Daily calorie requirements per kg +how to properly replace pellets with critical care

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LoveCrumb

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Hi everyone,

Experienced rabbit owner here. My bunny has gone through quite the stressful time this past month with a few traumatic vet visits. That issue is for a whole other post and I'm too overwhelmed with all the information right now to get into that.

He's about 2.5 kg and up until this past month he was getting 2tbsp of timothy pellets over 24 hours and unlimited hay. No veg or treats allowed on vet rec and he does better without them. The vet wants to gradually reduce that down to 1.5tbsp for his specific condition, (vet said it's good if he sheds a tiny bit of weight) and if his weight allows it, reducing again as I see fit.

My bunny is doing much better (as I was writing this sentence, he jumped up onto my bed, settled on my chest for 20 minutes of face licks, jumped back down and initiated a game of tag :D )and he's back to eating a good amount of hay (still not as much as I'd like), but I've had to rely on critical care for the last month to keep his poop coming in the shape and quantity I want, more-so following the traumatic vet visits. I've noticed that the amount of calcium excreted in his urine has gone up, though it was always a lot, and his blood test last week came back with (quote from the vet) "3.7 calcium, which is a little on the high side, and we want to get him down to a 3."

Right now, however, he's still getting .75tbsp to 1.5 tbsp of critical care a day (depending on how his poop looks), which also acts as a vector for his powdered probiotic. This may be something I will have to continue on indefinitely, I just don't know yet. When I take away the critical care for a day, his poop gets smaller and drier, so I'm wary of taking it and his probiotic out of his diet at this point, and I might need to keep it as a part of his diet indefinitely.

A tbsp of critical care is 24 calories of metabolized energy. I cannot find anywhere how that compares to the oxbow pellets, or even what the daily calorie requirements are for a bunny (only protein, fiber and vitamins comes up). I know the amount of feed recommended per kg of body weight, and I know that in my case I'm giving less than what is generally recommended, but I don't know the calories or how critical care fits into that picture.

Does a tbsp of critical care = a tbsp of timothy pellet? Their nutritional analysis is fairly close, though the critical care is a bit richer. If I give him 1tbsp of critical care one day, I give him 1tbsp of pellets in addition. Soon, I will start reducing the pellets, while probably maintaining the critical care. After a vet visit/tests, he would only eat critical care (good thing he adores the stuff) for a day before showing any interest in hay again- perhaps that is why his calcium excretions increased (and hopefully that's why the calcium in his blood test was so high?)

So the goal here is to see him lose a tiny bit of weight, consume/excrete less calcium and eat more hay, while also accounting for the addition of critical care to his diet. Right now, I'm treating a tbsp of critical care like a tbsp of pellets. Does anyone else use critical care regularly? Any knowledge to share?
 

RavenousDragon

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It depends on which Oxbow pellets you are using, but generally critical care has more calories than do pellets. I only personally use it with GI stasis but I know a lot of rabbits who are on it long term- and they often only have teeth problems (don't really chew critical care) rather than calcium problems or anything like that.

As for how many calories he needs- it depends on neuter status, activity level, indoor vs. out door, but it's about 140-150 kCal/day for a weight of 2.5 kg. To get him to lose weight, he will need less than that. To encourage hay eating, I would gradually reduce the critical care (not eliminate it) very slowly. If there are a few abnormal poops, just wait a few days on the slightly reduced amount and see if he can adjust. If he can, reduce it again and so on and so forth.
 

LoveCrumb

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It depends on which Oxbow pellets you are using, but generally critical care has more calories than do pellets. I only personally use it with GI stasis but I know a lot of rabbits who are on it long term- and they often only have teeth problems (don't really chew critical care) rather than calcium problems or anything like that.

As for how many calories he needs- it depends on neuter status, activity level, indoor vs. out door, but it's about 140-150 kCal/day for a weight of 2.5 kg. To get him to lose weight, he will need less than that. To encourage hay eating, I would gradually reduce the critical care (not eliminate it) very slowly. If there are a few abnormal poops, just wait a few days on the slightly reduced amount and see if he can adjust. If he can, reduce it again and so on and so forth.
I'm using a mix of Oxbow's organic "Beneterra" pellets and Adult Essentials pellets. He eats quite a lot of hay during the night, and I've never had any worries there, but he sleeps all day and only really nibbles at his hay during this time- this is when the problems have occurred, when he poops a lot less and it gets a bit smaller and dryer- this is when I give him that serving of Critical Care to give his gut/appetite a boost, and it's made all the difference.

He's neutered, an indoor bunny, and fairly lazy. He has free access to a play area in the room his cage is in and he generally only comes out for about 2 hours a day to play, despite my best efforts to make it interesting and be with him while he's playing. I'm working on a new project that will hopefully entice him out for longer. That room unfortunately doesn't have carpet and though I've placed runners all over the ground, he still doesn't like to run around in there. I bring him down to a large carpeted room in my basement that I've rabbit-proofed every 3 days or so for 3-5 hours in the evening, spending the entire time down there with him, and that's where he gets his high-intensity exercise with lots of rabbit 360's.

I guess it's hard to know how many calories I'm feeding him. If he's only getting 1tbsp of critical care at 24 calories, and 1 tbsp of pellets with around the same number of calories, then he must consume the rest of his calories in hay and cecotropes, both of which are obviously difficult to measure, or else he would be underweight. I suppose I'll have to figure out a way to weigh him frequently and modify his diet that way instead. The blood test was very traumatic for him, so I hope I don't have to do that regularly with him to monitor his calcium levels.
 

RavenousDragon

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It's so difficult to monitor calories in animals that need to eat all the time (rabbits!). :D Did you say what kind of hay it was? It sounds like his diet is great- and that you are working very hard at keeping him that way!

One method I've used to increase hay intake in the case of ileus is to put hay in the critical care so that the rabbit must eat hay in order to enjoy the critical care (once they start eating critical care on their own again of course). Have you tried that?

Does he have a water bowl or a water bottle? Some rabbits don't get enough water out of a bottle, and I'm wondering if that might be part of the problem? It may also help to take him into the basement very day- exercise helps keep those guts moving and happy if that's at all possible.
 

LoveCrumb

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One method I've used to increase hay intake in the case of ileus is to put hay in the critical care so that the rabbit must eat hay in order to enjoy the critical care (once they start eating critical care on their own again of course). Have you tried that?

Does he have a water bowl or a water bottle? Some rabbits don't get enough water out of a bottle, and I'm wondering if that might be part of the problem? It may also help to take him into the basement very day- exercise helps keep those guts moving and happy if that's at all possible.
Yup, I already mix his hay into his critical care and like you said, he eats the hay coated in it as well. And he's always had a bowl for water. I've measured his water consumption several times and he generally drinks between 0.8 cups and 1.2 cups a day, which seems very good to me. His water consumption went up significantly when I eliminated veggies from his diet.

I'm wondering if his increase in calcium has to do with the Organic Oxbow Pellets I started him on a couple months ago- they have the same two sources for calcium as the Essentials (Calcium iodate and d-Calcium Pantothenate) but it also contains Limestone, fairly high up in the list of ingredients, and has a higher max calcium ( .60% -.90%) compared to Essentials (.35%-.75%). But then again, if he's only getting 1.5 tbsp of total food a day, would that even make an impact? I transitioned him onto Organic because it doesn't have soy (his urine used to reek of ammonia and I wondered if the soy might not be agreeing with him) but the calcium is concerning to me because I know it can cause serious problems over time as well.

I'm maxxed out on how often I can bring him downstairs, unfortunately.
 

RavenousDragon

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Because you are giving him so few pellets, I would assume that it's not that much of a difference. Especially if he's not getting veggies- but if he metabolizes it slightly differently, it could (this is what makes nutrition hard!). My rabbits have always had a somewhat high calcium diet (the veggies to which I have access tend to be higher in calcium) and they have never had a problem (knock on wood). Bodies are pretty darn good at getting rid of extra calcium in the blood- most rabbits have problems with too much calcium in the urine/urinary system, rather than the blood. Could the calcium be due to his previous problems rather than diet? You aren't adding any vinegar or anything to the food, right?
 
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