Sunlight is the driving power behind all living things, supplying valuable vitamins and nutrients to plants and animals. The sun produces UV rays which the body absorbs to create beneficial vitamin D. Do rabbits need sunlight to stay healthy as well?
Like people, rabbits do need vitamin D to stay healthy. Providing sunlight to your rabbits is essential if you want them to live a long and healthy life.
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Unfortunately, animals, including rabbits, that do not receive enough sunlight usually develop Vitamin D deficiencies. While deficiencies may take a long time to manifest, eventually, your rabbit can suffer from weak teeth and bones if they are not exposed to enough sunlight or UV rays in their lifetime.
Where do Rabbits Get Vitamin D?
Sunlight is essential for a rabbit’s body to produce Vitamin D. Although many foods in a rabbit’s diet include some Vitamin D, it is not nearly enough to power a healthy and robust body. Absorbing UV rays from the sun allows the body to naturally synthesize enough Vitamin D to combine with the small amount of Vitamin D a rabbit gets through diet alone.
The good news is that rabbits don’t need much Vitamin D to stay healthy. Typically just about a half-hour to one hour of sunlight, every day is enough to give your rabbit enough Vitamin D. If sunlight is not always readily available, you’ll need to supplement your rabbit’s diet to make up for the shortcomings. Some hays and grasses will have supplemental Vitamin D, or high-quality pellets are sometimes fortified with Vitamin D.
What Is a Sign Your Rabbit Doesn’t Have Enough Vitamin D?
If a rabbit doesn’t get enough Vitamin D through a combination of sunlight and diet, you risk your pet developing a Vitamin D deficiency. Although a deficiency may not be noticeable overnight, long-term shortcomings in your rabbit’s diet and exposure can eventually jeopardize bone and teeth health.
Rabbits have teeth that continually grow, which requires a significant amount of calcium to form. Calcium is derived from Vitamin D, which comes from diet and sunshine. When your rabbit doesn’t have enough calcium, its bones and teeth will weaken.
Weak teeth can break and become damaged easily, which is tremendously dangerous for your pet. Further, if teeth don’t have enough calcium to form, they will take longer to grow out and not turn over fast enough. This problem results in teeth that are worn down or damaged from extended chewing. Further, weak bones can become brittle and soft. If the bones in the jaw weaken, they may even be too weak to hold the teeth in place. A vitamin D deficiency in rabbits is an extremely dangerous proposition.
Should I Put My Rabbit’s Cage By the Window?
The easy solution to give your rabbits plenty of sunlight seems like moving the cage near the window should help. While a great idea, in theory, this usually doesn’t work. Modern-day windows are designed to filter UV light, which blocks the essential nutrients needed to form Vitamin D. The protective covering works to keep your house cool and comfortable. Unfortunately, it also prevents good sun rays from penetrating your rabbit’s body.
Another alternative is to keep your bunnies in a rabbit hutch, outdoors.
How Can I Boost My Rabbit’s Exposure to Sunlight?
If you keep your rabbit housed indoors primarily, you’ll need to come up with alternative options to give your rabbit exposure to sunlight so its body can naturally produce Vitamin D. Some great ideas to expose your rabbit to more sunlight include:
- Walks – Taking your rabbit for a daily walk is the perfect option to increase your rabbit’s exposure to sunlight. Your rabbit will be able to synthesize Vitamin D naturally, and it’ll get plenty of exercise and enrichment from the new environments. First, you’ll want to train your rabbit to wear a secure harness and be comfortable with unfamiliar sights, smells, and sounds from the outdoors. Practice walking your rabbit in a harness around the house before venturing to your neighborhood when first starting out. Keep a close eye on what your rabbit eats during your walk. While you may control your rabbit’s diet in your home, your rabbit will have access to potentially dangerous plants, flowers, or pesticides outdoors.
- Rabbit Run – If you have space outdoors in your yard, consider building a dedicated rabbit run for your pet to enjoy. Runs are easy to build and don’t have to be large. A run needs to be secure, though, with heavy-duty wire fencing to prevent escape or predators attacking. Be sure to bury the wire cage below the ground by at least 12 inches. Rabbits are escape artists and are quite the diggers! Time spent in an outdoor run exposes your pet to fresh air and sunshine and gives your pet some exercise. Please make sure there aren’t any toxic plants or flowers planted close to the run where a rabbit may inadvertently chew on them.
- Open Window – It may seem simple, but opening the window inside can give your rabbit enough sunlight to synthesize vitamin D. The issue with putting a rabbit’s cage near the window for sunlight is that the window likely has a protective film on the glass blocking UV lights. Opening the window bypasses the protective film, allowing beneficial sunlight to bathe over your rabbit’s cage.
- UV Lamp – During the winter months, when it is too cold outside for a rabbit and sunshine is scarce, you may resort to artificial light. Using a UV lamp can help give your rabbit much-needed UVB rays. UV lamps are easy to install and usually clip into place over the top of your rabbit’s cage. Turning the lamp on for just a few hours every day should be enough to give your rabbit a much-needed Vitamin D boost.
Can a Rabbit Overheat in the Sun?
Like just about everything in life, too much of a good thing can be dangerous. Rabbits are the most comfortable living in temperatures between 55 degrees F and 70 degrees F. While sun exposure has plenty of benefits, it can also cause your rabbit’s internal temperature to skyrocket, creating a dangerous situation. Always be sure your rabbit has an area to escape the sun in outdoor situations. A shaded or covered part of the run is enough to give an overheated rabbit some relief.
Indoors, you always want to ensure the temperature is set correctly. Remember that having a cage exposed to the sunlight will drastically increase the temperature. Keep an eye on your rabbit and never allow sunlight to persist for more than an hour at a time. If you notice your rabbit is in heat distress, immediately take action to cool your rabbit’s body temperature. You may notice your rabbit become lethargic, drinking more water, or walking with little coordination.
Final Wrap Up
So, do rabbits need sunlight? To stay healthy, rabbits need regular exposure to sunlight to synthesize Vitamin D. Although rabbits can pull some Vitamin D from their food, UV rays provide the best and safest option. Vitamin D promotes strong and healthy teeth and bones, and without it, a deficiency can spell bad news for your rabbit. To help your rabbit get more exposure, consider building an outdoor run, taking your rabbit for a walk, or using a UV light over your rabbit’s cage.