A healthy rabbit’s diet should include a variety of goodies, including hay, leafy greens, and a rabbit-specific pellet. Occasionally, however, a rabbit will start turning up its nose at its regular fare and may eat only one or two of the options offered.
So, why is my rabbit only eating greens? Dental disease and GI stasis are common problems that could be affecting your rabbit’s appetite or ability to eat. If everything checks out health-wise, your rabbit may be bored with its usual food, or you could be dealing with stale hay or pellets.
This article will examine the various reasons your rabbit may be eating only greens, discuss whether this limited diet is okay for your bunny long-term, and give you some ideas on how to tempt your rabbit to partake of a more balanced diet.
Health Issues That Affect Your Rabbit’s Appetite
A change in appetite can be one of the first signs that your rabbit is ill or suffering from dental disease, and these issues can progress quickly if they’re not treated immediately. Gastrointestinal stasis, overgrown incisors, and molar spurs are three of the most common issues that can cause your rabbit to start eating only greens or even stop eating altogether.
Gastrointestinal stasis—or GI stasis—is caused by a change in the bacteria that live in a rabbit’s intestines to help digest its food. This disorder can slow or even stop your rabbit’s digestion and cause painful gas and bloating. It may be brought on by a sudden change in diet or lack of fiber. If caught early enough, it is easily treatable, but if untreated it can be fatal.
Overgrown Teeth or Molar Spurs
Rabbit’s teeth continue to grow throughout their lifetime. Although they usually wear down naturally as your rabbit chews its food and toys, occasionally teeth can become overgrown or develop painful spurs. These overgrown teeth make it difficult for your rabbit to chew its hay or pellets, causing it to eat only greens. They may also cause your rabbit’s mouth to become sore or infected.
Overgrown teeth and molar spurs can be filed off by an experienced vet. Your rabbit’s mouth may still be painful for a few days afterward, but eventually, it should get back to consuming the hay and pellet part of its diet along with its greens.
Getting overheated may cause your bunny to start eating only its greens or stop eating altogether. Rabbits are more sensitive to heat than cold and can become quite sick from it. Other symptoms include panting, redness in the ears, inactivity, confusion, and eventually convulsions.
If your rabbit is still eating greens, you can help it cool down by dipping or soaking the greens and vegetables in cold water before feeding. Always be sure to provide adequate shade and fresh air. You can also try misting your rabbit’s ears with cool water, but never dip the rabbit itself into cold water. A rabbit with signs of heat stroke should see a vet.
Besides these common ailments, a change in appetite can be a symptom of a bacterial infection, parasite infestation, kidney disease, or other illness. If in doubt, it’s best to talk to your veterinarian. A rabbit who is eating only greens may also be more susceptible to some of these diseases as hay is essential to their digestion and the normal wear of their teeth.
A rabbit that is in recovery from any of the diseases listed above may continue to avoid its hay or pellets for a while as its mouth or system heals. Consult your vet if you’re not sure your rabbit is getting the nutrition it needs during this time.
Unsatisfactory Hay or Pellets
Bunnies can be a bit picky when it comes to their food, and this can actually be a good thing. A rabbit that eats only greens may be turning up its nose at hay or pellets because they are unfit to eat for some reason. Make sure to rule out all these possible reasons before simply assuming your rabbit doesn’t like or is bored of the hay or pellets you are offering.
Old, Dirty, Moldy
Your rabbit may refuse to eat its hay or pellets because they are stale, dirty, or moldy. Storing pellets in an airtight bag or container will keep them fresh longer. You should also feed only as much as your rabbit needs each day and remove any uneaten pellets the next day, replacing them with fresh. A rabbit will also avoid pellets that have been soiled.
Hay can also get old, losing its appeal for your bunny. Some bunnies will refuse to eat bagged hay from the pet store for this reason. If you can find a farm or feed supply store nearby that will allow you to purchase hay from the bale, you will likely find that your rabbit likes it much better.
Some rabbits will also avoid hay or pellets that are too dusty. Hay or pellets that have become damp or moldy can be dangerous for your rabbit and shouldn’t be consumed anyway.
Boring or Yucky
Not all rabbit pellets are created equal, and your rabbit definitely may have a preference. If you’ve recently switched pellets or suspect that your rabbit is growing bored of the brand you usually buy, try switching it up. Look for a high-quality pellet with good ingredients that are based on a rabbit’s natural diet. Artificial coloring, chemicals, and fillers should be avoided.
Rabbits also may grow bored with their hay. A high-quality second cutting of Timothy or grass hay is best for an adult rabbit. They don’t need the higher fat and calcium content of alfalfa hay. However, a bit of alfalfa hay mixed in with their Timothy can be a nice treat and may get them eating hay again.
You can also try offering first or third cutting hay occasionally (your rabbit will be able to tell the difference) or mix things up with a little orchard or oat hay. Changing the way you offer hay can also increase your rabbit’s interest. Try placing it higher or lower in your rabbit’s cage or offering some near the litter box, where your rabbit may enjoy nibbling while it does its business.
Habits and Exercise
A change in your rabbit’s diet could be the reason it is only eating greens. If the greens are a new addition, it may just be enjoying them so much it has lost interest in its other food. If your rabbit was not accustomed to eating pellets or hay before, it may not know what to do with them.
Lack of exercise is another reason your rabbit may prefer to eat only greens. If your rabbit hasn’t had a chance to run around and burn some energy, it may not be very hungry for pellets or hay.
Finally, a rabbit may choose to eat only greens if it is thirsty. Greens are a source of water, causing your rabbit to prefer them during the summer or if it is unsatisfied with its drinking water. Make sure your bunny always has access to fresh water and isn’t struggling with the bottle or dish you offer it in.
Is Eating Only Greens Healthy?
Greens and veggies are an important element in your rabbit’s diet, and if you are feeding an amount appropriate to your rabbit’s size, there’s no need to limit them. However, a rabbit that eats only greens may develop diarrhea and other digestive issues.
Hay is essential to your rabbit’s diet and should make up approximately 80% of it. Once you have made sure that your rabbit is not suffering from any health issues and there’s nothing wrong with the hay, you can try coaxing your rabbit to eat it by mixing greens in with it.
Pellets are important for growth and nutrition in young bunnies, but unless a rabbit is underweight, they are not as important for adults. However, pellets are often a favorite of rabbits, so it’s important to consider all of the possibilities above before assuming your rabbit is simply uninterested.
Additionally, there are a few types of vegetables and greens you should avoid overfeeding. Think of the fresh part of your rabbit’s diet as a salad. Try to use a wide variety of safe, leafy greens. Non-leafy vegetables like carrots, celery, peppers, and broccoli shouldn’t make up more than 15% of the fresh goodies you offer, and spinach and kale should also be limited.
In conclusion, while eating only greens can be symptomatic of a more serious issue, things could certainly be worse. Most of the diseases we’ve discussed are treatable, and stale hay or pellet problems can usually be sorted out without too much trouble.
Greens are an important source of vitamins and minerals for rabbits, so it’s great that your bunny enjoys them. Just make sure it’s getting a nice variety and gobbling some hay as well.