04.29.08

Some considerations in the selection of pellets Part 1: Rabbit pellet nutrition analysis

Posted in Husbandry How-to at 12:09 am by ACR&S

Someone wrote saying that they were using a brand of rabbit pellet called Science Selective and wondered why I don’t list that among my “good” brands. Turns out, an analysis of the ingredients reveals that it’s a pretty sketchy choice.

Items in italics are fillers with no nutritional value except to provide bulk and calories to the pellet. Bolded items have warnings associated with them (below the analysis).

Science Selective Ingredients:
alfalfa, soy bean shells, wheat, wheat grist, pea flour, full fat linseed, vitamins and minerals, soy, sugar beet pulp, soy oil, yeast extract, natural aroma, lysine, methionine.

Analysis:
protein 14.0 %
fat 4.0 %
fiber 19.0 %
ash 8.0 %
moisture 11.0 %
vitamin A 10000.0 IU/kg
vitamin E (tocopherol) 50.0 mg/kg
copper 10.0 mg/kg
vitamin D3 1000.0 mg/kg

Alfalfa, particularly the tasty leaf part, is higher than most hays in calcium and protein and can, when fed in conjunction with high-calcium feed, cause dangerously high levels of calcium in the system.”

“excess calcium and vitamin-D is risking damage to our rabbits’ kidneys.”

“Rabbits possess neither the need for animal protein nor the capacity to process it, and their fat requirement is also low;1-2% is plenty for most.”

[all quotes from rabbit.org]

Compare to Oxbow’s Bunny Basic T, which is available through the internet as I mentioned above:

Oxbow BBT Ingredients
Timothy Grass Meal, Soybean Hulls, Wheat Middlings, Soybean Meal, Cane Molasses, Salt, Limestone, Yeast Culture (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), Vitamins & Minerals

Guaranteed Analysis
Crude Protein (min) 14.00 %
Crude Fat (min) 1.50 %
Crude Fiber (min) 25.00 %

Crude Fiber (max) 29.00 %
Moisture (max) 10.00 %
Calcium(min) 0.35 %
Calcium (max) 0.85 %
Phosphorus (min) 0.25 %
Salt (min) 0.50 %
Salt (max) 1.00 %
Vitamin A, IU/kg 20,000
Vitamin D, IU/kg 880
Vitamin E, IU/kg 140
Copper, mg/kg 20

Note especially the discrepancy in Vitamin D. According to Wikipedia, 100,000 IU = 2.5 mg. So 1000 mg = a whopping 40,000,000 IU. The upper end of the RDA for adult humans lacking sun exposure is a mere 4,000 IU. Science Selective definitely has a dangerous amount of Vitamin D.

Oxbow pellets are timothy based, have a far lower calcium and fat content, and no worrisome high-dose Vitamin D. If you must feed pellets, I can’t recommend these enough.

Keep in mind that pellets are not a necessary part of a rabbit’s diet. Pelleted food has been a part of rabbit husbandry for less than 100 years. It was introduced in the early part of the century as a cleaner, more efficient way to feed laboratory animals and breeding colonies (click for big):

1940\'s rabbit pellet advert

Pellets were designed only to keep the rabbit alive and relatively healthy for about 6 months – long enough to breed or to perform whatever science needed before they were “sacrificed”. They were NOT designed to keep a non-breeding, non-meat rabbit at optimum health for 10-12 years. Even the most modern pellets sacrifice nutrition for the necessities of the production line: Oxbow still needs those fillers & binders, otherwise the pellet would fall apart in the bag.

If you are willing to expend some effort, you can feed a pellet-free diet consisting solely of grass hay and vegetables, which contains all of the necessary vitamins and other nutrition needed. You primarily need to be sure you are feeding a WIDE variety of veggies, and weighing the nutritional value of each against the known needs of the rabbit.

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