Rabbits and guinea pigs have a very complex digestive system that relies on what is called ‘Hind Gut Fermentation’. This includes a microflora of healthy bacteria that help them break down the tough forage and fibre they eat. It’s really important you give the right diet to keep this microflora happy and your pet healthy.
This should ideally be as close to your pet’s wild diet as possible. Below is an advised diet, as percentages of the total amount your rabbit or guinea pig eats:
>70% hay/fresh grass
Most of their diet should be hay. This is high in fibre and requires grinding down with your pet’s back molars. These molars constantly grow so it is essential they are worn down in this way.
Hay/grass feeds the good bacteria in your pets hind'gut, ensuring they maintain their normal digestive function.
Here is a link to our range of hay on the website.
20-28% edible plants/forage
This should be as close to what your pet would get in the wild as possible, and below are good forage suggestions and those to avoid.
GOOD - apple (pip-less), asparagus, banana, basil, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower leaves and stalks, celery, chicory, cucumber, dill, fennel, grapes, green pepper, kale, mint, orange (peeled), oregano, parsley, red leaf lettuce, spinach, tomato, turnip, watercress.
BAD - apple pips, potato and potato tops, rhubarb (leaves and stalks), tomato leaves, locust pods and beans, avocados, autumn crocus, begonia, black nightshade, busy lizzie, buttercup, carnation, chrysanthemum, clematis, cowslip, geranium, hemlock, laburnum, laurel, poison ivy, poppy and yucca.
2-3% concentrated feed
A wild rabbit or guinea pig does not get any concentrates at all and vegetables/grass should be enough. It is hard to ensure a wide variety of good forage, however, so a small amount of concentrate is recommended.
Pelleted feeds are best used as opposed to muesli. Your pet can pick and choose within muesli mixed feeds which unbalances their diet.
**Top Tip** If your pet’s diet does not match the above and you want to change their diet then any transitions should be done slowly over 7-14 days. Rabbits/guinea pigs may refuse to eat if the diet is suddenly changed, which can lead to major problems.
How else can I support my pet’s digestive health?
Probiotic and fibre gut supplements can be used to support the healthy microflora in your rabbit or guinea pig’s intestinal system.
Don’t forget! Chew toys are also important for your pet bunny/pig. Their front teeth need wearing down by gnawing on edible wood/forage. We have a wide variety of chew toys on our website, just follow this link.
Written by: Dr. Nick Garside BVetMed MRCVS