Why is protein important for Rabbits?
Protein is a nutrient that provides us with energy and supports muscle growth. As well as humans, this nutrient is an essential part of a rabbits diet. The common misconception, is that protein is only found in animal products such as meat and eggs. In fact, this is not true at all. You may be surprised to find, rabbit protein intake comes from their plant based diet.
Protein Provides Energy & Supports Muscle Growth
Just like us humans, rabbits need an adequate amount of protein for various reasons. It provides them with energy and supports healthy growth. It also helps their muscles to grow and recover after strenuous exercise.
So just how much protein do rabbits need? Well, this is a figure that does tend to vary depending on certain factors. For pet rabbits, typically they will require between 12-16% of their diet to be made up of protein.
This can slightly vary, with younger rabbits requiring 12-14% (between 3-9 weeks old). It is recommended that pregnant rabbits have a slightly higher rate of between 16-20%.
Low Protein Intake Causes Complications
If your rabbit has an excessively low intake of protein certain health implications can occur. Some of these issues include:
- Poor tissue regeneration
- A restriction in the amount of micronutrients absorbed
- Hair alterations, including changes in appearance and amount of hair
Excessive Rabbit Protein Intake Can Cause Issues
As with a protein deficiency, an excessive protein intake can also cause complications for your rabbit. Some of these are:
- Strain on organs
- Increased urine production
- An increase in the amount of urea produced
Where Can Rabbits Get Their Protein?
Rabbits are grazing animals. In their natural environment they will spend large parts of the day grazing on grass. Wild rabbits are a lot more active than pet rabbits and manage to get enough protein from just eating grass. However, in pet rabbits this can be difficult. You may find that you don’t have a constant supply of grass for your rabbit to graze on. This isn’t too much of a problem as you can supplement this through other means.
Rabbits need constant access to a supply of Hay. This will allow them to graze throughout the day to their hearts content. As we said, naturally rabbits are able to graze on grass all day long. Hay is a source of protein for your rabbit so providing it has access to a constant supply it will be able to get intake protein throughout the day.
Rabbit pellets are easy to get your hands on. You’re able to get hold of them at your local pet store, but may find them a lot cheaper online. If you’re unsure which brand to buy, then don’t worry. We’ve already done some leg work and wrote a post with some rabbit food for protein. Remember, when using rabbit pellets always follow the guidelines for feeding as stated on the packaging.
So as we’ve already said, rabbits in their natural habitat have access to grass all day long. This is another good source of protein for your rabbit. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden with grass in it then great.
If you have a outdoor rabbit hutch then even better. Position your hutch so that the run area is based on the grass. This will give your rabbit a constant supply to the grass on the floor. If your rabbit hutch is elevated from the floor no problem. You can always let your rabbit out for a while each day to freely graze from the grass. Always make sure it does this in a secure rabbit run, never leave it unsupervised.
Its important to remember that your bunnies need for protein may vary dependant on various factors. For example, one of these factors could be whether your rabbit lives indoors or outdoors. Generally, outdoor rabbits tend to get more exercise than indoor rabbits. This means that they may need a slightly higher amount of protein than a less active house rabbit.
It’s important that you don’t give your rabbit too much protein. After all, some of the adverse affects such as live strain will impact your rabbit in these cases.
Remember, if you are concerned about rabbit protein intake the best person to speak to is your vet. As a trained professional your vet will be able to assess your rabbits diet and make recommendations.
We urge that before you make any drastic adjustments to your rabbits intake of any nutrient you consult your vet before doing so. Your vet knows your rabbits health better than anyone. If your rabbit is likely to have an adverse reaction to dietary adjustments your vet will be the most likely person to know.
References – WabbitWiki