Why lettuce is dangerous for rabbits - and other foods to avoid giving your bunny

Contrary to popular opinion, rabbits should not be fed carrots and lettuce, experts have warned.

Wednesday, 22nd June 2016, 9:56 am
Updated Wednesday, 22nd June 2016, 10:58 am
Lettuce can actually be dangerous for rabbits, say experts.

For despite the traditional image of our floppy-eared friends nibbling on rocket and iceberg, or Bugs Bunny posing with a carrot, root vegetables should not be at the top of the shopping list when it comes to your bunny’s diet – and lettuce, which is actually dangerous to rabbits, should not even feature.

As part of Rabbit Awareness Week – an annual campaign to raise the profile of rabbit welfare – Lucy Ross, head of training at Pets Corner, outlined what constitutes a safe and healthy diet for rabbits so you can keep your pet in tip-top condition.

“We are all familiar with Bugs Bunny, who would regularly whip out a carrot to munch on,” Lucy said, “but carrots are not the best thing to be feeding rabbits on a day-to-day basis.

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“The bulk of a rabbit’s diet should be made up of hay, with 10% of what they eat comprising of vegetables. For example, curly kale is one of the veggies rabbits can enjoy on a daily basis.

“But iceberg lettuce – a popular staple among humans that can often make it into the pet food pile, is dangerous and should never be fed to rabbits.”

A healthy diet for a pet rabbit should mimic what his cousins in the wild forage for – grass, plants and vegetables.

Good quality hay is an excellent alternative to grass and the foundation of a healthy diet for pet rabbits.

As well as strengthening teeth and jaws, it provides fibre to maintain a healthy gut, and nibbling on hay keeps bunnies busy, reducing boredom and helping prevent behavioural problems.

Lucy continued: “Alongside hay, which should make up 80% of your pet’s diet, we recommend adding one and a half mugs of fresh, raw fruit and veg per rabbit every day, with complete nuggets and mix making up the remaining 10%.”

Here’s 5tips for keeping your rabbit healthy:

1. Feed often – most days: bell peppers (remove seeds), raspberry leaves, watercress, coriander, courgette, curly kale

2. Feed frequently – two to four times a week: parsley, blueberries, cabbage, cauliflower leaves, broccoli, tomato (not stems or leaves), mangetout, Brussels sprouts

3. Feed occasionally – once a week: apple (remove seeds), mint, carrots, pak choi, blackberries, cucumber peelings, dandelion leaves, celery

4. Never feed: avocado, coconut, garlic, iceberg lettuce, hot peppers, chillies, potatoes, tomato leaves and stems, onions

5. Fresh water – always ensure your rabbit has plenty of fresh, clean water

The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund – a national charity supported by Pets Corner – advocates the hay and veggie diet. However, it advises commercial foods should not be cut out as they contain important nutrients that can be deficient in a totally hay/veggie diet.

Lucy added: “Take care to introduce any new foods gradually. An abrupt change to a rabbit’s diet can trigger digestive upsets, which could prove fatal to some.”

Rabbit Awareness Week runs until Sunday 26th June . For more information, visit www.rabbitawarenessweek.co.uk