New rabbit wants only grass and lettuce

Discussion in 'Health & Wellness' started by Zone3, Sep 25, 2012.

  1. Sep 25, 2012 #1

    Zone3

    Zone3

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    Hello from Canada. It is 24C by day and 5C at night now in Southern Alberta. We're enjoying an extra-long summer.

    My new rabbit is not eating the rabbit food I offer him. He has had a food change. "Nugget" is three or four, possibly a Palomino mix, un-neutered male. I received him from a home that kept three rabbits outside in a tractor on the lawn year 'round. His only food was alfalfa pellets and fresh grass.

    I am told he and one of the other three rabbits were re-homed because three males were fighting.

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    I've moved him into a raised hutch inside of a large enclosed run. He lives alone now. There is a small pet crate inside of the hutch for him to burrow in. Its not shown here but I've also put a medium-sized dog igloo on the ground in the run. He has lots of choices of where to be and lots of room to run and jump. The hutch has a pop hole and ladder to the ground and another ladder that goes to a nest box on an upper level. There is lots of straw bedding.

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    Nugget is not litter trained. I have given him a litter box with a mix of pine pellet litter and straw in it. He does not seem to be using it. I cannot find his preferred corner for pooing. His output seems to be low. I may confine him to the hutch to litter train him and monitor his peeing and pooing.

    I have offered Nugget leaf lettuce, fresh cut herbs, alfalfa hay, rabbit food pellets, a piece of banana, water and branches to chew on. He eats the lettuce and hay, not much more.

    Its been two days. At what point should I worry that he's not eating his pellets?



     
  2. Sep 25, 2012 #2

    MiniLopHop

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    He is probably just adjusting to the new space. As long as he's eating hay and pooping I wouldn't stress. Do you have any of his old brand of pellets to help him transition? Rabbits can be very reluctant sometimes to eat something different than what they are used to. By mixing the old with the new they get used to the new brand and it is an easier transition, also for their tummy. How old is he? If he is a year old you will want to transition to timothy or other grass hay rather than the alfalfa, but since that is what he is used to I would let him settle a couple weeks first.

    It looks like a nice set up as long as he gets lots of human interaction so he doesn't get lonely. Is there fencing on the top? I can't tell from the picture, but it is a good idea to prevent birds from getting him.
     
  3. Sep 25, 2012 #3

    Imbrium

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    heh, sounds like he was a victim of clueless owners - grass is no substitute for hay and unneutered males should never be kept together, so of course they fought >.<

    I'm glad he's found a better home now! offer him timothy hay (or other grass hays like orchard grass, oat, coastal, bermuda, etc.) and restrict his access to grass a bit if you can and hopefully he'll take the hint and start munching on the hay. as minilop said, if you can get some of his old pellets, that really helps with transitioning to a new brand.

    if you get him neutered, it helps with behavior (spraying, etc.) and tends to greatly improve litter box habits. it can also have some health benefits (I've heard testosterone can cause some health problems in unneutered males), though fixing a male rabbit for health reasons is FAR less important than it is with girls.
     
  4. Sep 26, 2012 #4

    missyscove

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    Are you offering him that entire head of lettuce? Maybe he's just filling up on that and doesn't have any room left for pellets.
     
  5. Sep 26, 2012 #5

    cwolfec

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    I know this is probably a debatable point, but I have read that rabbits can live on fresh veggies and unlimited hay and be just fine without any pellets... If he is as old as you say (3 or 4) then he definitely should be switched off alfalfa. Gradually transitioning to a new one is best. Just like with pellets, rabbits may need time to adjust to new greens too. You could try a "salad" and mix all the lettuce, herbs, etc. together and give it to him at once.

    And like MissyCove said above ^^^^ a whole head of lettuce is a lot, especially if it's in there all the time. Then he'll definitely be reluctant to try anything new.

    Sounds like he will be MUCH happier with you! He'll be king of his own little kingdom with no one to question his authority :)
     
  6. Sep 26, 2012 #6

    Nancy McClelland

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    Any time we get a new bunny, it takes time for them to make the transition to our routine and feeding. We had some that wouldn't touch hay till the pellet amount got severely reduced. A couple took more than a week to start eating the daily veggie ration. They all like pellets, veggies and orchard grass now. As to the litter box, rabbits tend to leave poop all over but seem to favor one spot for urine, so that is what you should look for when placing a litter box. Ours do leave major amounts of poop in their boxes but also distribute it all over still.
     
  7. Sep 26, 2012 #7

    JBun

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    Actually, you might be surprised at how much lettuce a rabbit can eat. I brought home a bunny once and she wouldn't touch pellets or hay. I tried several different kinds and no luck. She would curl into a little ball, close her eyes and not eat. But she would eat greens. I guess that's what the people I got her from were feeding her. This tiny little baby bunny could eat a whole head of green leaf lettuce, a day. I'm not kidding. She weighed less than a pound and was actually pretty skinny when I got her. She peed a ton cause lettuce is mostly water, but she did start putting on weight and was actually pretty healthy and active, then after about a week of lettuce and cilantro she started nibbling on her pellets, and after another 2 weeks she was eating pellets normally. So Zone3's rabbit could easily eat that head of lettuce and still have room for more. He probably wouldn't be drinking much more extra water though.

    Sometimes when someone brings a new rabbit home, it's just important that they ARE eating, anything. It can be stressful for rabbits to be in a new place and sometimes they'll just stop eating altogether. Give him a few days and just make sure that he is eating enough and that his poops are normal. As long as he doesn't have soft poop and they're normal looking, then what your feeding him should be ok. You'll want to make sure he's getting enough hay. The alfalfa is probably fine for now. You could try introducing some grass hay as well. I had a new doe once that wouldn't eat her pellets or hay, so I mixed a pinch of oats into her pellets and that seemed to do the trick cause she gradually started eating her pellets again, you could give that a try. He may just start nibbling on them on his own, so always keep some in there, just enough in his dish that if he eats any you'll be able to look in his dish and notice if any of it is gone. If you fill the dish full it will be harder to tell if he ate any of it. It took my bunny, that would only eat lettuce, at least 7 days before she even started just nibbling on pellets. Like MiniLopHop mentioned, if you can get some of his old pellets that he's used to, that may solve your problem entirely. If he's still not eating his pellets after a few days, when it looks like he's settled in and is happy and still eating his hay and veggies good, you could try decreasing the hay and veggies gradually and see if he'll eat more of his pellets. You could also try different kinds of pellets. Ideally, once he's eating his pellets good again, you'll want to switch him over to grass hay instead of alfalfa, because he'll be getting too much protein and calcium from the alfalfa, for an adult rabbit.
     
  8. Sep 28, 2012 #8

    Zone3

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    MiniLopHop wrote: "Do you have any of his old brand of pellets to help him transition?"

    No, I wasn't offered any and I failed to ask for some. They showed me the bag and it was a livestock pure alfalfa pellet sold in HUGE bags so I didn't want to buy it myself because I knew I'd never use that much of a food that wasn't well-rounded.


    MiniLopHop wrote: "Is there fencing on the top? I can't tell from the picture, but it is a good idea to prevent birds from getting him."

    Yes. We have hawks and magpies.


    Imbrium wrote: "...offer him timothy hay (or other grass hays like orchard grass, oat, coastal, bermuda, etc.) ..."
    I can't believe how difficult it is to find hay other than pure alfalfa in the pet shops here. I live in a community that is surrounded by agriculture. Of course the pet products are shipped in from far away, too.

    :craziness

    On the weekend, we'll be going to a farm to pickup a bale of something other than alfalfa... and it will be a fraction of the price of one of those teeny pet store bags.



    missyscove wrote: "Are you offering him that entire head of lettuce? Maybe he's just filling up on that and doesn't have any room left for pellets."

    LOL Yah, I gave it all to him and you are probably right. With all the water in the lettuce he probably didn't need to drink, did he?

    Nancy McClelland wrote: "...rabbits tend to leave poop all over but seem to favor one spot for urine, so that is what you should look for when placing a litter box."

    Good tip. Thanks!

    Thank you everyone for your ideas. Nugget is FINALLY eating pellets as of yesterday and today it looks like he drank quite a bit of water so I think he's going to be ok.

    I've been looking for a girlfriend for him; I want to add another rabbit before he gets too territorial about the pen belonging to him and him alone.



     
  9. Sep 28, 2012 #9

    missyscove

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    I'm glad he's started eating his pellets.

    Be sure you have him neutered well before introducing him to a female. It takes time for their hormones to die down.
     
  10. Sep 28, 2012 #10

    Zone3

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    missyscove wrote:
    Don't worry. I have ten years' experience of breeding/showing pedigreed cats behind me and I haven't had an oops litter.

    :biggrin2:
     
  11. Sep 30, 2012 #11

    missyscove

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    I don't just mean that he'll still be fertile. Neutering in general helps the bonding process but it takes some time for the hormones to die down before you'll really see any behavioral effects of the neuter.
     
  12. Oct 1, 2012 #12

    LakeCondo

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    cwolfec wrote:
    I think whoever wrote that rabbits could go without pellets was sadly misinformed. Per L Moore's Rabbit Nutrition..., pp 87-8: " ... rabbits fed hay-only diets would not starve & keel over the next week or month, but over several months. A rabbit eating mostly hay and a few vegetables might hold out even longer."

    And rabbits should have only the amount of veggies that they will eat within an hour or so. Any left longer than that should be discarded. This may mean feeding them only in the evenings while feeding pellets mornings instead or besides.

     
  13. Oct 1, 2012 #13

    cwolfec

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    LakeCondo wrote:
    This was the article I was referring to from the HRS website: http://www.rabbit.org/journal/3-4/pellets.html

    It's an interesting read, but I didn't mean to say that removing all pellets is advisable. It just COULD be done. And don't worry, my buns get pellets!
     
  14. Oct 1, 2012 #14

    LakeCondo

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    Someone a few months ago had a rabbit that the vet recommended a hay only diet for months. I don't know how it turned out. Hopefully the vet was ignored after a month or so or they got a new vet before irreparable harm was done.

    Of course too many pellets can be fattening. Too much of about anything can be bad. And saying pellets were invented to fatten up meat rabbits is misleading & irrelevant, the kind of statement people in politics use. Audio tape was invented by Nazis, but that's not why that technology isn't so great. I wish specious arguments would be put where the sun don't shine.

    I have no problem with people recommending cutting down on pellets, but I consider Dr Moore THE expert on rabbit nutrition & am looking forward to the new edition of Rabbit Nutrition ... when it comes out in early 2013. Her information is up-to-date, while the HRS article mainly uses information from the 1980s.
     
  15. Oct 2, 2012 #15

    tamsin

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    A grass based diet is fine - it's great even and the healthiest option for a rabbit as that is what their bodies have evolved to function on.

    The important thing to remember is rabbits don't just eat grass, they eat a range of different grass species and other plants. So as said, just feeding hay or grass long term can leave them with vitamin/mineral deficiencies.

    That is where pellets (which are generally fortified with vitamins) and/or veggies come in. Lettuce alone won't provide a wide enough range of nutrients. You need to replicate that wide range of plants to make sure you cover all your bases.

    I would try introducing small quantities of different vegetables - you might try other types of lettuce (not iceberg), spring greens, dandelion, herbs such as basil, carrot tops. See if you can find some more things he likes. Another thing to try is wild plants (check what is safe) things like dandelion, thistle, bramble leaves, apple tree leaves.

    In the meantime, you could adding vitamins to the water or sprinkle powder on the veggies - pick one formulated for rabbits. That will help ensure his nutrient needs are met.
     
  16. Oct 4, 2012 #16

    missyscove

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    I think that it would certainly be possible to formulate a complete and balanced diet without pellets, but it would take a lot more effort and research than I personally would want to do. I often think of the pellet portion of my rabbit's diet as a sort of multivitamin. It's there to make sure he's getting those nutritional minimums that I can't be sure are in my hay or greens. That's why complete and balance pet foods are so great (sometimes I wish they made people kibble so I wouldn't have to worry about whether I was getting all my nutrients).
     
  17. Oct 4, 2012 #17

    Geoff

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    I am in the group that think rabbits are far better off NOT eating any pellets... a diet of lettuce and hay is not that bad, though I would try to vary the green leafy part of his diet to a much wider variety... but personally I think a diet of hay (grass hays preferably) and leafy greens is ideal... and NO pellets is the preferred situation.

    It looks like I may be in the minority on this forum, but perhaps most of you have not treated as many sick rabbits as I have (I have treated thousands over the last 26 years as a veterinarian)... you seen learn to listen to the other rabbit veterinary experts and take all rabbits off pellets (or at least severely restrict their intake of them)... and you get far less gastrointestinal problems that way.
     
  18. Oct 4, 2012 #18

    Bunnylova4eva

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    Geoff wrote:

    So do you think that feeding a bunny a small ammount (like 1/8 c. once a day) of good quality pellets like Oxbow is bad? I have a bunny who never seems to do well on too many greens. Some each day are fine along with lots of hay of course, but too many veggies seem to not work.
     
  19. Oct 4, 2012 #19

    Imbrium

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    what about pellets that don't contain any added molasses/sugars? a large portion of us feed sherwood forest rabbit food, which is all natural and seems a lot healthier than most other brands. (while it says it's designed to be "free fed", it seems people (myself included) would rather stick to the 1/4-1/2c pellets per 6 lbs body weight guideline from HRS and feed plenty of hay and veggies along with the pellets.)
     
  20. Oct 5, 2012 #20

    Geoff

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    The problem with all pellets is 1) fiber length is too short for proper stimulation of the GI tract; 2) protein levels tend to be higher than recommended for the average pet rabbit (maybe not for a breeding female or a youngster, though)- this is why timothy pellets are recommended at least over alfalfa pellets, if you need to feed pellets at all; 3) extremely dry for a creature that requires above average water intake for normal digestion to occur; 4) often contains sugar (though obviously not in those pellets in which they purposefully leave it out); 4) they require a lot less chewing than does hay or grass so a lot less wear of the molars takes place, setting up a possible over grown molar situation; 5) they tend to be higher in calories than hay is (obesity a VERY common problem in pet rabbits); and last, but not least, some pellets contain 'other things', NONE of which are any good for rabbits (in my opinion). Anyway, that is my pellet rant for the day. I think, in extreme moderation, and for the right bunny, pellets are not necessarily a horrible thing to feed, but in most pet rabbit situations, I think they are unecessary.
     

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