I have a 2-year-old, female lop. She has choked on her pellets on two different occasions, causing me to give her the bunny Heimlich maneuver—-traumatizing!! Now I feed her one pellet at a time or none at all, only hay. Is this something she will grow out of with age (eating too fast) or might there be another reason she chokes easily?

This could be due to eating too fast or could be from dental discomfort. Another possibility could be something constricting her esophagus, like a tumor. But this is more likely to occur in a middle aged or older rabbit, like over 5 yrs old.  Avoiding pellets is a good idea. It would be ideal to get x-rays of her head, throat and chest, but she may need a CT scan or fluoroscopy to see if there is anything interfering with her swallowing. Also, when rabbits have a choking episode there is a high chance of them getting food in their lungs and getting an aspiration pneumonia. X-rays are necessary for diagnosis, and the treatment would be antibiotics. 


I wanted to ask Dr. Kanfer how I could encourage my rabbit to drink more water? She has 2 water bowls, a stainless-steel fountain and a waterer with a floating disk to prevent her dewlap from getting wet. She will only drink water with some apple juice or blended veggies. She won’t drink enough water on her own.

Many rabbits do not drink a lot of water. If a rabbit is being fed a big salad, they will get their water from that, and will drink less water. Rabbits that don’t get any greens and eat primarily hay and pellets tend to drink more water. If your rabbit is otherwise healthy and the poops look normal then it is probably getting sufficient water and I wouldn’t worry about it. If your rabbit has GI stasis episodes or bladder sludge then they may benefit from fluid injections under the skin.  


I have a question about pellets… I notice a lot of people recommending a brand of pellets that has a lot of soy in it. What do you think about bunnies eating soy?

Soy is a source of protein. Soy and corn are foods that are GMO (genetically modified organism). Certain foods are GMO to try and increase the crop yield and help the plants resist the effects of the herbicide being used.  There is information in the literature that GMO’s can cause a higher number of allergic reactions and fertility issues in humans. But there is also evidence that animals do fine on a diet containing GMO. 

A proper rabbit diet should be limited amounts of pellets and greens with a large amount of hay. Since the pellets are a small part of the diet, I am not as worried about which pellet brand is used. I do recommend the higher quality brands, but as long as the rabbits are eating a timothy-based pellet without seeds and puffs added, that is the most important thing. Also, the food the rabbit eats is mostly digested by the good bacteria in their cecum, and the bacteria produces the nutrients the rabbit absorbs. Personally, if a rabbit is healthy, I don’t worry about pellets that contain soy. If the rabbit has GI issues, then it may be better to try a non-GMO pellet. 


My vet says that domesticated bunnies do not need pellets, they basically just need hay and some greens, and I can use pellets as a treat. Do you think bunnies can get all the nutrition they need from hay and greens? If pellets are necessary, what percentage of their diet should be pellets?

In the wild rabbits eat grass, dried grass, leaves and branches. Pellets were initially created for rabbits used for meat and in the labs, to allow for complete nutrition of all the required vitamins and minerals, and to promote fast growth. A house rabbit can definitely live on a diet of hay only, without pellets or greens. We feed pellets and greens to make sure the rabbit has all the micronutrients they need, and for variety. Some hays may be grown on fields that are lacking nutrients, but good quality hay providers will make sure that their hay is healthy and not nutrient deficient. Pellets and greens should be fed in limited amounts. Rabbits 5lbs and under should get no more than 1/8-1/4cup of pellets and 1 cup of green leafy vegetables per day. They should be eating primarily hay. This will keep their teeth worn down and keep their gut moving normally. 


I have a few questions on CBD for rabbits, what has been your experience with any CBD products, have you done any studies or recommend a brand? Also how do you think CBD would benefit a rabbit after either a surgery or an elderly rabbit? Have you tried CBD for any of your patients yet and what was their outcome?

CBD can be helpful to relieve pain after surgery or due to arthritis. I am attaching my CBD handout below to answer your questions. I have used it in my bunnies and find some products work better than others. 

Click here to read Dr. Kanfer’s CBD handout


How often should you groom different breeds of rabbits? How do I know if I’ve groomed my rabbit enough?

Some rabbits shed frequently, some only shed 2-4 times a year. In short haired rabbits, if the fur is coming off when you are petting their back, then they need to be groomed. If your rabbit has patches of bare skin then you are grooming too much. You can use the Hair Buster rabbit comb or use your hands to pull off the loose hair.  Long hair rabbits may need to be combed daily or weekly. Sometimes it is difficult to keep up with grooming long haired rabbits, and you can have them shaved by your rabbit vet or rabbit rescue groomer every 1-3 months. If you see hair in your rabbit’s poop then they need to be groomed more frequently. I also recommend using a kitty hairball formula like Laxatone (malt flavor) daily whenever a rabbit is shedding. 


If I don’t have styptic powder at home and accidentally trim my bunny’s nails too short, what else can I use to stop the bleeding?

You can use flour or press the nail into a bar of soap. Or hold pressure with a tissue for a few minutes. 


What is the best flooring to have in a rabbit’s area to prevent sore hocks? How can I care for my existing sore hocks?

All rabbits should be kept on carpet. This provides them with secure footing so they are comfortable and will be as active as they want to be. Many rabbits have thinner hair at the tip of their ankle and the skin looks pink. This is not sore hocks. But should be monitored to make sure it doesn’t get worse. Signs of sore hocks: scabbing and/or swelling, excessive hair loss on the bottom of the rear feet, painful feet. Rabbits can be given soft beds to relax on if the feet are just pink. If the feet are getting worse or are scabbed and swollen, the rabbit can be kept on a large piece of faux sheepskin. You can buy it on Amazon, called Sheepette. You can also use children’s socks or bunny booties. There is someone on Etsy that makes bunny booties. If the rabbit has significant sore hocks, then they may need to be managed by a rabbit veterinarian, and will need antibiotics, pain relievers, may need foot soaking and ointments, and intensive care.


What kind of greens are best to feed a rabbit who has urine sludge?

Rabbits with bladder sludge should avoid parsley, kale, spinach, broccoli, collard greens, and should avoid alfalfa. Many rabbits with sludge are overweight and will improve significantly if they lose weight. 


How often should rabbits be fed fruit (strawberry, banana, watermelon, blueberry, etc.)?

Fruits are treats and should be fed sparingly. I recommend one small treat per day. So 1-2 blueberries OR a quarter sized piece of banana OR a small piece of strawberry OR a half a baby carrot OR a bunny cookie. Too much fruit can cause soft stool and obesity. 


Should rabbits really stay away from carrots?

Yes, carrots act like carbohydrates. Think of them as equivalent to a piece of bread or fruit. Should be used as treats only.  


What is the minimum amount of space a rabbit should have (not counting “play time” space)?

Most places recommend a minimum of 10-15 square feet per 1-2 rabbits, plus an exercise area of 24sf or larger. An 8 panel exercise pen is a good size for 1-2 rabbits. Then they should have a few hours each day to run around outside the pen. 


Is cleaning a rabbit’s scent glands necessary? How often should it be done?

Most rabbits will clean their own scent glands. If a rabbit is arthritic or overweight then they probably need to be cleaned. They probably only need to be cleaned once every few months. 


How much salad should I be feeding my rabbit?

1 cup of salad per bunny per day


What are the most nutritious greens I should be feeding my rabbit?

Overall greens are mostly water. But contain micronutrients. Good greens to feed rabbits: green leaf lettuce, romaine, dandelion, carrot tops, cilantro, parsley, kale, baby bok choy. You can find detailed lists on the rescue group websites. 


What greens are not good for rabbits?

Avoid broccoli, spinach, iceberg lettuce, celery. Feed in limited amounts: kale, parsley. 


My rabbit came from a place where he didn’t have hay available, and now he won’t eat it. How can I get him to eat hay?

He may be getting too many pellets and greens. Or he may have bad teeth. He needs to have his teeth examined by a rabbit experienced vet. If his teeth are normal and he is not skinny, then you may want to try decreasing his pellets and greens. Rabbits should get 1/8-1/4cup pellets and 1 cup of greens each day. Feed a plain green pellet, no puffs or seeds added. Offer a high quality fresh hay that you can get from a rescue group or a feed store. Ideally offer Timothy, Orchard or Oat hay. Offer fresh handfuls every day. SLOWLY decrease pellets and greens by 25% every 2 weeks til you get down to the recommended amount. If your rabbit still won’t eat hay, you can try adding in alfalfa hay to entice him to eat. If he has bad teeth then he may never eat hay, and that is ok. 

It seems that the pellets for older buns, Science Selective and Oxbow’s new 5+ pellets have alfalfa in them. I have an 11 year old bun who has been on Science Selective for years and have had no problems. Should I change?

Alfalfa is higher in calcium and protein. Alfalfa based pellets and alfalfa hay is very helpful for babies and older bunnies. Babies need calcium and protein for growth. Many older bunnies start losing weight and need more nutrient dense food. Alfalfa hay or pellets can also be used to tempt rabbits to eat and help them gain weight. It should be avoided in rabbits that have bladder or kidney stones or bladder sludge. Healthy adult rabbits do not need all that extra calcium and protein, and if they eat it regularly could potentially cause problems. If your 11yr old bunny doesn’t have any issues with stones or sludge then he can remain on the alfalfa based pellets. Your bunny would need X-rays to check for stones or sludge.