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Rabbits/sunshine, vitamin D, and bone health

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Question
Hi Dana,

Greetings from NYC! I have a general, non-urgent question for you. How can I ensure that my rabbits get enough vitamin D to keep their bones and teeth healthy? I don't have any access to a safe space outdoors for my rabbit to get sunlight. Even in the parks here there are so many risks for rabbits, such as raccoon roundworm, dogs,rat poison, even hawks! So outdoor time is just not an option for my rabbits. My apt doesn't get much sunlight either.

Is there any way to supplement my indoor lighting artificially? What is the minimum amount of sunlight that a rabbit needs to stay healthy?

Any suggestions you can offer would be very helpful both to me, and other NYC rabbit guardians. Thank you!

Thea

Answer
Dear Thea,

Wild rabbits do not generally go out in bright sunlight.  They're active mostly at dawn and dusk, and spend their daylight hours in burrows or shaded areas.  That means they have evolved (like most mammals) to make sufficient Vitamin D with relatively low light levels.

If you can open a window or sliding door for an hour or so a day, and allow bun to be close by the unfiltered light, that should be sufficient to keep bun fine.  No one really knows the minimum amount needed.  But many good quality commercial pellets contain a small of Vitamin D, so that could help, too.

Dana  

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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.

Expertise

I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:
THE INTERNET IS NOT THE PLACE TO SEEK HELP IN AN EMERGENCY.

...it is an EMERGENCY.

Find a rabbit vet at www.rabbit.org/vet for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.


RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.

Experience

I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Organizations
Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Publications
Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Education/Credentials
Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology
(http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare)

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