Rabbit gastrointestinal physiology

Vet Clin North Am Exot Anim Pract. 2003 Jan;6(1):139-53. doi: 10.1016/s1094-9194(02)00024-5.


The rabbit's gastrointestinal physiology is a complex system that centers around the separation of digestible and indigestible components of the diet in the proximal colon. The clinical importance of this system is the need for a consistent diet high in long particle length (> 0.5 mm) indigestible fiber to maintain the motility of the cecum and colon. Most of the common gastrointestinal problems seen in captive rabbits are related to inappropriate diets (low fiber; high protein; high carbohydrate) and infrequent feeding of treats to which the rabbit is not accustomed. Many of these problems can be avoided if captive rabbits are fed a diet consisting primarily of fibrous vegetation, such as grass, hay, and fibrous weeds. Feeding of fruits, grains, and carbohydrate or fat-based treats should be avoided. Pelleted feeds, although convenient, should be kept to a minimum, and where pellets are used those manufactured by an extrusion process, which retains the long particle length of the indigestible fiber, should be chosen.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Digestive System / anatomy & histology*
  • Digestive System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Rabbits / anatomy & histology*
  • Rabbits / physiology*