Most people are surprised to learn that their pet rabbit should not have pellets as their only food. Walking through the rabbit food aisle, you notice that most bags of pellets claim to be a complete diet for your pet. What is the truth about rabbit pellets?


Do Rabbits Need Pellets? Are They the Best Rabbit Food?



Vets Advise About Feeding Rabbit Pellets

Most vets suggest pet owners feed a small amount of pellets, if any at all. They caution that while the pellets do in fact contain all needed vitamins and minerals, they have some limitations.

While they are hay-based, the fiber is not the same quality as that of good-quality hay. The processing affects the fiber.

Also, like most concentrates, it’s easy for a rabbit to eat more than they need, resulting in an overweight rabbit.


Our Experience

Many years ago, one of our first English Lops developed a severe case of bloat. We rushed Jack off to our dog’s vet who thankfully understood the problem and was able to help.

With Jack more comfortable, the vet explained the problem was pellet based. Although the breeder had recommended we feed pellets and only a little hay, the lack of fiber had caused Jack’s stomach to bind. Within hours, he would have died if our vet did not know what to do.

As a result, we switched our feeding plans entirely. Yes, hay can be a bit messy. And it is not always easy to find excellent quality. 

Rabbits need top-quality hay. In our area, it’s known as horse-hay as horses also need the very best quality to avoid serious health issues like colic. Feeding rabbits a pellet-only diet is akin to feeding your child only meal replacement bars. With few exceptions, they lack the needed fiber. And in most cases, they contain more calories and fat than is healthy for the sole diet.


Why Do Breeders Feed Pellets

The short answer is convenience. Pellets can be easily portioned into feeders and rabbits love to munch on them.

Hay is messy. The seeds and fibers blow around. Rabbits often waste hay if they pull it into their cages. And it makes keeping cages more challenging, too.

Plus, when you feed a complete food such as pellets, you don’t have to wonder if the rabbit is getting all the nutrition he needs. 


Commercial breeders vs pet owners

The simple truth might seem harsh, but commercial breeders look for the most cost-efficient and time-efficient means of raising rabbits from birth to the age they will sell them. Most commercial rabbits don’t live to the age of 8 to 10 years. Breeders don’t expect them to. They are looking for fast growth, large litter size, and the best feed conversion.

But pet owners focus on the overall health benefits for a happy, healthy, long life for their fur pals. And that makes a big difference in the feeding regimen. It’s a big difference.


What about Show breeders?

To attain the quality of fur and structure, show breeders need to focus on feed. I’ve heard many discussions about which type of food produces the top show winners. How much hay to feed, where they purchase the best quality, and even what type of water they use.

All of these discussions prove the value show breeders put into their food. They feed for longevity and the best performance. Most of these rabbits eat a lot of hay and some pellets. A few exhibitors feed no pellets. It’s a choice.


Should you avoid feeding pellets?

The choice is yours. Discuss it with your veterinarian and make an informed decision. Certainly, feeding a small amount of pellet seems to be harmless and in some cases, beneficial. But feeding hay and good greens without pellets remains an option.


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