There are many foods that are dangerous or even fatal if fed to pet rabbits. Rabbits have sensitive digestive systems that require a specialized diet to stay healthy. Feeding a rabbit the wrong foods can have devastating consequences. In this article, you’ll learn exactly what foods should never be given to rabbits. We discuss 8 common items that are toxic for rabbits and explain why they are so dangerous. You’ll also find a list of healthy foods that are safe and nutritious for your bunny. This guide covers everything you need to know about rabbit nutrition and how to keep your pet safe by avoiding dangerous foods. We’ll provide tips on transitioning your rabbit’s diet along with food safety recommendations. Read on to become an expert on proper rabbit nutrition and protecting your bunny’s delicate digestive system!
What Foods Are Rabbits Not Allowed to Eat?
Rabbits have very sensitive digestive systems and there are many foods that they are not allowed to eat or should only eat in small quantities. Feeding a rabbit the wrong foods can cause serious gastrointestinal issues or even be fatal in some cases. Here are some of the main foods that rabbits should never be fed:
Avocados contain persin, which is a fungicidal toxin that is safe for human consumption but can be very dangerous for rabbits. Persin can cause serious health issues in rabbits including diarrhea, respiratory distress, heart failure, and even death. Even just a small amount of avocado can be toxic to a rabbit, so it should be completely avoided.
Fruit Pips and Seeds
The pips and seeds of fruits like apples, apricots, peaches, plums etc contain trace amounts of cyanide which is poisonous. The fleshy part of the fruit is fine for rabbits but make sure to always remove any seeds, stones or pips before feeding fruit to bunnies.
Rhubarb contains oxalic acid which is toxic to rabbits. It can cause kidney damage and failure, which can be fatal. Never feed a rabbit the leaves or stalks of rhubarb.
Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, both of which are toxic to rabbits. Even just a small amount of chocolate can cause a rabbit to have a heart attack, seizure, or go into respiratory failure. Chocolate poisoning in rabbits can be fatal very quickly.
Vegetables from the allium family like onions, garlic, leeks, chives and shallots are toxic for rabbits. These vegetables can cause hemolytic anemia in rabbits, which is when red blood cells burst and leads to lack of oxygen throughout their body.
Iceberg lettuce has very little nutritional value for rabbits and is also very high in water content. Eating too much iceberg lettuce can cause diarrhea in rabbits. It's better to feed darker leaf lettuces instead.
The leaves of potatoes contain oxalates which are poisonous to rabbits. Make sure to only feed the potato itself, not any leaves or stems attached to it.
Sugary Processed Foods
Heavily processed foods like candy, baked goods, ice cream, chips etc are very unhealthy for rabbits and the high sugar content can cause digestive upset. Avoid feeding rabbits any people food with added sugar.
Foods Rabbits Should Avoid Eating
In addition to foods that are toxic or fatal to rabbits, there are also many foods that rabbits are better off avoiding for health reasons:
Muesli mixes with nuts, seeds, dried fruit are very unhealthy for rabbits. The carbohydrates and fats can cause obesity and dental issues in bunnies. It's better to feed a plain pellet ration.
Most nuts are too high in fat for rabbits and can lead to weight gain or digestive issues. The salt content in salted/roasted nuts also makes them a bad choice for rabbits.
Cat or Dog Food
Cat and dog food is not formulated to meet a rabbit's dietary needs so they should not be fed it as a meal replacement. The protein and fat content are too high for rabbits.
Cauliflower can cause bloating and gas in some rabbits since they have trouble digesting cruciferous vegetables. It's better to feed other veggies like romaine lettuce or kale.
Parsnips are high in starch and sugar so they should only be fed to rabbits in small amounts, if at all. Too much can cause digestive upset.
Raisins are high in natural sugar so they should be avoided as a regular treat for rabbits. Dried fruits like raisins, cranberries, papaya can also get stuck in rabbits' teeth.
What Can Rabbits Eat?
While there are many foods bunnies shouldn't eat, there are still plenty of healthy and safe options:
Importance of Fiber for Rabbits
Rabbits need a high fiber diet to keep their digestive system healthy. The majority of what a rabbit eats should be grass hay like timothy or orchard grass. Hay aids digestion and also provides nutrition.
What Vegetables Can I Feed My Rabbit?
Good vegetables for rabbits include romaine lettuce, kale, parsley, cilantro, broccoli leaves, carrot tops, swiss chard. Feed a variety and introduce new veggies slowly.
Rabbit Pellet Portion Size
Adult rabbits only need about 1/4 cup of high quality pellets per day. Pellets should be plain with no seeds, nuts, or colored bits. Use pellets to supplement the rabbit's primary hay diet.
Healthy Treats for Rabbits
Some safe and nutritious treats for rabbits include oat hay, raspberries, apple slices, chopped plain carrots, non-toxic herbs like mint or basil, rose hips, willow leaves or sticks.
What If My Rabbit Won’t Eat Hay?
If your rabbit is refusing to eat hay, try different varieties as some are more enticing than others. Mix in a few favorites like cilantro or carrot tops to encourage them. Check teeth alignment as dental issues can prevent hay eating.
Changing a Rabbit’s Diet
When transitioning your rabbit's diet, do it slowly over 2-3 weeks. Gradually introduce new foods, watch for signs of digestive upset, and remove items they don't seem to tolerate well. Abrupt changes to diet can harm gut flora.
Food Safety Tips for Rabbit Owners
Follow these food safety guidelines to protect your rabbit's health:
Wash all vegetables and herbs thoroughly before feeding
Remove any wilted or rotten produce which can contain mold toxins
Discard uneaten fresh foods after a few hours to prevent spoilage
Never feed rabbits foods straight from the garden due to pesticide/fertilizer risk
Check your rabbit's stool daily to monitor for signs of digestive issues
Provide clean, fresh water at all times in a heavy bowl that won't tip over
Changing a Rabbit's Diet
When transitioning your rabbit's diet, do it slowly over 2-3 weeks. Gradually introduce new foods, watch for signs of digestive upset, and remove items they don't seem to tolerate well. Abrupt changes to diet can disrupt delicate gut flora and cause health issues.
Here are some tips for safely changing up your rabbit's diet:
Mix a small amount of the new food in with their usual diet. Slowly increase the ratio over a couple weeks.
Only offer one new vegetable at a time. Wait 3-4 days before introducing another new food.
Pay attention to potential signs of an upset digestive system like loose stool, reduced appetite, or lethargy.
Temporarily remove any items that seem to cause issues for your rabbit. Re-try them at a later date.
Make dietary adjustments slowly. Rabbits do best on a stable diet that changes gradually.
Ensure any new foods are rabbit-safe and introduced in age-appropriate quantities.
Provide feedings on a consistent schedule instead of changing timing and frequency.
Ensure fresh, clean water is always available, especially when introducing new vegetables or treats.
With some patience and care, you can successfully transition your rabbit's diet to try new healthy foods keep them interested in eating. Monitor their health and don't make too many changes at once. This will help keep their digestive system stable.