Baby rabbits cannot drink cow milk because it is hard to digest for them and can lead to health issues and even death.
There have been quite a few cases of baby rabbits dying after consuming cow milk.
So, it’s best not to feed your little friend cow milk. Instead, you can give them goat milk or kitten milk replacer (KMR).
Feeding Milk to Baby Rabbits
Newborn rabbits need their mother’s milk to survive. But sometimes, the mother may not have enough milk to feed all of her babies.
When a mother rabbit gives birth to too many babies at a time, she cannot possibly provide milk for all of her children. Due to this, some bunnies are left hungry.
If they remain unfed for long, they can become malnourished or die in the worst-case scenario.
If you happen to own a tiny motherless fur baby, you need to give them milk to keep them alive and healthy. But that begs the question of what kind of milk should you offer them?
There are many options when it comes to feeding milk to a baby rabbit, such as a goat milk or kitten milk replacer.
Newborn rabbits respond well to goat’s milk and KMR, so you can try either of the two. However, no matter what you do, don’t give your pocket pet COW MILK.
Cow milk contains compounds that are hard to digest for tiny bunnies, making it a bad food choice for baby rabbits.
Why Is Cow Milk Harmful For Baby Rabbits?
Young rabbits do not have fully-developed digestive systems, which is why they can only consume food items that are easy on their stomach.
In other words, baby rabbits have incredibly sensitive digestive tracts. So, they cannot digest foods with complex compounds like those found in cow milk.
Cow milk has a high concentration of lactose and sugar, both of which are coordination complexes- meaning they are hard to break down.
Apart from high volumes of lactose in sugar, cow milk is believed to have unhealthy hormones and pus that can cause Crohn’s Disease and para-tuberculosis in humans.
Moreover, it must be noted that bovine milk contains artificially inserted compounds that are dangerous for species with sensitive tummies, like baby rabbits.
Antibiotics, white blood cells, bovine growth hormones, gastrointestinal peptides, and other artificially produced hormones are injected into the livestock in dairy farming to increase milk production.
Since these synthetic compounds are hard to break down, not to mention a general health hazard, cow milk becomes a big no-no for baby rabbits.
Which Milk Can You Feed A Baby Rabbit?
Goat milk contains significantly lesser volumes of sugar and lactose than cow milk and is easily digestible. It also has smaller fatty components, which are easy on a baby bunny’s digestive system.
Besides smaller molecules, goat milk is believed to have health benefits than bovine milk doesn’t. It has a low concentration of alpha S1 protein that can cause allergic reactions in the body.
Furthermore, it is not exposed to harmful and synthetic formulations, so it remains more organic.
With all that said, it is worth noticing that not all kinds of goat milk are gentle on a baby bunny’s tum-tum.
There are many different goat breeds that produce varying milk varieties, all of which are not safe for bunny consumption.
Additionally, the dairy market is brimming with goat milk brands, so you can never be sure which one will work for your baby bunny.
As a rule of thumb, choose a variety that claims to be 100% organic.
Natural products are always better for your furry pet’s digestive system as they break down without straining the internal body mechanism.
If you cannot find pure goat milk, you should opt for a kitten milk replacer.
What Is Kitten Milk Replacer or KMR?
As the title implies, kitten milk replacer is a substitute for bunny milk (newborn bunnies are also referred to as kittens; hence the name).
It is like formula milk that comes in a powder form and has to be mixed with warm water until a milky consistency is achieved.
KMR is a carefully manufactured nutritional supplement loaded with protein, fat, and carbs for pet bunnies.
It mostly contains all the nutrients present in doe milk; therefore, it is arguably the closest alternative to your bunny’s mother’s milk.
Pet parents can find kitten milk replacer in the market or make their own at home. A popular homemade KMR formula is whipped up using
- 1 cup of goat milk
- 1/4th cup of goat milk powder
- 1 tablespoon of sugar-free whipping cream
Blend all the ingredients together and heat the mixture to a reasonably warm temperature, around 99 degrees Fahrenheit.
When you start giving KMR to your fur child, you must give them small doses to acclimatize their digestive system.
If you feed a lot of formula to your friend from the animal kingdom, their internal mechanisms may collapse, leading to their death.
Once they have become accustomed to the artificial milk variety, you can increase the quantity.
Like all baby animals, tiny bunnies also prefer mother’s milk over all else. But unfortunately, they cannot get it all the time.
Therefore, pet parents feed formula or goat milk to their babies.
Since both those varieties are unknown to rabbits, they may respond well or not take the milk. In that case, you might want to use a dropper or syringe to feed milk to your bunny child.
Looking After a Motherless Baby Rabbits
Motherless bunnies can be much more challenging to look after as they do not receive their natural nourishment from the mother rabbit.
Doe rabbits know how much they need to feed their bunnies. In other words, they don’t overfeed or underfeed their little ones.
As a result, young rabbits fed by their mothers grow up well.
On the other hand, when a pet parent has to give milk to their adorable baby, they don’t know the right quantity, especially if they are first-time owners.
Due to this, if a young bunny is over or underfed, it could die. Simply put, knowing the ideal amount of milk your little buddy needs is essential.
The best way to find that out is by asking your vet for guidance. If you cannot do that for some reason, you can stick to the following guide.
- 0-1 week-old rabbit: it should drink 2.5 ml milk twice a day
- 1-2 week-old rabbit: It should get 5 to 7 ml milk two times a day
- 2-3 week-old rabbit: It needs anywhere between 7-13 ml milk two times a day
- 3-6 week-old rabbit: It needs anywhere between 13-15 ml milk twice a day
After six weeks, bunnies can eat regular food, including vegetables, fruits, pellets, and hay. However, control the quantity of each item you give your bunny in the beginning.
To be safe and not to over or underfeed your little friend, you should give them small portions of food every few hours. Or you can place their bowl before them and be present while they eat.
When you notice they have stopped eating as eagerly as they were initially, remove the dish.
If doing so is difficult for you, stick to the following bunny-food guide for your six-week-old fur baby.
Rabbits love hay and need to have an unlimited supply all day. So, when your fuzzy little one turns six weeks old, be sure to offer them high-quality hay all the time.
Vegetables high in fiber are excellent for rabbits as they aid in digestion.
Some suitable veggie options for your fur bun-bun include romaine lettuce, cilantro, broccoli green, bok choy, carrot tops, basil, and kohlrabi.
Other vegetables that may be good for them but only in controlled quantities are kale, Swiss chard, dandelion greens, and collards.
These varieties are rich in calcium, which can lead to kidney stones- a common health condition among bunnies.
When feeding bunnies, one thing to remember is that they do not need too many carbs in their diet. High concentrations of carbohydrates can disturb the bacteria present in their digestive tract.
If that happens, your fur child can develop severe complications as the GI bacteria is responsible for keeping everything moving smoothly through the digestive system.
So, veggies like potatoes, beetroots, sweet potatoes, and corns should only be given to a bunny in small quantities.
Fruits are also essential for rabbits as they are rich in vitamins and minerals. However, they are also high in sugar, so you need to keep an eye on how much fruit you give your adorable furball.
Too much sugar intake can cause health problems in bunnies and lead to obesity.
Lastly, rabbits also need pellets, nutritional supplements made for bunnies to fulfill their dietary needs.
In terms of measurements, here is a breakdown of a bunny’s daily diet.
- Hay: one thick bundle at all times
- Vegetables: one handful of an adult’s hand
- Pellets: 25 grams per kg of the rabbit. So let’s say your rabbit is 3 kg, then you should give them 25 + 25 + 25 = 75 grams of pellets a day.
- Fruits: a piece/wedge or slice of fruit as a treat
If you bring home a newborn orphaned baby rabbit, you need to feed it milk (goat milk or KMR) for the first six weeks.
After that, you can give your pet regular bunny food, i.e., hay, veggies, pellets, and fruits.
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