Recognisable by their long ears that hang alongside their head, lop-eared rabbits are one of the oldest domesticated rabbit breeds. According to the Pet Place website, the origin of these rabbits is unknown but can be traced back to the 1700s. At least eight different lop-eared breeds exist and they have all arisen from the oldest of the breeds, the English lop. If properly taken care of and fed a healthy diet, lop-eared rabbits can live to the age of 10.
High-quality pellets offer lop-eared rabbits nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are not always available from other sources of food. Good quality pellets contain at least 22 per cent crude fibre and no more than 14 per cent protein or 1 per cent fat, according to the Department of Biology at the University of Miami. Pellets should also be free of all nuts, corn, seeds and dried fruit because rabbits are not meant to consume such starchy foods. Baby rabbits can eat unlimited pellets; however the amount given daily should decrease gradually to less than 1/8 cup as they age.
Unlimited amounts of fresh hay should always be made available to a lop-eared rabbits. The long fibres in hay keep the intestinal muscles well toned and prevent the impaction of hair. Different varieties of hay are available, however grass hays, such as Timothy and oat, should be the only kinds made available to adult rabbits. Lop-eared rabbits less than seven months old can have alfalfa or clover hay, according to the Pet Education website.
Fresh vegetables provide lop-eared rabbits with essential vitamins and nutrients that help hydrate their intestinal contents. Fresh, moist, leafy greens are best for rabbits. Cilantro, basil, mint and the green tops of carrots, beets and radishes are great vegetable choices for rabbits that can be fed on a daily basis. Kale, spinach and broccoli can be fed once or twice a week due to oxalates that can cause toxicity over time, per the University of Miami Dept of Biology.
Fruit and starchy vegetables such as carrots should only be given to lop-eared rabbits as an occasional treat. No more than 1 tbsp of fruit a day should be fed to a 0.907kg. lop-eared rabbit because of the high calorie content, states Pet Education. Safe fruits to offer include pineapples, mango, plums, apples, berries and bananas.
Proper hydration is the most important priority for a lop-eared rabbit. Dehydrated rabbits will eventually suffer desiccation of the intestinal contents, according to University of Miami Dept of Biology. Clean, fresh water should be available to a rabbit at all times. Dishes or sipper bottles should have their water changed every day and should be sanitised with a mild dish detergent every week.