Rabbit and Guinea Pig Feeding Guide

Feeding Rabbits and Guinea Pigs correctly can go a long way to preventing many of the health problems these beautiful creatures are prone to getting. Unfortunately, the advice and information given by pet stores is often inadequate or even completely incorrect.  Our feeding guide can help to set you on the right path to keeping your pet healthy. We stock a range of premium Oxbow food for rabbits and guinea pigs at Edgeworth Animal Medical Centre to help start you on the right path to proper nutrition for your pet.

Hay:
A suitable, high quality hay should be provided to the animals morning and evening as these are their peak feeding times. Hay should make up the majority of the diet. A general guideline is to feed at least an amount of hay similar to the size of each animal. Hay may be fed ad lib (as much as they like).

Hays may be divided into grass (Timothy, Orchard grass, Oaten, ryegrass, meadow) and legumes (Lucerne, clover). Grass hays are high in fibre and lower in protein and are the best hay to feed as a maintenance diet for adult rabbits and guinea pigs. Legume hays are lower in fibre, higher in calcium and protein and are suitable for feeding growing, pregnant and lactating animals. Legume hays should not be fed as a maintenance diet as they can predispose to gastrointestinal stasis, obesity and formation of kidney or bladder stones.

The quality of hay varies and those purchasing either bales or packets of hay should be able to assess quality and only purchase that which is good. High quality hay has been cut when the plant is young and growing. It should consist of green leafy material with minimal stems; small numbers of flowers and young seed heads may also be present. The hay should feel soft and smell fresh and sweet and be free of invading weeds, roots and dirt. Poorer quality hays will be evident by brown to yellow colouring and greater stem content. They may be dusty and crumbly. Moist, mouldy or otherwise contaminated hays should never be purchased. Hay must be stored in dry, cool, dark conditions.

If your pet is not accustomed to eating hay, speak to a staff member about hay varieties that may make the transition easier.

STRAW IS NOT HAY:
Straw is a waste product of grain harvest and consists of the dried stems of mature wheat with some seed heads. It has minimal nutritional value. Although the animals will chew and eat parts of it, it should be provided as bedding only and not part of the animals’ diet. Straw is however an important enrichment to the animal’s comfort and should also be clean, fresh and free of contaminants and spoilage.

Pellets:
Animals that are supplied with sufficient quantities of hay, grass and fresh vegetables do not actually need any pellets.

Excess feeding of pellets can contribute to gastrointestinal stasis and lead to obesity. Pellets also do not allow the rabbit/guinea pig to chew with the full range of motion required for proper tooth wear so dental problems often result. Pellet mixes with seeds, grains and treats should never be given as this allows selective feeding of high carbohydrate items which may cause serious gastrointestinal stasis. Rabbits and guinea pigs are not designed to eat seeds.

Proper Rabbit Diet

 Long stem fibre (>5mm) is the main driver of normal gut motility and function!
 Rabbits will preferentially select the highest concentrated food source available (the highest calories available which isn’t really the healthiest).  If too much pellet food is available, they’ll fill up on this and have no reason to eat the healthier hay!
Hay:
o Should make up the majority of the rabbits diet
o Give an amount approximately equal the rabbit’s size each day; or essentially as much as they like
o For young rabbits Lucerne hay is okay – it is higher in protein and calcium
o For adult/mature rabbits – they should have grass hay, timothy hay, mixed hay; Lucerne is too high in protein.
Grass:
o As much as they like (ad lib)
o make sure not recently sprayed with herbicide/pesticide
Fresh leafy greens: (see website: House Rabbit Society http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/ )
o 1-2 cups per day per rabbit
o Ideally 3-4 varieties per day;
o Leafy Greens (low in oxalic acid) include
 Arugula, Endive, Escarole, Frisee Lettuce
 Carrot tops
 Kale (all types)
 Turnip greens, Dandelion greens
 Herbs: Mint Basil, Coriander, Dill leaves
 Asian greens: Bok Choy, Yu choy
 Fennel (the leafy tops as well as the base)
o Leafy Greens (higher in oxalic acid) – limit to 1 per day
 Parsley
 Spinach
 Mustard greens
 Beet greens
 Swiss chard/Silverbeet
 Radish tops

Other fresh vegetables:
o Limit to 1 tbsp. per day per kg of rabbit (so 2 tablespoons for a 2 kg rabbit)
 Carrots
 Broccoli (leaves and stems), Broccolini
 Edible flowers (roses, nasturtiums, pansies, hibiscus)
 Celery
 Capsicum (any colour)
 Brussel sprouts, Cabbage (any type)
 Summer squash, Zucchini squash
o Avoid beans, peas, snow peas – these are legumes with too much protein, not enough fibre

Pellets:
o max 1 tbsp. per kg per day; 2 tbsp. if 3kg rabbit
o should have a minimum crude fibre of >18%
o preferably grass or timothy based (rather than lucerne)
o Should not have any seeds or grains mixed in

Fruit:
o Should be reserved as a special treat or training treat; not to be fed every day
o Only feed to healthy animals with no recent history of gut stasis
o Max 1 teaspoon per kg per day
o Apple, Pear
o Cherries
o Banana – 1cm thick slice, remove peel; they LOVE this!
o Peach, Plum, Nectarine, Apricot
o Kiwi
o Mango, Papaya
o Berries (any type)
o Melons (any – can include peel and seeds)

Water:
o rabbits have high water intake: up to 120ml/kg/day; (2kg rabbit drinks as much as 10kg dog)
o Always make sure there is a supply of fresh clean water available
o In rabbits, water intake often increases with reduced appetite/fasting – this can be a warning sign that something is wrong with your pet.
o This type of excessive drinking can lead to sodium (salt) depletion

Proper Guinea Pig Diet

Guinea Pigs are fastidious eaters who develop particular food preferences very early in life. For this reason changes to diet must be made very slowly and the animals monitored as they are known to go on “hunger strikes” if presented with unfamiliar or different foods. Even changing the brand of pellets or an unusual water flavour can induce anorexia.

Guinea pigs must have a source of pre-formed vitamin C in their diet as they are unable to synthesize it from glucose as rabbits can. Normal, healthy adult Cavies require 10mg/kg/day to prevent Scurvy. Growing, pregnant or lactating animals require approximately 30mg/kg/day and for animals that are ill or deficient up to 50mg/kg/day is recommended.

Hay:
o Should make up the majority of the diet
o Feed an amount approximately equal the size of the animal each day; or essentially ad lib
o For young cavies Lucerne hay is okay – higher in protein and calcium
o For adult/mature cavies – grass hay, timothy hay, mixed hay is best; Lucerne is too high in protein
Grass:
o As much as they want (ad lib)
o make sure not recently sprayed with herbicide/pesticide

Fresh leafy greens:
o 1-2 cups per day
o Ideally 3-4 varieties per day;
o Leafy Greens (low in oxalic acid)
 Arugula, Endive, Escarole, Frisee Lettuce
 Carrot tops
 Kale (all types)
 Turnip greens, Dandelion greens
 Herbs: Mint, Basil, Coriander, Dill leaves,
 Asian greens: Bok Choy, Yu choy
 Fennel (the leafy tops as well as the base)
o Leafy Greens (higher in oxalic acid) – limit to 1 per day
 Parsley
 Spinach
 Mustard greens; Beet greens
 Swiss chard/Silverbeet
 Radish tops

Other fresh vegetables:
o Capsicum – 1/8-1/4 of a capsicum per Guinea pig/day – these are an excellent source of vitamin C (Red>Orange/yellow>green)
o Limit to 1 tbsp. per day
 Carrots
 Broccoli (leaves and stems), Broccolini
 Edible flowers (roses, nasturtiums, pansies, hibiscus)
 Celery
 Brussel sprouts, Cabbage (any type)
 Summer squash, Zucchini squash
o Avoid beans, peas, snow peas – these are legumes with too much protein, not enough fibre

Pellets:
o max 1 tbsp. per day;
o should have a minimum crude fibre of >18%
o preferably grass or timothy based (rather than lucerne)

Fruit:
o GP’s have a higher tolerance for fruit than rabbits; are an excellent source of vitamin C;
o Small daily serving of approximately 1 teaspoon per day (in order of Vitamin C content)
 Kiwi – excellent vitamin C source
 Papaya – excellent vitamin C source
 Strawberries – excellent vitamin C source
 Citrus – excellent vitamin C source
 Rock melon – excellent vitamin C source
 Mango,
 Melons (any – can include peel and seeds)
 Banana – 1cm thick slice, remove peel; they LOVE this!
 Cherries
 Berries (any type)
 Peach, Plum, Nectarine, Apricot
 Apple, Pear

Water:
o Guinea pigs have a much lower water intake than rabbits and if getting lots of fresh greens and succulent grass appear to drink very little.
o However, always make sure there is a supply of fresh clean water available
o If travelling with your guinea pigs or taking them somewhere else it is helpful to pack a supply of their regular water to help the transition to the taste of the “new” water – particularly if transitioning to bore water which may have a distinctly different taste.

Please follow and like us: