Muesli madness

6 reasons NOT to feed muesli - it's now well known that muesli style diets are bad for rabbits. Know the facts and help your patients

Posted: 01 August 2017

Muesli madness

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An unhealthy choice

Selective feeding occurs when rabbits choose some components of the muesli diet in preference to others. Rabbits will naturally select the higher energy (high sugar or starch elements) and reject the pellets. This results in an unbalanced diet, as the pellets are often supplemented with minerals and vitamins as well as often being high in fibre. Selective feeding increases the risk of;

  • Obesity
  • Dental disease
  • Gut stasis
  • Myiasis

Rabbits fed muesli style diets eat less hay leading to a reduced fibre intake. These issues have been highlighted in research supported by Burgess Pet Care which have been published in peer-reviewed journals.

As a result of this research Burgess stopped producing muesli style diets in 2013 and we have continued to educate vets, retailers and rabbit owners on the importance of correct nutrition for rabbits and guinea pigs.

1. Muesli style diets linked to obesity

Muesli style diets have been shown to increase the risk of obesity. This is thought to be due to muesli diets reducing fibre intake and increasing the intake of easily digestible carbohydrates and fats. Rabbits fed on muesli style diets are generally less active which may contribute to the risk of obesity.

Ref: Meredith, A. L., Prebble, J. L. & Shaw, D. J. (2014) Bodyweight and body condition score in rabbits on four different feeding regimes. Journal of Small Animal Practice.

2. Muesli style diets promote dental disease

Muesli style diets have been shown to increase the risk of dental disease. Dental disease is the most common health problem found in rabbits, causing pain and suffering. The resulting inability of the rabbit to eat properly can cause serious digestive issues.

Ref: Meredith, A. L., Prebble, J. L. & Shaw, D. J. (2015) Impact of diet on incisor growth and attrition and the development of dental disease in pet rabbits. Journal of Small Animal Practice

3. Muesli style diets reduce water intake

Muesli style diets have been proven to reduce water intake in rabbits when fed alone or alongside hay. Reduced water intake increases the risk of urinary tract problems such as sludge, stones, blockages, cystitis and scalding. Feeding the appropriate quantity of nuggets alongside feeding hay helps to maintain water intake.

Ref: Meredith, A.L., Prebble, J. L. (2014) Food and water intake and selective feeding in rabbits on four feeding regimes. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition.

4. Muesli style diets reduce hay intake

Feeding hay and fresh grass should make up 85-90% of a rabbit’s diet. Muesli style diets have been proven to reduce the amount of feeding hay that rabbits eat. Reduced hay intake increases the risks of dental disease and serious digestive issues such as gut stasis. Reduced hay intake can increase abnormal behaviour in rabbits such as inappropriate chewing of fur and other materials, inactivity and stereotypies.

Ref: Langford, F. M., Meredith, A. L., Prebble, J. L. & Shaw, D. J. (2015) The effect of four different feeding regimes on rabbit behaviour. Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

5. Muesli style diets increase the risk of flystrike

Muesli style diets have been proven to increase the amount of uneaten caecotrophs in rabbits when fed alone or alongside hay. Flystrike occurs when flies lay their eggs in soiled fur. The eggs quickly hatch into maggots and chew their way into the rabbits skin. Rabbits fed on muesli style diets have a higher level of uneaten caecotrophs (sticky droppings) which can stick to their fur and predispose them to flystrike.

Ref: Meredith, A.L. & Prebble, J. L. (2017) Impact of diet pn faecal output and caecotrophy consumption in rabbits. Journal of Small Animal Practice.

6. Muesli style diets increase the risk of gut stasis

Muesli style diets have been shown to reduce the faecal output in rabbits when fed alone or alongside hay. Gut stasis is where the rabbit’s digestive system slows down or stops. This can result in a build up of gas and toxins. Rabbits fed on muesli have smaller faeces pellets and a reduced faecal output, both of which are associated with the development of gut stasis.

Ref: Meredith, A.L. & Prebble, J. L. (2017) Impact of diet pn faecal output and caecotrophy consumption in rabbits. Journal of Small Animal Practice.

Muesli Booklet – get your copies and our help

Burgess Pet Care has recently published new research on rabbit nutrition and its impact on health and welfare in a booklet for retailers and vets.

The research, supported by Burgess Pet Care and carried out by The University of Edinburgh, highlights the dangers of feeding rabbits muesli style diets. It’s intended to support retailers and vets in guiding rabbit owners through the process of making the right choices on their rabbits’ nutrition.

If you want to order some copies for your practice, contact us today. You can email us at marketing@burgesspetcare.co.uk.

The booklet includes advice on raising awareness of the differences between feeding hay and bedding hay, the importance of providing the right amount of hay and grass and how to encourage and maintain sales through efficient merchandising and POS displays.

Research from this year’s PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report showed that 25 percent of rabbit owners are still feeding unhealthy muesli style diets. It’s hoped the research included in the booklet will increase awareness around the risks of feeding muesli, and more rabbit owners will make the right choices about fibre and diet.

If would like to receive copies of the booklet, please contact us at Burgess Pet Care directly on: 01405 862241 or email marketing@burgesspetcare.co.uk.

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