What do you do when you are having an afternoon orange snack and that little creature you call your bunny is begging, entreating, in its own particular way, so you’ll give her a piece, too, for nibbling away at?
Of course, you don’t want to reject her anything. However, at the same time, you are concerned whether it will be okay for her to eat an orange since you are, by no means, ready to compromise her health.
And you couldn’t be more right in your scruples. House rabbits instinctively nibble on pretty much any food that they find around them, and yet this is not at all ideal if you want a long and healthy life for your pet. For instance, some foods such as chocolate, yogurt, cereals, bread, cookies, etc. can be seriously detrimental to their health.
Not that a bite of chocolate or one or two drops of yogurt will cause its death, but this is only to drive home the point that you should always be on your guard regarding what exactly your little companion is consuming.
Can Rabbits Eat Oranges?
Now come to oranges, the rule of the thumb is that most fruits are okay for rabbits only if they are given once in a while and only by way of treats. From what can be gathered from the currently available research and studies, the same holds true for oranges as well.
Now, if we look at the nutritional benefits of oranges, they are considered a healthy food item for a number of reasons. Oranges are rich in Vitamin C which is an antioxidant and helps reduce the chances of acquiring infectious and other harmful diseases. Oranges also contain high levels of the minerals potassium and calcium. The first plays a vital role in stabilizing heart rate and blood pressure whereas calcium helps strengthen the bones, especially the teeth of young rabbits.
Oranges are also known to have little to no bad cholesterol and come with low calorie content. They are also a rich source of Vitamin A that aids in good vision. Oranges also contain Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids (albeit in a very small amount) and these are known to be beneficial to a rabbit’s health. However, most important of all, when it comes to rabbits, is that oranges are high in fiber content, especially pectin but also lignin, hemicelluloses and cellulose.
Now, long and high fibers, found abundantly in grasses and hay, are essential to proper health of a rabbit. The fibers help improve fermentation in the rabbit’s ceacum, keep it digestive system in proper order and lead to healthier poop. This is the reason why hay or grass happens to be the primary diet of a rabbit.
However, does all this mean that you should add oranges as part of a rabbit’s daily diet? The answer is, NO. And here is why.
Disadvantages of Feeding Oranges
For a first, all the nutritional values that an orange comes with may be too much to handle for the digestive system of a rabbit and feeding them the fruit to often may cause serious damages to its stomach. Some studies also suggest that the high acid content in oranges can lead to mouth ulcers in rabbits.
Oranges are low in protein and fat contents and that is ideal for a rabbit. However, a breakdown of the nutritional facts of an orange tells us that carbs and sugar combined make up more than 21 grams in a 100 gram orange. Moreover, the carbs found in an orange are mainly simple sugars, such as fructose, sucrose and glucose. It is true that despite the high sugar content, an orange still comes with a low glycemic index (thanks to generous quantities of fiber and polyphenols in an orange) which means that the sugar does not enter the bloodstream too quickly after one has eaten an orange. This, in turn, considerably reduces the risk of a rise in blood sugar levels.
And yet, for all that there is always the risk that the rabbit will find the rich sugary taste too appealing and may get addicted to it. In that case, it may start to refuse its regular foods.
Are Orange Peels Safe?
This is a further query on the part of the rabbit owners since it is found that many rabbits actually enjoy the orange peel more than the fruit itself. This also makes sense when we know that orange peel actually contains four times more fiber than the orange pulp. In addition, it comes with greater quantities of flavonoids, nobiletin and tangeritin. So, the peels will be fine as long as they are properly washed off of pesticides, oils or other impurities.
So, to recap, oranges are fine for rabbits in small quantities. But too much of them and the rabbit’s digestive system may start to dysfunction and can lead to further health issues. One-fourth of a regular sized orange is considered a safe portion if given every few days—about once a week or so.
Keep in mind the fact, too, that in the wild, oranges are barely accessible to rabbits. Wild rabbits do eat some fruits but they are typically restricted to berries of different types. So, oranges aren’t really a needful source of nutrition for rabbits. However, as we said, if your house bunny really loves the taste of this citrus food, occasional treats of it in small quantities would be fine.