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Rabbit Diet Protein Functions and Risks

Rabbits

Rabbit Diet Protein Functions and Risks

Where do rabbits get protein from and how much do they require? Is it wrong to feed your rabbits on high protein foods?

Overview

Proteins made of amino acids which are chained together by peptide bonds. There 20 are essential and nonessential amino acids necessary to animals. Animals require them as a source of the essential and non-essential amino acids.

The essential amino acids are those that an organism cannot synthesize on its own from scratch and they must be provided in the various diets. They include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine

Alfalfa hay - source of protein for rabbits
Alfalfa hay – source of protein for rabbits

Importance

They are essential to all animals. Some of the roles they play include the following:

  • They make up DNA and enzymes
  • Many hormones including progesterone and insulin are proteins
  • They have an essential role in most cell functions
  • They help in cellular repair, rebuilding and new tissue growth
  • They are an integral part of the body structures cartilage, keratin, muscle, skin, and so on.
  • They are a source of energy

How much proteins do rabbits require

Bunnies crude protein requirement is estimated to be 12% to 21% dry matter during their different growing and life stages or depending on the specific breed. They also need a lower quality protein since unlike humans, their cecum can produce bacterial cells as a protein in cecotropes.

For instance, Lucille Moore[1] recommends that during lactation they will require 18 -21% dry matter crude protein and pregnant does about 16-20%. Young growing ones will require 12-14% while pets will require 12-16% dry matter. If you have rabbits with long hair such as the angora rabbits or giant ones such as the giant chinchillas, checkered giants and Flemish giants, their requirement is going to be 17-20%.

Another source puts the crude protein requirement between 12 and 18 dry matter (DM) with lactating and gestation rabbits requiring 18% DM. Growing ones need 15 or 16%, pet rabbits 12-16%, and the maintenance needs 13% DM.

This should give you a hint on the amounts you should five your furry friend. Note that as we are about to see, excessive might be harmful.

It is worthwhile to note that rabbit’s protein digestibility reduces as they grow. The slowing can be attributed to an increase in feed intake as weaning commences. The amount they get in feeds and caecotrophs is enough to meet their daily needs of this vital nutrient.

Risks of excessive proteins in rabbit’s diets

Giving your bunnies too much of this nutrient is detrimental as it will increase urea and urine production, reduce gastrointestinal motility, strain your furry friend’s kidney and liver as well as alter the pH and microflora in the cecum.

Protein deficiency

Whereas excess is terrible, dietary protein deficiency will be associated with several problems. There will be restricted absorption of some micronutrients, slow and poor tissue regeneration, fur texture and thickness changes, as well as a reduced ability to remove metabolites.

Specifically, methionine deficiency will make urine to be more concentrated, cause muscle degeneration, paralysis, or even death while lysine deficiency is associated with reduced growth and weight loss.

high protein rabbit food

Some of the sources of proteins for rabbits include pellets and hay especially legume and alfalfa hay. There are also found in small quantities of in the fresh foods that rabbits eat such as leafy greens, non-leafy greens and so on.

Do not forget the fact that whereas this nutrient is essential, it should not be given in large quantities. Also, rabbits do not depend on sources from animals and animal products. This means that bunnies should not be given meat and other animal products.

Disclaimer

All the information and other materials contained on this website are for informational purposes only and not intended to substitute consultation, advice, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed professional or veterinarian. disclaimer

We are a group of animals and pet fanciers and experts knowledgeable on most pets including dogs, rabbits, cats, fish, reptiles, birds, among other home pets.

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