If you own a pet rabbit then one of those sudden realizations is whether or not they need salt. Their food appears relatively low in salt and there are salt licks and mineral sticks for sale on the market. This can cause confusion. So, I decided to conduct some research on the topic to help you meet your rabbits needs and requirements. I would like to present this information here to you today.
So do Rabbits need salt? Rabbits do need some salt. However, they only need a small amount. This should be provided naturally within a healthy and wholesome diet that consists of Hay, Vegetables, and a Well-Balanced Pellet Feed. Therefore Salt and or Mineral Licks are not required nor do they need to be provided.
How Much Salt Does a Rabbit Need
There have been little studies on the daily requirement of salt (sodium) for rabbits. However, in the published works Nutrient Requirements for Rabbits (1977), it states that adding up to 0.5% of a rabbits daily diet in salt appears to be a safe amount. Additionally, providing salt in a manner whereby rabbits can choose to consume it or reject it is an effective strategy.
All such studies have confirmed that rabbits have mechanisms to finely control the amount of salt within their system, and they can effectively remove it if required (through urine and faeces).
That being said, rabbits should not be forced to consume salt, nor does it need to be added to any of their food.
You may notice that most rabbit food brands will list salt within their ingredients. This will usually be towards the end of the list because it is one of the least abundant components of that feed. Typically there is around 0.25-0.75% present – right in the sweet mark according to the studies. For this reason, rabbits will naturally get some salt (sodium) within their diet. You do not need to provide it through other sources.
Rabbit pellets will therefore be the major source of salt within the diet. When you consider that pellets should make up no more than 5-10% of the diet, naturally, access to sodium is inherently reduced.
Another important consideration, is to take a look at rabbits in the wild. They are able to acquire food and graze as they select, and will live off the produce of the natural land. A lot of wild plants are consumed, and they do appear to lick rocks and stones to acquire additional minerals when they inherently feel it is required.
Through such observations and a review of the literature, we can safely assume that rabbits can instinctively regulate their own sodium levels. This other study also supports this notion. When we review the results of ‘The voluntary correction of sodium deficiency by the rabbit’ we soon realize that rabbits can carefully correct any salt deficiencies, even after being dehydrated through diuretics.
This study therefore also points to suggest rabbits do need some salt. They will actively try to raise their levels in order to be appropriately hydrated.
What Does Salt Do For Rabbits?
While we have now confirmed that rabbits need some salt, and that they do a fine naturals job of optimizing their levels, the question then is why do rabbits even need salt?
It is no different to why humans, or other animals require salt.
Salt is abundant in a number of essential minerals that support electrolyte and fluid balance, nerve transmission and muscle function. Beyond this, salt plays a key role in promoting optimal heart activity and certain metabolic functions.
Some salt is naturally present in most foods. As plants require salt themselves to grow, even vegetables and fruits will contain a small amount. While soil quality and farming techniques will impact the amount of minerals in their vegetables (including salt), it important to note that it can never be totally avoided. Nor should it.
Ultimately, adverse health effects will happen with your rabbit if they consume too much, or do not obtain enough sodium. However, for the most part, it is likely that a rabbit will consume too much rather than too little.
A moderate amount of salt, for a healthy rabbit, will not cause dehydration, nor does it damage organs. In fact, it will work to prevent either of these two health complications when acquired in optimal amounts.
However, it is important to note that rabbits with health conditions, like heart disease, will have different needs and requirements. Equally, there may be rare cases where a rabbit requires more salt. Either way, and for these reasons, it is always best to speak to your vet about salt to ensure that you are serving the health of your rabbit and not harming them.
Do Rabbits Need A Salt Wheel?
As you may have guessed thus far from this article, a rabbit does not need a salt wheel. While there is nothing inherently wrong with providing one, note that it may be a waste of money as your rabbit may choose to neglect it.
Rabbits will naturally regulate the amount of sodium that they consume, and if they are being fed any type of pellet, then there sodium requirement will likely be covered.
It is therefore only in a case whereby pellets are not being fed, or where the diet is lacking in vegetables and fruit and is almost exclusively hay, that a salt wheel may be used.
Is Salt Lick Good For Rabbits?
Salt lick is good for rabbits. But again, only when they are depleted with sodium and they need to restore their sodium levels back to an optimal range.
This is rare and unlikely in healthy rabbits, as as noted above, if a sufficient diet is provided, the salt lick will likely sit in the corner of the cage and be neglected.
That being said, if you are not feeding pellets to your rabbit, or you want to provide a salt lick to ensure that they are getting enough, you should opt for a Himalayan salt lick (like this excellent and hugely respected one on Amazon).
You’ll want to opt for Himalayan Salt if you do decide to opt for a lick because it is from naturally clean waters and contains 84 minerals that all play a big role in promoting the health of your rabbit. This includes sodium, magnesium, and potassium.
What Do Rabbits Need In Their Cage?
So as you now know, salt wheels and licks are optional. But what is actually required for an optimal and health-promoting habitat.
Here are the main elements you should be sure to include:
- Litter Box
- Water Bottles
It is important to get a bedding that contains natural odor control and is able to absorb a lot of liquid. This will provide a nicer environment for your rabbit and for your home. Our bedding buyers guide explains this in more detail.
Outside this you will want to introduce a litter box to control where your rabbit goes to the toilet. This will also limit bacteria and promote good hygiene.
Be sure to include a number of water bottles so that your rabbits have plenty of access to water at all times. Be sure to provide fresh water frequently and make sure you get some bottles that cannot clog or break very easily.
Toys are essential to provide mental stimulation for your rabbits and to prevent boredom. There are a lot of affordable toys that can help improve the well-being of your rabbit.
Hay should make up at least 80% of your rabbits diet. 2nd Cut Timothy is the best for most rabbits (it is high fiber and it is particularly satisfying for most rabbits). You’ll want to provide hay liberally and opt for a fresh and responsibly sourced brand.
Lastly, be sure to get some high-quality pellets. A lot of pellet products and feeds that you get from regular pet stores are not great quality. You want to ensure that they are not stuffed full of fillers and instead provide a lot of nutrients and additional fiber.
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Salt is required for life; whether that be for a plant or for an animal such as your rabbit.
The studies, along with reports from rabbit owners confirm that moderate amounts of salt given to a rabbit are safe and in fact promote their health and well-being.
While there has been no concrete source that explains how much you should be feeding to your rabbits, they do have a very instinctual way to modulate the amount they need to consume.
The better pellet feeds will contain salt between the 0.5-0.75% range, and by providing pellets as intended should ensure your rabbit is getting the right amount.
If you wanted to opt for a wheel or a mineral salt block you can. Your rabbit will only lick them if they need to and will never consume more salt than they need. For this reason, if they are getting enough elsewhere, they may simply neglect it.