FAQ - Rabbit

Why is corn added to your rabbits diets?

Corn is a natural, wholesome ingredient which has been used in animal and human nutrition for centuries. Corn is a rich source of carbohydrates and essential oils that provide for a good source of energy and helps to maintain a healthy immune system.

Formulation of a well-balanced rabbit ration requires the use of several different ingredients. Purina complete rabbit diets are alfalfa based for fiber, with corn added as a carbohydrate source. The addition of corn to our diets supplies necessary energy for your rabbit. Corn is a safe ingredient for rabbits when used properly in combination with a variety of other feed ingredients.

Why is my rabbit losing condition?

Condition refers to the amount of flesh or the degree of fatness of your rabbit and is also referred to as “body condition.” To determine the condition of your rabbit, give your rabbit a gentle squeeze. A rabbit in top condition will be firm to the touch and muscular without excess flesh.

If your bunny is less than buff, he may not be getting enough feed. Feed intake should be adjusted according to life stages and production. Growing rabbits need more nutrients than adults. Breeding rabbits need more nutrients, too. You may even need to increase your rabbit’s intake during cold weather to maintain his body weight.

But don’t go too far. Rabbits fed more nutrients than what is required to maintain a desired condition will become overweight and soft to the touch.

Adjustments in intake should always be made slowly over a period of 7-10 days to prevent digestive disturbances. All rabbits, except lactating does and young growing rabbits should be limit fed.

Purina Rabbit Chow Complete Blend and Complete Plus are recommended for all stages of life and is balanced to contain all the nutrients required for growth, maintenance and reproduction.

For more rapid growth and a superior coat, pick Purina Show Formula. The additional amino acids and vegetable oil in this highly nutritious diet give your rabbit a strong body and luxurious coat so that it can reach its’ genetic potential.

When you’re interested in maximum growth and reproductive potential, Purina Professional Formula is the perfect choice. Purina research has shown that this higher protein feed results in optimum growth and reproduction as well as excellent coat quality.

All Purina rabbit diets are complete, so there is no need for dietary supplements. Purina Mills research has shown, feeding additional vitamins and minerals can cause a harmful dietary imbalance.

What do I do about hairballs?

Hair shed from your rabbit’s coat can lodge in its’ digestive tract. Some rabbits may develop a habit of eating their own hair or may even pull hair from other rabbits. If hairballs are a problem, rabbits may become listless, and fecal pellets may decrease in size and number, due to a reduction in feed intake. Your rabbit’s belly may appear to be full, but upon closer examination, you may notice that is has lost weight and that it may actually be suffering from malnutrition.

Regular brushing can help to remove much of your rabbit’s loose hair. A high fiber diet will also help to maintain good digestive function and aide in the passage of ingested hair. Be sure to limit feed intake based on the breed size, and production goal of your rabbit. Feeding a limited amount of diet can improve functioning of the digestive tract and reduce the potential for hairballs.

Purina Show Formula and Rabbit Chow Gourmet are designed to produce rabbits with superior coat quality and contain papaya. Papaya contains the enzyme papain. Papain enzymes do not breakdown the hair itself, but may help breakdown the mucous which holds the hairball together. You can also add small amounts of grass hay to your rabbit’s diet to keep him from getting bored and playing with his hair.

Is Purina feed "least cost formulated"?

No. Our goal is to consistently provide you with the highest quality rabbit feed; not the least expensive. Your rabbit’s sensitive digestive system requires a diet that is stable and nutritionally constant, not a diet which is formulated based on the cheapest ingredients available at a given time.

Ingredients used in manufacturing Purina rabbit diets are the highest quality in order to maintain consistent nutrition from bag to bag. Our feed may cost more per bag than other brands, however because it is higher in nutrients, you actually have to feed less to your rabbits – which makes Purina rabbit feeds a better value per bag.

Does alfalfa in rabbit diets result in high calcium levels?

Purina Rabbit diets are formulated to meet the daily dietary requirement for calcium.

Our rabbit feeds contain high levels of alfalfa, which is highly palatable to rabbits and provides an excellent source of fiber. All diets are carefully formulated to contain a specific and constant amount of calcium.

Basically, it makes no difference whether alfalfa or other grass hay is used in the diet. We need to supplement the rabbit’s diet with calcium in the form of calcium carbonate because neither alfalfa nor grass hay contains sufficient calcium to meet the rabbit’s daily needs.

For example, when hay such as timothy is used in the diet, more calcium carbonate would need to be added to the ration to meet your rabbit’s requirement for calcium. Using alfalfa “which has a greater calcium content” means less calcium carbonate is added to meet the needs of your rabbit. Purina rabbit diets are formulated to maintain a constant level of calcium in the diet.

Do not feed alfalfa supplements or other vitamin and/or mineral supplements to rabbits eating Purina’s complete rabbit diets since this could cause a nutritional imbalance that might make your rabbit sick.

What is the chalky white film on the bottom of my rabbit's cage?

It is calcium carbonate. Rabbits are unique. Their bodies do not regulate blood calcium levels as well as other animals. As a result, calcium is absorbed readily and may reach very high levels in the blood.

Calcium is removed from the blood and excreted as calcium carbonate in the urine. Over time, calcium carbonate builds up and becomes the chalky white film you see.

Rabbits require from 0.6 – 1.3% calcium in the diet, depending on age and life stage. Calcium is the mineral your rabbit needs most to develop teeth and bones. It also has other functions in the body. Purina formulates its’ rabbit diets to contain a constant amount of calcium in the diet to insure proper development of strong bones and teeth.

Why is there a change in the color/smell of my rabbits feed?

Ingredients used to manufacture Purina rabbit diets change in physical characteristics due to varying growing conditions, climate changes and the maturity of crops when they are harvested. This can cause a slight change in feed color or smell from bag to bag; but no need to worry.

Ingredients used in all Purina feeds are routinely tested to determine their nutrient content. Small adjustments in diet formulations are sometimes made to insure your rabbit receives constant nutrition. So even though your rabbit’s feed may look or smell a little different from bag to bag, you can be sure he’s getting the exact same amount of nutrition every time.

What causes ammonia odor and how can I control it?

Normal metabolic processes protein into amino acids that are used by the body for the development of muscle, bone and fur. Protein (amino acids) not needed by the body are converted to urea for excretion in the urine. Urea is converted to ammonia by an enzyme called “urease” (pronouced Ur E ase).

The longer urine stays in the environment the more urea is converted to ammonia. If you can smell ammonia, then the ammonia levels are too high. Ammonia can damage the lining of the respiratory tract allowing harmful bacteria to enter the body which may lead to disease. Therefore, the daily removal of urine and waste are important to your rabbit’s health and long life.

Maintain good ventilation in your rabbitry and keep cages clean to prevent any potential health problems.

Purina Show Formula contains additional amino acids that are required for the production of a thicker and shinier coat. Show Formula, Complete Plus and Gourmet all contain Yucca Shidigera, a plant extract that may help to reduce the production of ammonia.

Why won't my rabbits breed?

Again, there’s no easy answer. Factors that influence breeding include age, weight, temperature, light and the frequency of breeding.

The biological time clock affects bunnies just like humans. Females typically can be bred for the first time at five months. Males usually reach sexual maturity by six months of age. However, these times vary. Larger breeds are slower to reach sexual maturity.

Purina Mills’ research has shown the most common cause of breeding problems occur because does and bucks are under or over weight for their breed specific “target” weight. Underweight rabbits may be physically incapable of breeding successfully. Overweight rabbits may not show any interest in mating and can have a hard time becoming pregnant if mating does occur. Establish a “target” weight prior to breeding according to the specific breed standards of your rabbit for greatest success. Adjust the feed intake of your rabbit to maintain an ideal weight.

Environmental temperatures can affect reproductive performance in bucks. Temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit can cause heat induced sterility. Keep bucks in a cool area when used for breeding purposes.

How much is too much? The active breeding life of a rabbit can range from 4-6 years. Females on a more intensive breeding program (more than five litters per year) will be productive for fewer years than those bred less frequently. Frequency of breeding can also affect the performance of males. When used in an intensive breeding program, keep one buck per 10-20 does. In cool weather, fewer bucks can be used more often. Does that are infrequently bred may become overweight which may lead to breeding difficulties.

Keep the amount of light constant for 14 hours each day to maintain constant breeding throughout the year.

Be sure your rabbits have reached sexual maturity and are the proper weight and condition for their breed prior to mating. Monitor the amount of food your rabbit eats to prevent overeating and excess weight gain.

Gradually increase the feed of underweight rabbits to get them in the ideal condition for breeding. Purina Rabbit Chow Complete Blend and Purina Show Formula contain all the essential nutrients for reproduction and are formulated to support up to 40 bunnies per doe per year (5 litters a year).

If a more intensive breeding schedule is desired, Purina Professional Formula is recommended. Formulated with extra protein and nutrition it enables does to produce up to 64 bunnies per year (8 litters per year).

Keep bucks cool and maintain light exposure at a constant 14 hours per day to achieve the best breeding performance of your rabbits.

Why does my rabbit get diarrhea?

Diarrhea can be a symptom of several underlying problems including stress, disease, genetics, diet mismanagement or the use of certain antibiotics. Regardless of its cause, it remains one of the most common causes of death in rabbits, which makes it a serious concern that should not be taken lightly.

Technically, diarrhea is the result of an inflammation of the intestines called Enteritis and is characterized by soft or runny, foul smelling feces.

The rabbit digestive system is unique and depends in part on beneficial bacteria and microorganisms to break down food. This process, called fermentation, takes place in part of the rabbit’s digestive tract called the cecum. The cecum of the rabbit is much larger and more developed than any other domestic animal. The nutrients from cecal fermentation are packaged into soft (or “night”) feces that are consumed by the rabbit in a process called coprophagy.
To keep the digestive system working properly, rabbits require a high fiber diet. Fiber helps to keep the correct balance of nutrients going to the cecum for fermentation and maintains the normal population of “good” bacteria.

A diet low in fiber can throw the fermentation process out of balance resulting in an increase in harmful toxin producing bacteria. These toxins can lead to diarrhea, dehydration and eventually, death.

Newborn and weaning rabbits are at a greater risk of developing diarrhea due to their immature digestive systems and the inability to fight off harmful bacteria.

Rabbits under a great deal of stress are more susceptible to diarrhea. So what could cause your bunnies to become tense, irritable and susceptible to diarrhea? Temperature extremes, either hot or cold, can cause a sudden change in feed intake which upsets the population of bacteria in the cecum. Stressful environmental conditions such as wind, rain, drafts and sun can also throw rabbits off of their feed. And, of course, the presence of other animals such as dogs, cats and other predators can give a rabbit cause for concern.

Did you know that diarrhea can sometimes be brought on by the use of certain antibiotics that alter the population of microorganisms in the cecum? Certain antibiotics destroy beneficial bacteria which allows an increase in the number of harmful toxin producing bacteria. Consult veterinarian for the proper use of antbiotics. Purina rabbit diets DO NOT contain any antibiotics.

Diarrhea is a common sign of disease that can be caused by internal parasites such as Coccidiosis. If you suspect this may be the problem with your rabbit, isolate it immediately to prevent transmission of the disease to other animals, and call your veterinarian.

If your rabbit develops diarrhea, take away its feed for 2-3 days and provide only water and small amounts of hay. After the diarrhea has ended, gradually begin feeding small amounts of feed each day until full feed is resumed within 2-3 days. If the situation doesn’t get better right away, call your veterinarian.

The best way to solve a problem is to make sure it never occurs. Limit feed intake in all of your rabbits, except lactating does and newly weaned bunnies which should be feed free choice.

Always increase the amount of food slowly to prevent diarrhea. Sudden changes in a rabbit diet can upset the digestive tract and lead to diarrhea. Any changes in feed should be made over a 7-10 day period to give your rabbit’s digestive system time to adapt.

During this period, mix the new feed with the old feed, and gradually increase the amount of new feed. Feed your rabbit at the same time each day, ideally in the evening, due to your rabbit’s nocturnal nature.

The importance of fiber in the diet should never be overlooked. Purina Rabbit Feeds provide 100% of the daily requirements for fiber. Purina Show Formula, Rabbit Chow Complete Plus and Rabbit Chow Gourmet all contain Lactobacillus Acidophilus and specific yeast cultures. Research has shown that under certain circumstances, this may improve digestive function and helps to reduce the occurrence of diarrhea.

If antibiotics are necessary due to illness, only use those recommended for rabbits by your veterinarian. Do not use antibiotics continuously as a preventative.

Good sanitation and management practices can also help prevent diarrhea from developing. Be sure your rabbit has proper housing and protection from the elements and predators to keep them healthy and happy.

How do I prepare my rabbit for winter?

Winter brings a variety of situations, including cold temperatures and short days, which affect the well-being of your outdoor rabbit. There are steps you should take to prepare your rabbit(s) to weather the season in optimal health and comfort.

Your rabbit should have a hutch that has solid walls on at least three sides and a slanted, overhanging roof that will allow snow and rain to run off. The hutch should be placed in an area protected from blustery winds and heavy precipitation. Straw or other bedding in the hutch will provide extra warmth, but it must be kept clean and dry. It is very important that you check daily to ensure your rabbit has a dry environment. Damp surroundings, whether from rain, snow, a leaky water bottle, or urine, will contribute to chilling and immune stress, which in winter can easily result in serious illness. While well-protected, the hutch should still have adequate ventilation to reduce odors and keep your pet breathing fresh air.

Water is very important in the winter. It is critical to keep the rabbit’s source of water clean and not frozen. In very cold weather, this may necessitate checking the water several times a day or providing a heated waterer. If you use the latter, be sure to still clean it regularly to inhibit bacterial growth and keep the water appealing to the rabbit. Also be sure that the cord cannot be chewed by the rabbit.

If you are breeding rabbits, you will need to provide 14 to 16 hours of light during these short winter days. The lighting intensity should be 25 lux at the level of the animals. Since no one really knows what a lux is, simply hang one 36-watt fluorescent tube light about 6 feet above the rabbits for every 55 square feet of floor space. In addition, baby rabbits cannot tolerate the cold temperatures that adult rabbits can, so it will be very important to provide extra warmth if needed. If you provide supplemental heat, be sure to monitor the temperature of the nest box daily. There have been instances where the nest box gets too hot and doe’s not nurse the litter. Remember, a little heat goes a long way in a small nest box.

Finally, expect your rabbit to eat more – maybe lots more! The colder it gets, the more the rabbit must eat. Like all animals, rabbits have what is called the “thermoneutral zone”. This is the ambient temperature range at which the rabbit does not need to expend energy to maintain an ideal body temperature. For adult rabbits, this zone is 69 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (young rabbits will be comfortable at higher temperatures). Below 69 degrees, the rabbit must use energy to stay warm. The colder the environment, the more energy the rabbit needs. Energy comes from food, so expect your rabbit to eat as much as three times more in the winter than it does during warmer times of the year. This increase in feed intake even has a fancy name: thermostatic appetite control. The rabbit’s appetite automatically adjusts to meet the energy needs of the rabbit in different temperatures. If your rabbit does not have access to adequate food, it will be hungry, cold, lose weight, and will likely get sick. If the situation becomes dire, the rabbit could die from illness or hypothermia.
The graph shows the relationship between feed intake and decreasing ambient temperature. Note that eventually the rabbit’s intake “maxes out”. This is because even a hungry rabbit in a cold environment can eat only so much food; at this point, housing becomes very important in keeping the rabbit comfortable and healthy.

If you provide your rabbit with warm, dry housing, plenty of food, and lots of fresh, clean water, your rabbit will stay comfortable and healthy through even the longest winter!