We are a nation of animal lovers with the RSPCA stating there’s a reported 51 million pets in the UK and nearly 1/2 the country’s households owning at least 1 pet. That’s 12 million households who have pets!
So, today I read a new evidence-based study from the Royal Veterinary College which revealed the average lifespan of a rabbit is ONLY 4.3 years. I’m shocked.
When I was a child, I had a pet rabbit and I’m sure she (she was actually a he, but after I named her I wasn’t changing her name to a boy’s name!) lived to around 10 years. It’s worrying to think that we’re not extending our pets’ lives with all the extra knowledge and information we’re learning. In fact, we’re shorting it.
Undoubtedly, rabbits and guinea pigs both make the top 10 list of most popular pets to own. Especially because they’re often chosen for children’s first pets too. But, do we really know what to feed them? And does nutrition affect lifespan, behaviour and disease?
When I first started Stefs, my goal was to create a place where all our pets could be fed a species appropriate diet. Horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, snakes, fish etc. It doesn’t matter what you choose to own, care for or share your house with. They all matter.
Anyway, back to the study… After collecting data from 6,349 rabbits in 107 veterinary clinics around the UK, researchers found the most common causes of death were:
- Flystrike (10.9%)
- Anorexia (4.9%)
- Collapse (4.9%)
- Gut stasis (4.3%)
Furthermore, they also revealed the most common medical conditions:
- Overgrown nails (16%)
- Overgrown molars (7.6%)
- Dirty bums (4.5%)
- Overgrown incisors (4.3%)
- Gut stasis (4.2%)
I’m looking at this list and it’s staring me straight in the face. Most of these medical conditions and causes of death could have been cured with a species appropriate diet. However, we tend to feed our small animals with something convenient. This is usually in pellet form, filled with loads of totally unnatural products and cheap fillers such as soy-bean hull/meal/oil (where have we seen this before?).
But our small animals require the same train of thought as our dogs and cats. We need to be looking at a much more natural diet. For example, rabbits and guinea pigs are grazers so they like to have something to nibble all day long. This should include fresh grasses, hay, herbs, fruit and their branches, seeds, whole leaves, bark and roots. They will naturally forage given the choice too!
So, what do you think? Could feeding more natural products help improve the lifespan of a rabbit? Comment below with your thoughts!
And before I forget, we’ve just started to add further products to our small animal collection. We can’t wait to share more with you so keep checking back. We’ll be giving you more information on what, how much, and when to feed. Watch this space!