Are you thinking of adopting a rabbit or guinea pig? Did you just adopt one and want to share every treat with him? Read more to find out what treats you should (and shouldn’t) be giving your new best friend!
Best Commercial Treats
Commercial treats for your rabbit, or treats you can easily buy at the store, come in many varieties; some are great! Some are not so great. Stay away from treats with corn or wheat as the primary ingredient. Although corn and wheat are considered healthy for our cat and dog friends, they are too sugary and easily digestible for our small mammals. These can lead to GI stasis in the short term, and obesity in the long term.
The treats that list Timothy hay as a main ingredient and don’t have any dyes are the best commercial treats! Oxbow Animal Health makes a few which are easy to find. Other commercial treats for your pet include apple branches, wicker branches, and compressed hay cubes. Any treat, even the good ones, should be given in moderation! Most commercial treats are too large for most pets, and honestly should be broken into pieces (e.g. 1/2 of an Oxbow treat is plenty for most rabbits), despite what your new friend says.
We really like the compressed hay cubes (timothy hay ONLY) for rabbits who struggle with weight. These are very low calorie, and take a while to eat; a great weight loss solution! These will never replace regular, long pieces of hay, but can be given daily without consequences. You can also add a variety of hays to the diet, as a special treat. We love using botanical hay or oat grass hay as a treat for our overweight bunnies.
Can I make treats for my rabbit?
Yes! However, the best at home treats for your rabbits and guinea pigs are actually fresh fruits and vegetables. Vegetables high in sugar (like carrots and peppers) make a great treat! Most rabbits need only a few grams (the size of your thumb nail) of these treats daily; too much of these is just like too many commercial treats. This is also true of fruits; a slice of strawberry (with the top), a raspberry, or a piece of an apple are all great treats! These provide the added benefit of extra vitamins and minerals. Stay away from dried fruits, as these are akin to gummy worms in people; full of sugar and sticky! This may lead to dental disease if used as a frequent treat.
Another treat to consider is plain ground flax seed. This is a great way to ensure your rabbit gets enough omega-3 and rabbits seem to love it! We recommend 1/4 tsp per 5 lbs. of rabbit per day. This is something that can be used in old and young rabbits and guinea pigs alike! Although there is not a lot of medical research on the benefits of flax seed as an omega-3 supplement in herbivores (meaning it may not help the joints at all), it at least is a safe treat to enjoy.
Try to stay away from people food other than fresh fruits and vegetables. People food is often too easily digestible for guinea pigs and rabbits: read too full of sugar! Rabbits tend to love people food (tortilla chips are Whiskey’s favorite bad food, honey is Martini’s). Eating people food can cause GI stasis and diarrhea, which are both medical emergencies for rabbits and guinea pigs.
What about rabbits with health issues?
Please talk to your veterinarian about rabbits with various health issues, such as kidney disease, dental disease, or if your rabbit may be overweight. Your vet will help you determine the best treats for your rabbit; as many rabbits in households ARE overweight, but hide it well. The best diet for a rabbit is lots of fresh hay and water, a variety of fresh greens, and a few (1 tbs. per 5 lbs. of rabbit) pellets per day. Treats should be only given in small quantities! Not as a mainstay. Keep that in mind as you train, get to know, and love your new pet!