery”. Great news for rabbit owners in Edinburgh, as she is also a vet in the vet schools small animal clinic.  

The talk was really interesting, I learnt a couple of new things but mostly I was nodding along to her advice because I was already doing what she recommended. One thing that surprised me was her recommendation for the amount of pellets to feed rabbits daily. Although its well known that rabbits can live off grass & hay alone, pellets are usually fed once a day as a nutritional supplement. My vet recommended 25g per kilo of weight, meaning Pixel and Nybble get about 50g a day (which is a large handful). Brigitte recommended two tablespoons! When I got home and weighed two tablespoons of pellets, it came to 12g and looked like the most pitiful thing I have ever seen. Nybble would weep. Whilst I think 12g is just so little there’s no point giving any (it literally is one mouthful), I will reduce the buns pellet intake to four tablespoons, which is half of what they get now. When changing a rabbits diet it must always be done slowly as they have very sensitive digestive systems. So I will do a one tablespoon reduction in food every two days.

I also learnt that rabbits can eat pretty much any vegetable, herb or fruit (apart from avocado and iceburg lettuce). This includes turnips, parsnips and beetroot! She did mention that root vegetables are quite high in sugars though, so shouldn’t be given daily. Sorry Nybble, no more carrot every day! Rabbits have a lot of taste buds so peppery lettuces like rocket and spinach and fresh herbs are much appreciated by them. I know this from experience, as Nybble eats herbs like there’s no tomorrow.

Finally I learnt how to tell if your bunny is a fat lump. If you gently feel your rabbits ribs under the fur, they should feel like pencils in a pencil case. If you need to press harder to feel anything, they are fat. If they stick out like rulers in a pencil case, then they are too thin. Also, male rabbits should not have dewlaps (big neck), that can be a sign of being overweight.

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