FEEDING RABBITS / PREVENTION OF DENTAL DISEASE
The following comment is from a veterinarian who practices near Fairbanks, Alaska (2014):
" I have known rabbits who are outside (living in a courtyard with warrens in the snow) year-round in Fairbanks. It can easily be -40 F for a week at a time, but the rabbits are fat and happy with a diet of only grass hay. "
There is debate about the causes and the disease processes of dental disease in rabbits. But there is no debate that a high-fiber diet prevents most health problems in rabbits, including not just dental disease but also various digestive and urinary tract problems.
The ideal diet for a rabbit with healthy teeth includes:
A constant supply of good quality, palatable grass hay, usually timothy. Alfalfa hay is too high in calcium and should not be fed; any other hay is fine, as is fresh grass.
A wide variety of leafy green plants and vegetables (please see the lists at the end of the article). A daily amount of a mound equal in size to the rabbit's body is a good guideline. Ideally a mixture of at least five different plants should be offered each day; at a minimum, more than one type should be offered each day, and the types should vary from day to day. Some owners worry about plant toxicity, but that is not a concern as long as rabbits are given a variety of choices of plants to eat. Given a choice, rabbits will not eat poisonous plants, or, if they do, they are not susceptible to the toxins.
A smaller, but regular supply of twigs, branches and leaves, especially from fruit trees.
A very restricted amount of fruit and root vegetables; for example, an occasional piece of carrot used used as a training treat.
No cereals or grains.
No starchy or sugary treats, or other similar "people" food.
Some vegetable options (not intended as a complete list):
broccoli - florets, stems, leaves
From the vegetable garden:
leaves and branches from fruit trees
strawberry, blackberry and raspberry leaves
tops from celeriac, beets, artichokes or other root vegetables