House Rabbit Society recommends a limited pellet diet for rabbits. Pellets should be the smallest part of a healthy rabbit’s diet. The Rabbit Food Pyramid is a good visual representation of the diet that HRS recommends.
Pellets may be removed from a rabbit’s diet for a variety of reasons. In some cases, your veterinarian may temporarily remove the pellets from your rabbits’ diet for medical reasons. Some people have chosen to eliminate pellets from their rabbits’ diet, because they feel that obesity, cecal overproduction, intermittent soft stools, and other issues can be controlled by permanently removing pellets. It’s worth remembering that rabbits did not evolve eating pellets; pellets were developed for research and meat production. But that doesn’t mean switching to a pellet free diet is easy!
If you choose to remove pellets from your rabbits’ diet, there are some considerations to be aware of. (And for everyone who keeps pellets as a part of their rabbit’s diet, remember to never feed pellets with nuts, seeds, or other “treats” in them. These can cause serious health issues for your rabbit can should be avoided at all costs.)
First and foremost, you need to replace all of the nutrients and many of the calories that are missing from a pellet-free diet with other foods. Please also be aware that your rabbit may simply not be a candidate for it; very young rabbits and elderly or compromised rabbits should not be on a pellet-free diet. We recommend that you consult with your veterinarian before choosing to remove pellets from your rabbit’s diet.
Rabbits with no pellets in their diet need UNLIMITED grass hay (timothy, oat, brome, orchard grass, etc.). They should not be eating alfalfa, clover, or other legume hays. They should get at least 3 different types of leafy green vegetables daily, in a quantity of least 2 cups twice a day, depending on the size of the rabbit. If you are introducing a vegetable that your rabbit has never had before, be sure to do it one at a time. Feed high calcium greens in moderation. Choose from this list.
Watch your rabbit for weight loss, soft stool, or any other signs of trouble and consult your veterinarian immediately if there are problems. Finally, rabbits on a pellet-free diet may need them at various times in their lives so caretakers shouldn’t be afraid of them!
Remember, this should not serve as a how-to for a no-pellet diet. We are simply providing some cautionary statements for those of you who are considering it. Please always consult with your veterinarian.