As a pet owner, one of your responsibilities is to provide your pets with an appropriate and balanced diet. It’s one essential element to keeping them happy and healthy.
This point is particularly critical if you own a rabbit. These furry animals have some of the most sensitive digestive systems, so you need extra care when feeding them.
Ideally, you’d want to avoid food high in sugar, carbohydrates, or anything human-processed. Instead, focus on natural food high in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
If you’re reading this post, you may be one of those who want to learn more about their pet rabbit’s food needs. Well, keep reading, and let’s talk about their diet—what can rabbits not eat, the best food to feed them, and some feeding tips.
Rabbits are herbivores, meaning they only eat plants like grass, vegetables, and fruit. For this reason, their stomachs are built differently than your other pets, such as dogs or cats.
These furry creatures have a unique gastrointestinal (GI) tract to accommodate their herbivorous diet. However, unlike other herbivores, rabbits only have one stomach.
When rabbits eat, their stomach separates the food material into two parts. Their colon splits the useful food material from those they can’t use for nourishment.
This complex GI system is one of the reasons why rabbits have sensitive stomachs. Eating inappropriate food, anxiety, or stress can impact the function of their digestive tract.
To maintain your rabbits’ digestive health, you should design their diet to fit their unique anatomy. And despite what you may have heard, there’s more to your rabbits’ diet than carrots.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions circulating about rabbit diets that could mislead people. Some of them can even prove detrimental to their health.
That said, we’ve listed all the things you shouldn’t feed your rabbits below. Make sure not to give these foods to your furry friends to keep them healthy:
As a rule of thumb, you should always avoid giving your pet rabbits human-processed foods. So never mix foods like chips, crackers, bread, pasta, cookies, and yogurt drops in their meal.
Most of these products contain high levels of carbohydrates, sugar, and artificial ingredients that can easily upset the stomach of your furry pets, so experts never recommend them.
Feeding rabbits these types of food can lead to abdominal discomfort, abnormal stool, and even dysbiosis. They also increase the risk of obesity for your beloved pets.
Worst case scenario, these high-carb and sugary treats could trigger Enterotoxemia, a severe case of diarrhea in animals that’s been proven highly fatal to rabbits.
Nutty foods, like walnuts, are also bad for your rabbits. Like prepackaged foods, most nuts have high doses of fat, which can cause indigestion to their sensitive stomachs.
When feeding your pets fruits, take care to remove the seeds as well. Fruit seeds, like apples, pears, and apricots, contain trace amounts of cyanide, so your pets shouldn’t ingest them.
Moreover, limit feeding your rabbits grain-based meals. These products can easily cause weight gain and obesity in these animals—conditions you don’t want to happen to your pets.
Avoid giving them any kind of hard, granular foods, like corn. They find these materials hard to digest and may even cause severe digestive problems to your pets.
Eggs are high in protein, which may lead some pet owners to believe that it’s healthy for them. The truth, however, is much more complicated than that.
While it’s true that rabbits need protein to go with their fibrous diet, their herbivore stomach can’t process eggs. So, you might need to think of other sources of protein other than eggs.
The same applies to dairy products, like milk, yogurt, cheese, and butter. Because of their unique digestive system, they can’t consume or digest lactose.
Rabbits, like most mammals, are lactose intolerant when they reach adulthood. So, refrain from giving your rabbit pets meals with dairy products, as it can lead to gastrointestinal issues.
Plants that belong to the allium genus are harmful foods you should never let your rabbits consume. These plants include onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, and chives.
What makes these plants toxic to rabbits is their n-propyl disulfide content. This compound attaches itself to red blood cells and breaks them down, resulting in abnormalities in the blood.
As the toxic oxidants contaminate your pet’s blood, they cause oxidative damage that could develop into hemolytic anemia, a fatal complication needing immediate medical care.
Symptoms of this type of anemia are abnormal gum paleness, weakness, lethargy, and food disinterest. Take your pets to the veterinarian immediately if your rabbits exhibit these signs.
If you think rabbits can eat everything green, think again. Several leafy and green plants are, in fact, toxic to rabbits, such as rhubarbs, iceberg lettuce, and silverbeet.
Rhubarb is a perennial plant used for medicinal purposes. While they are beneficial to humans, they possess large amounts of oxalic acid that’s proven toxic to mammals, including rabbits.
Iceberg lettuce is a popular choice for garnishes, snacks, and salads. However, these leafy plants contain lactucarium, a milky fluid that could harm your furry pets when ingested.
Like iceberg lettuce and rhubarb, silverbeet is another green plant you shouldn’t feed your rabbits. This seemingly harmless plant can cause bloating and colic in your pets.
Legumes are notorious for causing gastrointestinal issues among rabbits. Most of these plants have high amounts of carbohydrates, which can destabilize your pet’s digestive system.
The concentration of phosphorus and calcium in these plants can prove acidic for your furry pets. If fed to rabbits, legumes can cause severe bloating, diarrhea, and dysbiosis.
On the same note, many pet owners feed their rabbits alfalfa hay for its protein. Rabbit experts, however, discourage using this hay as a primary food source for your pets.
The truth is that alfalfa hay, also called lucerne, is a legume rather than grass. Plus, this legume contains far more calories and protein than your furry companion needs.
Fruits are an excellent treat for your rabbits. Nevertheless, you still need to watch the type of fruits they consume and avoid harmful ones like avocados.
While we enjoy avocados as snacks, these delicious treats are poisonous to rabbits. These fruits contain persin, a fungicidal toxin that can cause lung and heart issues in your pets.
Since we’re talking about treats, it’s also worth noting that chocolates are highly toxic to these furry creatures. So, never try to feed them candies or sweets with chocolate.
Chocolate is toxic to animals because it contains theobromine. This compound can trigger adverse and fatal reactions in your pets.
Rabbits will show different symptoms depending on the type of food they consume. So, here are some guidelines to know if your furry pets are having digestive problems:
One general sign your rabbits are experiencing stomach issues is a change in appetite—when your pets are refusing to eat or showing decreased interest in food.
This symptom can be difficult to notice, so keep a close eye on your pets’ eating habits. Dental, stress, and gut issues are the common causes of appetite problems.
Aside from changes in appetite, your rabbits will also exhibit changes in demeanor and behavior. They can be active one day and appear lethargic and weak the next.
Your pets may show odd behaviors, such as grinding teeth, hunching posture, and pushing their bellies on the floor. These cases could be an indication of stomach pains.
The fecal material is another telltale sign of a sick rabbit. Under normal circumstances, these animals produce two types of fecal pellets: soft and hard.
However, digestive issues can cause them to produce watery pellets. Some gastrointestinal problems also result in mucus-covered fecal material.
There’s only one surefire way to ensure you don’t feed your rabbits the wrong things. And that’s learning the nutritional needs of your pets.
As much as possible, stick to fresh and organic food sources. If you want to create a varied diet plan for these animals, it’s also best to consult your local veterinarian.
Feeding your pets appropriate food is one of your essential responsibilities as a pet owner. Their lives depend on your ability to understand their basic needs.
That said, rabbits require a balanced diet that won’t throw their sensitive stomachs off. These adorable creatures enjoy a good meal, so keeping them healthy is up to you!
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.