Can baby rabbits have cecal dysbiosis from alfalfa hay? And is sudden shifting from one brand of the same hay type okay?

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Liamallory

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As a disclaimer, I already set up a vet appointment to have my rabbit checked, but it's still for next week. So I'm posting in case anyone's had experience on something like this.

When I got my rabbits they were a little less than three months, and they came into my life as a surprise, so I needed catching up to their needs. Since they're young, I read up that I should have them on unlimited alfalfa hay and pellets, which I did, but I noticed that one of them has been leaving cecals on their enclosure floor. I read about cecal dysbiosis and how the potential remedy is to up fiber intake, but is it okay when the rabbits are still younger? My cecal-leaving bun is already lighter and thinner than his brother, making me worried that just purely feeding him timothy might not be sufficient enough for his growing body.

Another question: is it safe to mix brands of the same hay, like timothy? I read about slowly introducing new pellets when changing brands, but is it the same for plain hay? I ran out of the brand I bought originally for them, and the store selling it is closed for the holidays. I did find another store selling hay, but they carry a different brand, although it's also timothy hay. Will it be fine to feed them a different hay brand abruptly?
 

JBun

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A really rich young leafy growth of alfalfa hay could cause issues, but usually the normal cut of alflalfa hay won't cause cecal dysbiosis. But too much alfalfa hay often can cause excess cecotropes. They're two different things with different causes.

Cecal dysbiosis is improperly formed cecotropes that come out semiformed or unformed and pasty/mushy, usually due to a diet too rich in carbohydrates/sugars and too low in fiber. Excess cecotropes is too many cecotropes being produced due to too rich of a diet, usually from excess protein(eg. high alfalfa hay diet), and get left uneaten by the rabbit because they're producing more than is needed. The cecals come out in normally formed blackberry looking clusters, and just get left uneaten and maybe subsequently smooshed(so could be confused for being pasty, but aren't really).

Do you think the cecotropes are definitely coming out mushy and pasty, or are they coming out in normal clusters then maybe getting smooshed? Being on a high alfalfa diet, I would think excess cecals are more likely to be what's going on with your rabbit.


With your rabbits weight, is he actually thin and bony, or just small and undersized? The spine and hips shouldn't feel sharp and bony. Your rabbit should have a more rounded look and not sharp and angular around the hips and back. If he is thin, has he gained any weight and also grown in the 3 weeks you've had him?

Monitoring your rabbits weight
 

Preitler

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Grass hay is always an option, this only alfalfa/pellet diet is great to get rabbits to butcher weight asap, but isn't really necessary. Good quality grass hay is a good base for their diet, imo diversity never hurts.
Not all rabbits take to a very rich diet that well, and if something is off grass hay normally is the first approach. Rabbits evolved with a meager diet. Alfalfa can be an addition, it's not bad or so, just very rich.

There might be slight differences in taste between brands because of the way it is processed or where it grew, but which brand imo doesn't matter. Here those single spieces hays aren't available anyway, only mixed ones with whatever grows on the meadows, and composition varys from bale to bale - with no noticeable difference other than they sometimes prefer one over the other if fed side by side.

Having them checked for things like parasites is a good idea.
 

JBun

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Also with rabbits in a new home, and especially baby rabbits, normally formed cecotropes will sometimes get left uneaten because the rabbit is distracted from eating them because of being in a new home. And baby rabbits will sometimes forget to eat them because they're babies and are easily distracted by things. Did your rabbit not eat them from the start when you first got him, or did he gradually stop eating them?
 

Moonshadow

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Figured I should just add to this a bit. I’d heard some bunnies have a harder time adjusting to Timothy when they’ve only eaten alfalfa so when I got my bunny at 8 weeks, I fed him a mixture of alfalfa hay and Timothy hay so he’d eat both. I also fed him alfalfa pellets so it was half/half hay with those pellets. Since he was used to the eating the hay mixture, he didn’t have too difficult of a time when he got older and I transitioned him to eating primarily Timothy hay. Even now, I’ll mix a bit of alfalfa hay in his regular hay as a treat every once in a while. It keeps him excited to dive into his hay.
 

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