Lettuce and carrots are dangerous for rabbits, pet expert warns

Don't feed your pet rabbit carrots and lettuce.
Don't feed your pet rabbit carrots and lettuce.
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Conjure up an image of a cartoon rabbit and you will probably picture it chomping on a carrot.

But despite the close association, the root veg should not be at the top of the shopping list when it comes to your bunny’s diet – and lettuce, which is dangerous to rabbits, shouldn’t even feature at all.

That's the verdict from a pet expert who has issued the advice to mark Rabbit Awareness Week, an annual campaign to raise the profile of rabbit welfare .

Lucy Ross, Head of Training at Pets Corner, said: “We are all familiar with Bugs Bunny, who would regularly whip out a carrot to munch on, but carrots are not the best thing to be feeding rabbits on a day-to-day basis.

“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 among some 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%.”

Lucy has put together the following feeding guide for rabbit owners:

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

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

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

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

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.”

To find out more about rabbit health and wellbeing, visit Pets Corner’s Petopedia page www.petscorner.co.uk/petopedia

Rabbit Awareness Week runs until Sunday 26th June. Further details at www.rabbitawarenessweek.co.uk