Ask The Vet: A bunny which eats its own poo, and a Westie which prefers rice to dry kibble

Oreo, a three-year-old bunny, eats its own poop.
Oreo, a three-year-old bunny, eats its own poop.ST PHOTO: NG CHYNG YI

Bunny eats its own poop

I have a three-year-old bunny (right), which I recently adopted from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I noticed that, although I give it lots of hay and rabbit pellets, it still eats its own poop. I think this behaviour is strange and unhygienic. Is there something wrong?

Ng Chyng Yi

It is normal for rabbits to selectively consume some of their faeces. This process is called cecotrophy.

Rabbits produce two distinct types of faeces - a dry, hard faecal pellet, which is usually discarded; and cecotropes, which are soft faecal pellets contained in a mucous envelope.

Cecotropes are what rabbits typically consume to recover nutrients, such as proteins and vitamins, that are produced in their hindgut. Some studies have shown that this process may provide up to 20 per cent of a rabbit's daily protein requirement.

As long as your rabbit has a good appetite and eats lots of hay, I think there is nothing to worry about for now.

But you should consult a veterinarian quickly if there are changes to your rabbit's appetite or in the consistency or volume of its faeces. Gut issues in rabbits can be serious enough to warrant an emergency visit to the vet.

Westie prefers rice to dry kibble

I have a 13-year-old Westie, which has been eating dry kibble since he was young. However, he has recently developed a taste for rice. I try to soften the kibble, but he still does not want to eat it. Is it possible to give him completely home-cooked meals instead? In addition, he is allergic to chicken and can have only fish. How do I ensure he has a balanced diet and what ingredients should I include in his meal plan?

Karen Yeo

It is advisable to take your dog to a veterinarian for a health check to ensure that there are no underlying health issues, including dental ones, that may have caused the change in dietary preference.

There are commercial diets available that your veterinarian will be able to recommend, and some of these diets are formulated for dogs with specific medical conditions, including allergies.

While home-cooked diets for pets are becoming increasingly popular among pet owners, partly due to the large amount of information available online, most owners may not have the right expertise and experience to create a nutritionally balanced diet for their pets.

It is advisable to work with a veterinarian or even a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to curate a diet that can meet the nutritional and medical needs of your pet.

Home-cooked diets may also be more expensive in the long run and are more time-consuming to prepare. The consistency of each meal may also be affected as recipes may change with the availability of ingredients and cooking method used.

Lastly, owners should monitor their pet's weight, body condition, skin or coat appearance if it is put on home-cooked diets.

Regular blood and urine tests for the pet should also be conducted. This is to ensure that any nutritional deficiency can be picked up early and addressed by modifying its diet.

Answers by Dr Han Zi Yang, a senior veterinarian at the Animal & Veterinary Service and proud owner of two mixed-breed rabbits, Nolla and Tubby.

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