Rabbit Supplements: A Veterinarian’s Perspective
By Ashley Watson
This week Pet Naturals® of Vermont is launching three new products designed for pet rabbits: Calming for Rabbits, Daily Best for Rabbits, and Immunity for Rabbits. I had a chance to speak with Dr. Jack Landess, D.V.M. about his role in helping our product development team create the new products based on the ingredients used in our formulas for cats and dogs.
Dr. Landess runs Nokomis Veterinary Clinic in Nokomis, Florida, and he’s been working with Pet Naturals® for 20 years. When Pet Naturals® saw a consumer demand for rabbit supplements, our product development department sought out a vet who specializes in exotic animals and pets.
“There are not too many vets who specialize in both dog, cat and exotic pets, and because the rabbit products were new, we wanted an expert who knew their physiology and worked with them on a daily basis,” said Animal Product Development Coordinator, Ashley Montminy.
As a review board member, Dr. Landess was the perfect choice. In addition to pets and small mammals, Dr. Landess also treats wildlife, from eagles and opossums to the threatened gopher tortoise and even alligators with trauma. He estimates that he sees at least 2 to 6 rabbits per week in his practice, and he has developed relationships with local rabbit rescue organizations to ensure that the rabbits at the shelter are given proper care and nutrition.
In my own rabbit research, I’ve noticed a lot of rabbit rescue websites, so I asked Dr. Landess why there are so many shelter rabbits looking for homes. “People buy rabbits on impulse without doing any research first, and then they don’t want to spend the money on the set up that rabbits require,” he informed me, “or they aren’t willing to spend money on the vet when the rabbits get sick.” Parents often buy rabbits for their children—who later become bored with the animal or cannot provide adequate care.
These situations can be stressful for rabbits, especially since rabbits are prone to getting stressed. Similar to our calming formulas for cats and dogs, the new Calming for Rabbits is a support formula recommended for rabbits exposed to increased environmental stressors. According to Ashley Montminy, Dr. Landess reviewed the formula, helped find the right dose, and he also found a rabbit owner who was willing to test the new calming formula on 14 rescue rabbits for palatability and effectiveness.
Dr. Landess said that 9 out of the 14 responded very well to the product. The alfalfa base for the new crisps also provides an easy delivery system and extra fiber. Aside from external parasites and malocclusion of teeth, Dr. Landess said that GI problems are probably the most prevalent and the most serious health concern for rabbits. Most GI problems stem from stress, but these issues are also caused by an imbalanced diet that does not include enough roughage and fiber.
Because of the amount of misinformation on the Internet, many rabbit owners restrict their pets’ diets to pellets, so the rabbits don’t get the roughage they need from hay and leafy greens. Many rabbits are also overweight due to overfeeding and lack of exercise. “Rabbits are like couch potatoes if they aren’t given a balanced diet and enough exercise, so I always give the example of rabbits in the wild,” he continued, “which means they need plenty of roughage and regular exercise.” He also warned against feeding rabbits fruit because it isn’t part of their natural diet.
A balanced diet is important when helping a rabbit maintain a healthy weight, and a good multi-vitamin, such as Daily Best for Rabbits, can help round out the diet and ensure that the rabbit is getting the nutrients it needs. Lack of a proper diet can also compromise the immune system and lead to a number of health concerns, and Immunity for Rabbits is designed to help support a healthy immune response.
After speaking with Dr. Landess, it was apparent that he has a genuine passion for animals. Most of his work with wildlife is done out of pocket, and he collaborates with a lot of the wildlife centers in the area. He started working with wildlife right out of vet school because there was a demand for this specialty. “I do it because there aren’t many vets willing to work with wildlife, and many of my clients have no other place to take exotic animals for treatment.”
As part of his practice, Dr. Landess is a huge proponent of educating people about proper care. He even paid for blood panels for pets—mostly pet skunks—to show the owner that they did not have their pet on the correct diet. “There are a lot of questionable pet foods and products on the market,” he said, so it’s important to know which products are safe and effective.
Dr. Landess said he’s never had any issues with using our supplements, and that he would not have any hesitation using our new rabbit products. The only precaution Dr. Landess mentioned is to cut the dose in half when giving the supplements to young rabbits or bunnies. He concluded that while other exotic pets tend to be fads, he has seen a consistency of pet rabbits. “You’ve found a great niche, and I would recommend your products because of the excellent quality and the unparalleled safety.”
Do you have a pet rabbit? Share your comments and pictures with us, and don’t forget about our rabbit photo contest we are running through July 18th!