Understanding Your Rabbit's Digestive System

Give your rabbit everything it needs to have a healthy digestive system for a long, happy life

Amy J. - Big Bunny @ HCB

2/19/20242 min read

Understanding the way your bunny's digestive system works will go a long way in safeguarding his health. Being aware of your bunny's diet and nutritional needs are the key to helping your pet live a long, healthy life.

First, be sure your bunny has full-time access to clean, safe drinking water. This applies to all animals but, as bunnies can't whine or whimper to tell you they're out of water, be sure to check their water bottles and crocks at least twice per day. Water bottles can leak and water crocks can get knocked over or contaminated with hay or fecal matter, so be diligent. Your bunny will thank you!

Second, it is important to remember that your bunnies are furry and they groom themselves regularly. You might think that I am pointing out the obvious but, unlike cats and dogs, rabbits cannot vomit. That means they are unable to cough up (or vomit) hairballs or anything else that needs to come out of their bodies ASAP. Everything they ingest has to go through their bodies and come out the other end. When bunnies groom themselves, they inevitably ingest fur. That fur, if not eliminated regularly, will begin to build up inside their tummies. Eventually the build up will grow so large that bunnies can no longer eat or drink. They are in pain, sitting hunched up in the corner, grinding their teeth. At this point it is often too late to help them.

In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Do not let fur (or wool, as it is called on a rabbit) build up to the point of causing wool block in your beloved bunny. How do you prevent it? Well, it's actually pretty easy. Give your bunny high-quality hay, and lots of it. The hay, combined with high-quality food pellets, contains lots of fiber to keep your bunny's tummy humming along. Those nice, round poo balls he keeps leaving all over the place are actually a sign that all is well in his digestive tract.

Another handy tool in your toolbox can be papaya tablets. Papaya produces an enzyme that can help break down ingested wool and help your bunny to pass it. There is some debate as to the effectiveness of papaya tablets (or even dried papaya) in the bunny community, but I have always given it to the bunnies we have raised over the years (including 3 English Angoras and a French Angora) and have never experienced a case of wool-block. That decision is up to you. Some rabbit supply companies, like Oxbow and Sherwood Pet Health, are producing their own Digestive Health tablets, which are also beneficial.

Often overlooked but always important is exercise. A rabbit needs plenty of space to kick up his heels and get the blood flowing which will help his digestion. Regular exercise will increase his desire for water and hay, as well.

Plenty of love, hay, fresh water, high-quality pellets, exercise, and regular grooming sessions should keep your rabbit's digestive system working beautifully, making a happy, healthy bunny.