When you have a baby rabbit, it’s important to nourish them so they can healthfully reach adulthood. One dietary staple you’ll want to offer within their first weeks of life is milk. Can you feed your baby bunny cow’s milk or should they consume something else instead?
Most rabbit experts recommend you feed your bunny goat milk or kitten milk replacer (KMR) over cow’s milk. Some pet owners have mentioned their rabbits have died after they drank cow’s milk. This likely has to do with the ingredients in this milk and how rabbits cannot easily digest the proteins. They can digest goat milk and KMR much more easily.
What’s in cow’s milk that rabbits can’t handle? What exactly is kitten milk replacer? Don’t worry, as we’ll answer these questions and more in this article.
What’s in Cow’s Milk?
Cow’s milk is an incredibly common dairy product. More than likely, you have a jug in your own fridge. What’s in cow’s milk compared to other types of milk?
Here’s a breakdown of the ingredients:
- Antibiotics, of which Global Healing Center says almost half of United States-produced milk has (38 percent). Particularly, this milk contains sulfa drugs as well as other medications.
- White blood cells; in a millimeter of milk, you might drink 1.5 million of these cells. The US Department of Agriculture permits this, too!
- Pus that could cause Crohn’s Disease and paratuberculosis bacteria in people. For each glass of milk you drink, there’s millions of pus cells, about 322 million total.
- Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone or rBGH, a hormone that likely causes prostate, colon, and breast cancers in humans. This manmade hormone supposedly forces cows to produce more milk, but at what cost?
- Gastrointestinal peptides, including growth inhibitors like MAF and MDGI, epidermal growth factors, and nerve growth factors.
- Hormones such thyroid, hypothalamic, steroid, and pituitary hormones.
Can Baby Rabbits Drink Cow’s Milk?
Due to the above ingredients, most of which get artificially inserted, some organizations don’t even recommend that people drink cow’s milk. Considering that rabbits have sensitive stomachs and can’t vomit if they feel sick, you must feed them carefully. Also, according to this study in World Rabbit Science, the mortality rate of rabbits lingers at 12 to 20 percent. However, once a rabbit turns four weeks old, and until they’re eight weeks old, they’re at a higher risk of death.
Combining all those reasons, we do not recommend you feed your baby rabbit cow’s milk. Goat milk is a step up, but many rabbit owners recommend kitten milk replacer over even goat milk.
What’s in Goat Milk?
Goat milk obviously comes from goats, just like cow’s milk comes from cows. Are there greater overarching differences than just that? Yes, of course.
When humans consume goat milk, they have an easier time digesting it compared to cow’s milk. That’s because it doesn’t have as much milk sugar or lactose. Your baby bunny would then likely have an easier time with digestion as well.
According to health resource Wake the Wolves, goat milk has yet other benefits over cow’s milk. For instance, it’s less likely to trigger allergies in people. That’s because it contains far fewer (98 percent) levels of alpha S1 casein, a protein that could cause allergic reactions. The homogenization process stays more natural than in the production of cow’s milk. Also, goat milk has considerably tinier fat molecules. This again aides in digestion.
Your baby bunny would probably find goat milk more agreeable with their stomach than cow’s milk, then.
What Is Kitten Milk Replacer?
Still, there’s subtle differences among goat milk types. For instance, many breeds of goat might get milked to produce this dairy treat. These include the Nigerian Dwarf, Oberhasli, Toggenburg, Saanen, Anglo-Nubian, American Lamancha, Meyenburg, and Alpine goats. You’re never sure if you’re getting the exact same type of milk each time. In fact, rabbit experts only recommend giving your bunny Meyenburg goat milk. What if you can’t find this in a grocery store near you?
That’s why you should strongly consider giving your rabbit a product called kitten milk replacer. As the name might tell you, kitten milk replacer or KMR is intended for young kittens. That doesn’t mean other animals like rabbits can’t drink it.
It often comes in a powder that you mix up with water until it resembles milk. Most of the time, if you’re feeding a cat KMR, it’s because they’re quite young, like under six weeks. These baby kitties need a formula that’s gentle on stomachs, and KMR fits the bill. Your rabbit should have no issues digesting it either, then.
KMR contains carbohydrates, fat, and protein, much like the milk a rabbit would drink from its mother. This product also has plenty of minerals, vitamins, probiotics, and prebiotics.
You can get KMR in all sorts of sizes, from small six-ounce packages to even pounds of the stuff at a time. You only have to go to your local pet store or shop around online to order your supply. There’s no need to stand in the dairy aisle deliberating between different types of goat milk anymore.
How to Feed Baby Rabbits Milk
Okay, so you’ve chosen a brand of KMR for your bunny. How do you mix it up? How much of the stuff should they consume?
While most KMR products have similar ingredients, make sure you read the packaging on yours before mixing. You want to get some warm water, typically between a teaspoon and a cup. Then take a part of the KMR formula and add it to the water. Stir until the powder dissolves and the liquid becomes milky. You shouldn’t ever mix KMR with a blender. You also shouldn’t dump the whole package in at one time. Put the rest you don’t use in the fridge for next time.
If you have a very young rabbit (think newborns or those who just celebrated their first week of life), you want to feed them only two times each day. They should consume two to 2.5 millimeters of KMR. As your bunny turns two weeks, you can increase how much you feed them, but still only do it two times per day. Up their feedings to five to seven millimeters of KMR.
How should you feed your baby bunny? Do you pour the KMR in a bowl and let them go to town? No. You’ll want to invest in an oral syringe or an eyedropper for your rabbit. If you use a syringe, always make sure it’s sterile. Wash the eyedropper after every feeding as well.
Fill either the syringe or the eyedropper with the amount of KMR according to your rabbit’s age. Put the tip of the syringe or eyedropper to your bunny’s mouth. You might have to squeeze out some of the product to incentivize them to drink. Never squirt too much or force your rabbit to consume the milk if they don’t want to. It can take a while for them to finish the entire serving, and that’s okay. Have some patience.
Also, although it’s tempting to feed a baby bunny more than twice in a day, resist the urge. If you give them too much too often, they could have gastrointestinal and digestive issues. In some cases, these could even lead to death.
Baby rabbits just a few weeks old need a specialized diet. You probably have cow’s milk handy in your fridge, so you figure why not, right? The hormones, chemicals, and medications in cow’s milk make it unhealthy for us people to drink. In some cases, feeding baby rabbits cow’s milk can be fatal.
Instead of cow’s milk, you can try goat milk from Meyenburg goats. Many bunny owners prefer kitten milk replacer or KMR over all commercial milk products. This has the right calories, carbs, and nutrients for a baby rabbit to grow up healthy.