Rabbits that are placed on a pellet-only diet find themselves gaining weight more easily. Dr Song warns that poor-quality formulas tend to be loaded with sugar and starches, which could lead to “carbohydrate overload”. “Excessive carbohydrates have been associated with enteritis, a potentially fatal condition whereby bacteria in the intestines grow out of control and produce toxins that lead to inflammation of the intestines,” she says.
A diet that is high in starch and low in fibre can cause the digestive system to become sluggish. GI stasis occurs when the digestive system slows down or stops completely, causing bad bacteria to build up in the intestines and gas to be released into the system, resulting in painful and uncomfortable bloating. As the contents of the digestive tract become more compact, the rabbit will have difficulty passing it through. When the bacteria release toxins into the system, this in turn stresses the liver, and may cause the organ to fail, eventually leading to death.
A bun’s teeth grow continuously throughout its lifetime, therefore they need to be worn down with sufficient roughage in order to retain their proper length, shape, and alignment. When a diet has insufficient fibre, the teeth grow too fast, resulting in uneven length, misalignment, abnormal curvature, sharp points, loose molars, and other dental problems. Besides being too soft and small to wear teeth down properly, processed food pellets require less chewing time, and cause the rabbit to chew in an up-and-down motion rather than a natural side-to-side motion that helps to grind the teeth down.
Poor-quality pellets are loaded with calories and carbohydrates, hence, rabbits that are on a pellet-only diet are at high risk of diabetes. When a diabetic bun experiences an abnormal spike in glucose levels, it tends to exhibit excessive thirst, urination and binge eating.
For more on how to craft the perfect meal for your bun, flip to Pet Bowl of our Oct/Nov 2015 issue!